I am not nor have I ever been a standup comedian. But since I've worked with a number of comediennes over the years, I've been forced to endure more standup than I would have liked to. There are two basic approaches among the many that I would like to single out for criticism here in this blog. Now the point of both of my blogs is to write about stuff I really LIKE, so this entry doesn't fit either one. That also explains why there are so few entries in either blog, I have a hard time not being judgmental. I listen to Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra mp3's telling me not to be judgmental every single day, yet still find it hard to be an artist without theories, or to have theories without separating the wheat from the chaff and making a definitive decision on what works and doesn't work for me.
Okay, the two approaches to standup I have the hardest time with are sort of inverse versions of each other.
The first is the kind most used by hosts of shows. I get the sense these are all guys who think they should be more successful than they are, and they're angry at everyone because of it. If they could draw, they'd have become cartoonists so they could sit at home and make fun of everybody in private, but since they have no talent whatsoever, they decide instead to go into standup "comedy." They come unprepared for their own gigs, walk out and grab the mike like an alpha male chimp, then glare around the room looking for people who are different to make fun of. This guy will come up with cute nicknames for each of the people in the crowd. The idea is to hope that the tourists in the audience are too stupid or drunk to realize that he really means the insult and he actually does despise you and only want your beer money and for you to tip the bartenders.
The other approach I have zero respect for is the ass-kissing inverse of this-- the guy who comes unprepared, stares around the audience, tries to read the minds of the audience, and tries to tell jokes that would appeal to that "type" of person. This inevitably reveals more about the "comedian"'s personal prejudices than anything else. Oh it's a mostly female crowd! I'll do tampon jokes. Black people on the side there, I'm gonna talk about how great Obama is! At one show, a guy saw a Chinese friend of mine in the audience and asked her, "Hey where are you from? Japan? Korea?" Then was surprised when she seemed unhappy at the prospects of playing along with him any further. To me, these guys think they're chameleons, they think they're David Bowie falling to earth from another planet and they will be all things to all people. But instead, we get to see each of their prejudices MAGNIFIED 100X and we have to wipe their slobber off our asses, which does not endear them to us.
Then they'll leave the stage cursing at us and calling us a tough crowd, but JEEBUS.
In a vague pathetic attempt to put something positive into this theory rant, I will say that two approaches I like in standup are the experimental approach like Andy Kaufman or Angel Yau, and the visionary messiah approach like George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinnison, etc. and so on.
In general though I have to say I think improv is a superior comedy medium, even though improv comedians look and act more like each other than gay men. And they're all equally as funny as each other hahaha just kidding. The girls are almost always funnier than the boys but the boys get all the good writing jobs on TV shows.
OK I've refused to do standup or improv EVER and my theories and comments should be taken with that in mind-- I'm criticizing from the audience, not from on stage.