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The Future of Comedy

Like many comedians operating in the 21st Century, I am constantly trying to figure out the “next big thing” to advance my career.  Dane Cook helped his career by dominating MySpace quicker and more completely than any of his peers; Rob Delaney became a well known comedy name through Twitter; and Louis CK used his clout to completely buck the establishment and make additional millions through direct distribution.  But, as many of my peers know, by the time you have learned about the successful strategies, everyone knows them and the advantage is gone.  So as a service to today’s comedians looking for new insights into where comedy is going I am offering a comprehensive set of predictions for stand up comedy’s future so that they might prepare their careers best.

1. Memes of Bodily Sounds Will Revolutionize Internet Comedy.  This may not make sense right now, but as technology grows and attention spans shrink there will be less demand for memes relying on a burdensome 10-12 words and more demand for memes featuring instantaneously humorous bodily sounds. “George Takei Fart” will be a trendsetter.

2. The Transgendered Fundamentalist Muslim Asian Comedy Tour Will Sell Out Arenas.  In the long tradition of niche tours seeking out audiences comprised of their own group, or extremely sympathetic liberals, this tour will make a ton of money and will show that they are just like everyone else.  Especially when they do their impressions of GPS devices with “black” voices.

3. Key and Peele Will Be Honored. After 12 successful seasons on Comedy Central, these two trailblazers of comedy will be honored at the Kennedy Center. In a tearful speech they will thank those that blazed their trail of sketch comedy glory – Carlos Mencia, Jeff Dunham and Clarence Thomas.

4. A New Alternative Comedy Will Arise.  In two decades or so a guy who will have played high school sports, yet never have read a comic book will decide to craft his act around humorous, engaging stories, as well as several shorter sources of humor based upon the duality of set up lines and subsequent punchlines.  He will rock the foundation of comedy.

5. “1800 Seconds of Quirky Speech” Will Be A Failure.  In a constant effort to re-brand half hour specials, this will be the only title left to describe the new crop of half hour comedy specials.

6. Emcees and Features Will Be Known As Unpaid Guest Spots.  Clubs will all use Ticketmaster-like services to make more money off of comedy fans, but to cut costs either they will offer professional comics unpaid guest spots or they will allow homeless locals to defecate on stage before the headliner.

7. Louis CK Will Reach A Historic Milestone – CK will have just completed his 44,000th new hour of comedy (having accelerated to producing a new hour-every-45-minute pace) when a civilian will be beaten to death by a group of comedians when one overhears the civilian say that “it just doesn’t feel as sharp as other specials I have seen.”

8. A Zygote Will Be Named Either A “Comic To Watch” Or A “Best Of Fest” Somewhere.  In an ongoing effort to find younger and fresher faces unburdened by life experience or material, a fertilized human egg will provide a heretofore unknown level of fresh perspective.  Its first album, “Jizz”, will be named a Top 10 album by most publications.

9. Comedians Will Have To Do Chores For Fans.  The “what do you give your fans for their support” (besides talent and hard work, which by 2012 are no longer enough for many comedians to gain traction) will reach unprecedented new levels as comedians will begin doing chores just to pick up twitter followers and fan support. This will be after the trend of free downloads of albums and comping tickets is no longer good enough for the emboldened fans of stand up.

10. Everyone Will Consider Themselves A Comedian. Up from today’s reasonable 70% rate, by 2032 everyone in America will declare themselves a comedian and open mics will resemble bread lines from the Great Depression.

So don’t just sit there! Get going before everyone is in on these things!

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I Did Not Know Internet Memes Were The Future…

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.

For more from J-L please check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes or on Podomatic