Thursday, August 30, 2012

Funny Stuff

Photo of Groucho via Decaying Hollywood Mansions.

A couple of geniuses, whose opinions I greatly value, both recently posted about comedy, comedians, and comedy clubs.  The geniuses in question are Red Snapper and Scot Nery.

First up is Red:
I sat with an acquaintance of a friend at the show, not someone I knew at all. I chit-chatted before the show with this fellow from flyover country who had never been to a comedy club before. I thought he knew what to expect, but obviously he didn't. You see, he got up during the second-to-last comic's set and shouted at the comic, then threw his water bottle toward the stage before storming out of the club. He didn't like being picked on, especially when it came to jokes of a sexual nature, and he apparently had no idea how comics work.

Two things about comedy shows:
... but you'll actually have to visit her blog to read those two things in her post, entitled  "Am I Right, Ladies?"

Scot published "4 Ways Comedy Gets Poorer," in which he states:
Comedians need to stop complaining that they can’t make a living. I am a professional comedy performer and I’ve seen comedy be devalued over the past 12 years that I’ve been full-time. Because it’s been slow, I’ve been able to see it happening and have had time to get over a lot of my initial anger or fear. I see the depreciation of funny-business as just one example of the evolution of commercial art. Here’s a list of a few things that help to take the monetary value out of comedy. I’ll try to not spout too much nostalgia.

... and definitely go read his list.

Mr. Snapper and Mr. Buddy after our first performance at The Comedy Store.
My comedy partner and I have been testing the comedy club waters with our brand of neovaudevillian shtick, with varying results.  The other performers and staff seem to really enjoy us, but outside of the audience we bring to these bringer shows, the people in the dark seem to be at a bit of a loss when we take the stage. It has been an interesting experience so far, a learning experience.  We don't do jokes about Fifty Shades of Grey or our relationship problems or smoking pot.  Not to say what we do is better than anyone else, it's just very different.

People like different, it seems, enough that we get booked and asked back.  I am fascinated by the audience-performer relationship.  How in seven minutes can my partner and I break down what the audience is used to seeing, get them completely on board with what we're doing, and make them laugh?  How can we clean the slate at the top of the act so that they are able to jump in and join us for our set?

The solution seems to be twofold:  1. Don't think we know it all (i.e. be self-reflective and willing to change) 2. Observe what others are doing and learn from it.

Part of number 1 is to push ourselves to try harder, to connect with the audience, to avoid lazy choices.

Number 2 means booking more shows and going to more shows.  Identifying the "market leaders," if you will, and figuring out how they are doing it.  Not that you can just do whatever Louis C.K. does and expect success -- there's only one of him, and that would be ripping off the shark anyway.  I'm talking about stripping it down and studying the technique, the mechanics behind such things as audience control, joke building, etc.  It's much more boring than just repeating someone else's jokes. 

The older I get, the more I realize that boring is good.

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