Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Comedy is Easy
Actor Dustin Diamond was unable to follow up his stint as Screech on tween sitcom Saved By The Bell. He failed as an actor, a championship wrestler, a reality tv star and even his leaked celebrity sex tape “Saved By The Smell” (I only wish I were kidding about this one) failed to grab him much attention. Only one discipline granted him any kind of post childhood success. Screech can always fall back on his “stand up comedy” performances. Like Ron Jeremy, he is booked as a headliner at A list clubs.
Child star Danny Bonaduce was hard pressed to find a new life after being a Partridge. Drugs, reality TV, celebrity boxing, stand up comedy.
We only know who John Wayne Bobbit is because his wife took the scissors to him back in the nineties. In addition to a "celebrity" sex tape, he got gigs in some of the top ranked comedy clubs in the country.
My fellow stand up comics and I may think ourselves artists. We may consider our discipline a beautiful way to hold a mirror up to our culture while helping society confront its fears, hypocrisies and insecurities. But to the masses we come in beneath fake sports, beneath amateur porn, beneath even that most hideous of beasts, reality television.
Need more evidence? Put together an outing to a comedy show on evite.com. Baby Showers, Book Clubs even Karaoke Night are all available themes. The closest you’ll find to Comedy Show is Concert or Night on The Town or Karaoke Night!!! That’s right, Stand Up Comedy weighs in lower than Karaoke. Not insulting enough? Well Pet Party comes in higher as well. What the hell is a Pet Party?
Of course you can organize a comedy show outing on facebook then right? Nope, but you’d fare better if you were putting together a fun loving crew to go to the flea market. Facebook has an event category for flea market and ten for music, but comedy? Sorry. Go fish.
Stand up comedy is a bastard art form. The hip kids want nothing to do with it as it doesn’t involve dancing or any other sort of mating behavior. Civilized people might attend if the comedian is Seinfeld or Jay Leno or someone else who they know they’ve seen on TV. Any bar with an open night fancies itself a comedy club. Worse yet, Pizza Parlors, Chinese Restaurants and even laundry mats think that Stand Up comedy is a fine fit for their classy establishments. Do opera singers have to start off singing for people as they fold their underwear?
Rarely do you hear an audience member heckle a movie, play or poetry reading. But it has become an accepted part of the stand up comedy show that some drunk housewife seated in the second row gets her turn in the spotlight. Stand up comedy gets less respect than bad poetry??? I’m pretty sure the poet can attend their family Christmas party without Uncle Harold suggesting some new rhymes. “Yeah, you can use that. It’s a doozey.”
Humorists, who for the most part are people that fancy themselves funny but whose heads would explode if they ever had to face a rowdy bar crowd, end up on NPR doing thought provoking satire on current events. Stand up comics might luck into a gig on morning radio as the “Man On The Street” guy doing stunts, the most popular of which are those most likely to see said comic getting his ass kicked.
And yet, there we are, night after night, facing the crowd, drunks and all, trying to make them laugh. What passion fuels such devotion in the face of such disrespect? Is it the same drive that kept Vincent van Gogh painting despite his failure to sell his work? Is it the same passion that led an increasingly deaf Beethoven to continue composing even as he lost the ability to hear his work performed? Surely it must be more than the occasional free drink, the stale bar pretzels or the chance that the rare comedy club groupie might decide it’s your night at last.
Actually, no, that’s about it.