There was a time in my career when I aspired to be the next Greg Giraldo or Patrice O’Neal. Although my health seems to be headed in the right direction to accomplish that goal, the comedy portion of my career does not seem to be on target. And then it dawned on me that I was thinking about comedy in the wrong way. Writing material and performing are secondary sources of content for a successful comedy career today. That is why my new comedy hero is George Takei. I will now enter the cutting edge of comedy – Internet memes!
One thing I must give credit to is Facebook. Internet memes did not seem to be anywhere and then Facebook decided to start making photos larger a little over a year ago (I think – time flies when your career is stagnant). It seems that Facebook decided, very perceptively, that adults, like toddlers, enjoy pictures so they should make them bigger. So as adults we all joined in an adult picture book. Almost instantly it seemed people were posting a lot more pictures on Facebook.
But it was time for us to mature to the children’s books of Facebook – MEMES! Now we could look at a picture and slowly build our comedic reading comprehension. This should come as no surprise. YouTube has been a great tool for promoting and spreading content, but it also conditioned people’s response time to 1-2 minutes for content. But like a people who’s technological capacity is increasing in direct contrast to their attention span, we have now moved on to Memes. Now you need not spend more than 2-3 seconds to get your humor fix!
Of course part of the meme movement were phenomena like “planking” and “Tebowing” which could be grouped in a bigger category of “stupidity.” But they helped prove what everyone except comedians think: Everyone can be a comedian and a source of “comedy” as long as we continue to get dumber and more impatient. But I had not realized how pervasive and how quickly even smart people had been conditioned to prefer memes as the delivery device of modern comedy.
I am a member of Comedians at Law – a group of comedians aimed primarily at untapped, intellectually savvy markets – the legal communities, both professional and educational. There are not many groups of people more steeped in reading comprehension, education or in need of a laugh. So we have produced humorous writings on a daily basis that receive varying responses ranging from decent to very good. Now these are usually writings targeted at our demographic and relatively short depending on how lazy members of the group are feeling. But what has had an inordinate amount of success among legal humor sites? Memes. Some are very funny like the following after the “Obamacare” Decision:
But many are marginally funny at best and yet still yield a tremendous amount of shares, likes and other forms of social media appreciation. Now of course an argument could be that “Hey, sometimes people want a quick laugh or don’t have the time to read something or watch something more involved.” But looking at many of these memes, it feels like people would rather place a premium on efficiency than quality. Why read a five minute funny post when I can look at a relatively unfunny picture for seven seconds? And if this is the comedy preferences of legal professionals and law students, where is the average American’s mindset? I assume laughing at their own boogers at this point.
But the key to comedy in the last decade has been to be ahead of the curve. Dane Cook was with MySpace. Louis CK was with self-producing his own show. So now what is the next level? I am putting all my money on bodily sounds and facial expressions. As society’s comedy expectations continue along the awful crossroad of heightened sensitivity and shorter, less sophisticated attention, is it only a matter of time before farts and buck teeth become the next sensation in comedy’s De-Evolution chart? Speaking of which, please check in to my website every Friday for J-L’s Sneeze of the Week.
I used to feel like a comedian. Now I feel like an Internet marketing company. When I speak of quitting comedy, people sometimes take that statement as a mere “I am not making the money I need so I must quit” sort of cry. And it is. But truthfully, there is so much involved with a comedy career that has nothing to do with comedy, that it feels more like I want to be a comedian in 1998 – that seems like a cool job. In 2012 it feels more like I am a cyber marketer who happens to have a sense of humor.
Illustrative of my frustrations along this front is a conflict that we have had recently in Comedians at Law regarding web traffic. My belief is that we should offer content that is quality and speaks to us 100% and hope that people who follow us are dedicated because of the quality. But there is a school of thought within the group, which does produce more significant web traffic, that we should be delivering what people want. However, the problem with this is that when we offer quality content or radio appearances promoting shows, people who have been drawn to us do not respond with any enthusiasm. I want to attract moths to a comedy flame, but it feels like we are aiming to draw flies to comedy shit. And not to sound too melodramatic, but sometimes I feel like this is the battle being waged in comedy since the YouTube/Twitter takeover. Within 5 years I will be selling fecal samples on my website rather than CDs if this continues. OK, maybe not my feces, but the feces of someone with hilarious feces. Mine are a little bit wordy.
This for me, by comedian Andy Sandford, is a great way of demonstrating part of the mental atrophy that is occurring with audiences of comedy. Even I can fully support this meme. Enjoy and please only share the meme and not the rest of the blog.