Last night I was at Helium Comedy Club (with all due respect to all other clubs, Helium and the DC Improv are the two best places to do comedy – I have not been to all, but I have been to most) for a Comedians at Law show. We had a decent crowd in number, but they were fantastic with the laughter. Through 90 minutes and four comedians they were attentive, polite and full of laughter. A comedian cannot ask for more than that out of a comedy club audience. And if the evening had ended there I would have gotten on the late Amtrak back to NYC with an uncharacteristically smiley face. But like a bad Sunday show at the end of a successful weekend on the road, comedy shows always find a way to find a way to end weirdly for me. The way the ring in The Lord of the Rings wanted to make its way back to its evil creator, comedy shows want to find a way to get to my angry core.
After the show I went to sell my CDs outside of the showroom. And here is a sample of what I heard – the good, the bad and the ugly:
- “Great show – you guys need a woman in the group,” (despite the fact that 25% of our lineup that night was female.
- “I really like your stuff. And I am a lawyer and a comedian and I could really kill it. Wherever you need me I can be there.”
- (my favorite) “That was pretty good?!”
- “How much are CDs? We’ll take two. Thank you. Great show.”
- “Did you really graduate from law school in 2004? But that would make you like 33, but you look 50.”
By way of background, Comedians at Law has been the most difficult thing I have ever embarked on in stand up comedy. This is not to say that it has not reaped some benefits, but putting together a new business, marketing it to an untapped, but marginally interested market (law schools hosting comedy shows and comedy clubs showcasing lawyers are both NOT natural sells), managing occasional personality clashes and having two defections from the group that almost made me homicidal have all made it a very trying experience. In short it is taking all the challenges of starting a business and combining those with all the inherent difficulties of advancing a stand-up comedy career. So as much as certain comments can bother me after a regular show, the hubris or complete unawareness of some of the people that come to the Comedians at Law show make steam come out of my ears.
To the credit of the audience no one had specific suggestions for bits like they did in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, But guess which of the five comments I liked best? If you guessed the one that seems appropriate from a nice fan then you guessed correctly. The other four are easily dismissed.
- (1) – Please do not compliment the show and then tell me what it needs, especially when it is completely irrelevant. If you cannot keep it to a compliment then, in the words of The Rock, know your role and shut your mouth.
- (2) We put together this show from scratch. If you were a comedian worth anything you would know a) how insulting what you said is and b) how much work we put into our project. So therefore you are either rude or not worth performing with
- (3) The word “pretty” does not belong in comedy, especially when you are giving a compliment about a set. If you feel too insecure to give a full compliment (often men) then just leave the club and say nothing.
- (5) I know one thing: I do not look 50. If you are trying to mess with me after a show, don’t because I will dismantle you verbally. If you are too dumb to judge age or know that you are being moronic then do not go out in public or do not speak when you are out in public. This would not annoy me so much, but for the timing – it is after I just had a killer set pursuing my passion – so if you are going to ruin someone’s day go home and hang with your family.
But of course thank you to the two fans who treated me with kindness and respect and put a little cash in my pocket (as well as the couple of dozen people who came out and said “great show” or “nice show” and shook my hand). This may sound arrogant, but as a comedian I am underpaid, underemployed and working my ass off. All I ask is that fans respect what I do (or at least the fact that what I am pursuing is hard). That does not mean compliment me or buy my CDs. It just means if you like it – treat me with respect and if you did not – leave and feel free never to check my stuff again. The fact is I am smarter than most people that come to my shows and better at comedy than all of them. But I would demand that this courtesy be extended from the best comedians to the very shittiest comedians.
Now to some of you this post seems spot on, but to others I come off as an angry asshole. Well, you are both right. Let me give you an analogy for how frustrating what Albert Brooks called “complisults” on The Adam Carolla Show. An ex of mine had a roommate, but my ex handled the cable bill among her roommate duties. So one month there was an additional $4.95 on the bill for an On Demand movie. Her dilemma was that she would seem petty to ask for the $5 for the movie, but felt the roommate was in the wrong for not presenting the money in the first place. And this is how I feel about people giving these half-compliments/half-insulting or thoughtless remarks after a show. They are giving me the cable bill with $5 that I am completely not responsible for. So they might be a jerk or they might just be a little careless, but they are in the wrong. But if you tell them, “Hey you owe me $4.95 for that movie,” or in my case “Please respect what I do and know that you know nothing about comedy or the business of comedy,” the asshole burden is immediately shifted. So that is why I find it so frustrating – because we are desperate as comedians and as a business to maintain great relations with fans so we build our fan base we have to grin and eat their dumb comments and can never correct them or put them in their place because then the asshole burden is 100% shifted on to us. “Ït’s only five bucks,” becomes “Hey, I liked your show – I just thought you could do this or that – what an asshole!” See what I mean?
So to the people that continue to support me, spread the word about what I do and treat me with some respect – thank you. To those of you that don’t like what I do – you are entitled to your opinion. And to those of you that like my stuff, but are dumb enough or arrogant enough to try to mess with what I do – know your role and shut your mouth.