I remember the golden age of stand-up comedy…I saw it on TV when I was pre-pubescent. All I remember was that Rosanne was fierce and everyone else did jokes about not being able to set their VCR’s clock. Stand up comedy was EVERYWHERE. There was a comedy club on every corner. I’ve read about comics doing eight sets in one day.
It goes with out saying that those days are gone. But as I was sitting in a dive bar in Burbank tonight, waiting for my spot, (I was headlining, which normally would be cool – but tonight meant I had to watch everyone else die painfully one after the other) I was marveling at the audience. These people that come to sit and watch. Did I mention that I counted 3 mullets in a room of 40 or so people? Nearly 10% of the room – and if “feathered” counts – 20%. This one woman came up to me and asked,”When are those people getting up and talking gunna stop?” Needless to say it was awful. The crowd was nice to me but I also expected little after 3 hours of “comedy” (20 minutes of which was a long drawn out tampon story – which mad me grieve for humanity).
ANYWAY, I don’t think that comedy changed or was responsible for the decline. It was the audiences. They’re the ones going out and seeing shows and buying their two drink minimums. They flocked to clubs in the 80′s and then suddenly they stopped. I think it might be the times.
There are still people that go see comedy but they want to see people that they’ve seen on TV before they will pay the cover charge. The numbers are less. In Los Angeles and I’m told New York they have things called “bringer shows.” That’s where the comics have to bring the audience in order to get stage time. In some extreme cases if the comedian doesn’t bring anyone, they’re asked to pay the covers of five people or they won’t get to go on. These days you actually have to solicit your friends and family, just to do a seven minute set. This all because the majority of people rather do anything else than sit and listen to people talk about airline food (note: yes those jokes are STILL done even though the days of crappy free airline food ended with Enron).
I believe that comedians are our only western philosophers. Don’t think Gallager – think Chris Rock or Brett Butler. They point out the absurd which is all philosophy really does. You have a person with no training or specialty with a captive audience and a stage to say anything they chose. Even with the Patriot Act comics tell truths that resonate with us. When it strikes a chord with our own experience – we laugh. That’s powerful stuff. I read a statistic that 60% of Americans get their news from late night comedy shows, Jon Stewart – Jay Leno. Their jokes are like the chocolate coating on the harshness of reality. It just helps it to go down easier.
I think that the 80′s are coming back. Well SOME of the 80′s. Let’s all hope that day glow STAYS in the dark ages. I think these times are scary and people want to go out and have someone make a little sense out of why men won’t put the toilet seat down.
That was the point I was getting at: this mullet crowd. They looked like well – a couple a good dick jokes ought to win them over. But these people were TOTALLY into the the high brow stuff. The smart stuff got their attention and every time someone did a fart joke they all talked amongst themselves. It was almost like they could sit around by themselves and tell dirty jokes but if you made sense of the recall race that was something to be listened to. At least that’s my observation. Most of the crowd will probably be too drunk to remember most of the night and I have to say – I’m a little jealous of that.