Am I A Comedy Snob?
It was a light week for comedy last week, but a fun week. On Wednesday I was at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase doing a benefit for my friend Germaine’s friend Shaun who unfortunately has a brain tumor. The turnout was respectable, and we did raise some money and we had some laughs. Germaine and I started at the exact same time and I’m always glad to do any show she asks me to do. I got to see some old faces and tried to do material that was all pretty new and long form. It didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but I went to the club after a long day of filming on Deadpan and didn’t quite get where I needed to be mentally.
Saturday I was doing a show that to be honest, I was dreading. I wasn’t looking forward to who I was performing with, nor was I looking forward to the show itself. It was a private event fundraiser for a school. I don’t know why I was dreading the show. With maybe only a couple exceptions, I usually do pretty well in those environments. The booker was a little concerned maybe with me being able to keep it clean. I did fine. My act isn’t dirty although I do talk about adult things in a fairly frank manner. Normally, I do say that horrible “f word”, but conversationally, not excessively.
The last e-mail exchange I had with the booker was him reassuring me that I could bring the funny and I wrote him back saying, “I’ll be funny while maintaining originality. I really am a snob!” More on that in a second.
The show ended up being a blast. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend are moving to Baltimore this week and were having a going away party. I mentioned that on stage hoping it would give my contact person the hint that I wanted to leave ASAP, but it didn’t work. I was stuck there for the entire show. Every now and then I seem to connect with people in the audience to where they seek me out afterwards. This was the case again. It makes me feel like a comedy god anytime it happens. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it does sincerely make me feel really proud. One of the people on the planning committee said she really liked me and would request me again next year. So, thank you. I’m glad you had a good time. I did too.
Back to the snobby thing. I’m beginning to feel like the fact that I am a comedy snob is starting to become a character flaw. In the past, the MC from the night rubbed me the wrong way because he always screwed up everyone’s introductions which I always either took or mistook as arrogance because I felt like he must think he’s too good to MC. I don’t know if that was the case or not or if I was projecting. I know I’ve had occasions where I hosted a show and thought, “I’m opening for this asshole?” Saturday night though, he did get my intro right and at one point in time told the audience, “As you can tell, I’m not a real comedian.” So maybe he’s been humbled. I’m not sure.
The first thing that bothered me that night was that the MC did the old joke about the prostitute with crotchless panties hitting on him and he tells her that because of what her vagina did to her underwear he didn’t want to go near it. I literally heard that the weekend before, and countless times before that. The audience laughed and it made me start to wonder. Do they know that’s not his joke? Do they not care? Do they think we all get our material from some magical joke fountain? If 400 people are having a good time and I’m the odd man out, doesn’t that mean I’m the one who’s wrong?
The headliner drives me crazy. I don’t like him on a personal or a professional level. Personally he does things in his life that I think are some of the lowest things a person can do. Professionally his act is a greatest hits smorgasbord of hacky bits. Seeing that I was going to be stuck there, I decided to start live tweeting all of his terrible jokes. That’s where I threw someone under the bus. I never said his name, but the tweets that came back to me ranged from newer comedians saying, “This can’t be real! Please stop!” to veterans asking, “Are you working with so and so?” The audience mostly enjoyed what he was doing, but about two dozen people left either because the show was running long or because they were hating him. It’s not every joke he does, but in all honesty, it was about nine or ten bits in a 45 minute long set. And I do feel like he was ready to break into some of my friend’s material, which he’s done in the past, because near the end of his set there was an odd riff section that seemed like it was there just to fill time.
I shouldn’t be judgmental. I know that. This is why it bothers me. He works a lot! He’s not necessarily working any rooms I’d want to do and he does make his comedy living largely off of corporate events. But he’s making his living off of being bad and terribly unoriginal. I honestly can’t think of one nice thing to write about him. Short of another local guy who pulls out a joke book on stage, this guy may be the worst comedian I’ve ever worked with. Oh, here’s one redeeming thing. He’s a decent public speaker.
So why does it bother me? I guess it’s because I feel like it cheapens what I do on stage. And I get that that’s stupid. I assume that the argument some people have with gay marriage is that they fear it cheapens their own marriage, which is completely ridiculous. So by that same merit, isn’t the thought that what he does on stage cheapens what I do on stage ridiculous? I guess so. I don’t really know. I’m hoping by typing this maybe I’ll come to some sort of understanding as to why he bothers me so much. He’s never been outwardly bad to me. If anything he’s been pretty nice and friendly. If there’s any bad guy in the relationship I have with him, it’s most certainly me.
So how do I grow as a person and stop letting this kind of thing get to me? Once I’m able to focus entirely on my own act instead of the acts and actions of my peers won’t that mean I’ll get better quicker? As I’m trying to be as unique and original as I can, isn’t being a snob just another thing potentially dividing me from an audience?
I think about the quote in the book “War For Late Night” where I believe Jeff Garlin sums up the difference between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien by saying that Jay is Kenny G while Conan in John Coltrane. Kenny G is a bigger commercial success, but Coltrane is clearly the better musician. At the end of the day, aren’t I striving to be more like John Coltrane? Did John Coltrane care how many albums Kenny G sold? I hope not.
I want to amend this article. I honestly hope this doesn’t come off as a judgment on anyone else other than myself. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to “shit talking” my peers. The tweets certainly prove that. I was hoping this article would maybe spark dialogue about why we all waste our time worrying about what other people are doing with their stage time.
I feel like not accepting we’re all different is like going into a Baskin Robbins and knocking a cone out of someone’s hand because they like Rocky Road and you only like Moosetracks and you believe Rocky Road is a lesser ice cream.
Like posting earlier this same weekend about falling off the weight loss wagon, I feel like publicly owning up to what I feel are my faults is the most sure fire way to improve. I need to simply stop wasting time looking down on people for doing something different, that for whatever reason, probably ultimately spawned from my own insecurities, I view as lesser.
Using the earlier analogy, statistically, more people like Kenny G. That doesn’t make them bad people.