Comedy Tools

Bad things come in threes so here are three things I observed in the last week that were a grey cloud on my comedy career (perhaps the incredible week the Utah Jazz had had to be counterbalanced with bad luck elsewhere).

Strike 1

Last Sunday I was eliminated from the 1st round of the Boston Comedy Festival by a “comedian” playing a ukulele.  There are two things that can tell you how stupid people in America are – opinion polls and stand up comedy shows.  There are things I have endured during my comedy career – 1,189 GPS jokes, 24,567 marijuana jokes, to name a couple, but I am not sure anything so demeaning has happened to me as losing to a gimmick.  Being that this is the last comedy competition I will do, this was a particularly stinging “loss.”

Strike 2

The last week represented a week of zero bookings.  Now, normally I would just be talking about clubs around the country who ignore my emails, but what is great is that even free shows in New York are become douchebaggy.  A new thing has emerged (perhaps it is not new, but it is new to me) where shows at bars with good reputations now have bookers.   Really? I have to work through an independent booker for your fu*king show in a backroom of a bar?  You e-mail a friend or a fellow comedian who “runs” the show and then are re-directed to a bookerwho will try to watch your set at some point in the future so that you can have the honor of appearing on a show that will not pay you (perhaps if I had made more friends in comedy someone could vouch for me, but I guess I have not praised or kissed the ass of the right comedians).  WOW!   One more signal that comedy is just as big a fraud as acting or music.  Maybe I jsut don’t understand the game anymore.

Strike 3

Tracy Morgan’s HBO Special.  I watched this abomination on Sunday morning.  Not since I saw Katt Williams deliver an absolutely worthless performance, high on drugs and low on material, at Carnegie Hall two years ago have I seen such an awful stand up performance.  It had all the hallmarks of bad comedy – out of date and unoriginal material (seriously after two years of seeing the actual Obama in office – isn’t the notice of Obama as a badass, gangster president completely irrelevant?), an audience of comedy illiterates (a standing ovation for a glorified open mic performance) and a performer who without Tina Fey’s writing appears to be mentally handicapped.

I was told on Facebook that perhaps not growing up in a black community I could not relate to Tracy Morgan’s material.  It’s fu*king terrible comedy no matter what neighborhood you come from.  I am a fan of many black comedians and Tracy Morgan is just not good.  There was no in depth exploration of anything in his routine that required first hand knowledge.  It simply required that you either a) had never seen stand up comedy before so what he said actually appeared original or b) were a person who took delight in a black man for any reason.  It was awful.

So this was the week in comedy – losing out on an opportunity because of a ukulele, not getting on unpaid bar shows because I have to be vetted by independent commissions and seeing a famous comedian in a position I aspire to, proving that it is not necessary to be good at comedy to be well received in comedy.

Who’d think that 11 audience members at midnight in the Village Lantern this Saturday would have been the highlight of my comedy week.  Here’s hoping for a stronger week.

  • Jason Good

    Hey brother, I didn’t even get in the BCF. Must have been my “recalculating” GPS joke

    1. J-L Cauvin

      I never understand how they can have 96 entries and have 50-60 good comics and then there are still good comedians who got beat out by the other 30.

  • Lawson

    Hey man, I really enjoyed the anger and honesty of this. It came up on my facebook feed because I’m friends with Amy Carlson. I haven’t seen Tracy’s HBO special but I have heard it was terrible from a few sources. He has some other special up on youtube that I really enjoyed though. It might just be that his TV work has made his stand up comedy stale.

    And the ukulele story is fucked up.

  • Josh Homer

    It would have helped you getting into BCF if you said you were from Boston. No actual jokes needed.

    The “booker” at the bar shows are usually a phantom or the (girl)friend of one of the comics. Basically the comic doesn’t have the stones to say they don’t want to book you and would still like to get spots on your show, so they create a fake FB page of a “booker”

  • Sebastian

    I feel for you dude. I can’t believe that a guy with a ukulele even made it on the Festival. A uk-fu*king-lele.

    I also agree with you about the Tracy Morgan special. It was horrific. So unbelievably unoriginal, derivative but even worse UNFUNNY. I could trace many of the jokes if not verbatim then certainly in specific form to other comics. Admittedly I have alabaster skin so maybe I am genetically incapable from appreciating the nuanced turn he took with rehashed material.

    I wouldn’t dismiss the Facebook comment out of hand. While on its face, the argument is ridiculous; being half-white shouldn’t prohibit you from appreciating a black comic, varied background or whatever. Comedians today play to a pre-screened audience. That is how you get the Payaso comedy shows, Gay nights (or cruises), Urban shows, etc. People paid good money to see Katt Williams because he speaks to their EXACT background.

    Comics don’t play to wide audiences anymore, just self-reinforcing hyper niches where the audience in a way already know the jokes they are going to hear that night. Strangely, you don’t even have to be a funny or original comedian anymore. You just need an act for a pre screened crowd, or if you are already famous (like Tracy), then just an act; pathetic an unfunny though it may be.

    You were right a while ago. The key is to find have Luca Brasi as your manager, get you a few guest spots on “The Office” or “The Daily Show” and watch your bookings roll in. Don’t work on your material. Work on getting famous. Or find a Haitian/White audience and play to them.

    For the booker in the sh*tty bar/basement, and this may be my anger talking: spend him a picture of your nuts and tell him to evaluate that!

    1. J-L Cauvin

      It was a chick with a ukulele.

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