Don't be [redacted]

Mark and I discussing the sameyness of comics we see at mics/shows in NYC...


i think comics we know don't think about this enough: what will i be remembered as after the show? the audience will know me as "the guy who talks about _____." what's the blank? birbigs whole act: i say stupid things i shouldn't. CK: i'm miserable and i hate my kids.

at the shows we go to, it's just so many white dudes telling similar jokes. why are you different? why will the crowd remember you? why would i know [redacted #1] from [redacted #2] from some other white dude who looks just like 'em? gotta have some sorta hook.


Of course you have to stand out. I honestly don't know the difference between [redacted #3] and [redacted #4]. To me they are the same fucking guy! That terrifies me. I never want to be that. On stage or in life. Be you, stand out, don't conform.

Confusable comics get redacted in people's brains.


Aalap said...

Great post sir. I'm really interested to know who these redacted comedians are.

I can understand a little why white comedians get angry at hackey ethnic comedians.

Even though I don't really do ethnic stuff, it's easy for the audience to distinguish me.

Mo Diggs said...

Lemme guess:
#1 is me
#2 is Hassan Madry

Matt Ruby said...

Haha, funny Mo.

Mike Drucker said...

I'm definitely one of the redacted comedians. OR I'M NOT AT MICS ENOUGH! OH GOD!

Anonymous said...

I hear what you and Mark are saying. Clearly, part of a comic's job is to be memorable but I think the best way to stand out is, to quote Steve Martin by way of Sandpaper Suit, "Be undeniably good."

People might remember Jim Gaffigan as the guy who talks about Hot Pockets (or even more generally, food) but only because it's hilarious when he talks about Hot Pockets. And while Ted Alexandro is a pretty generic-looking white guy who does jokes on "samey" topics like going to the gym and national politics, he stands out as being funny as hell while talking about these common things.

In talking to non-comic friends after shows (even weeks or months later), they basically remember the 1 or 2 comedians who they thought were the funniest from a particular show. And they will remember some of the comic's subject matter because of how funny they were when they talked about it. They will also occasionally remember someone who had a particularly rough set so I guess another way to avoid redaction is to "be undeniably bad."

I'm not downplaying the importance of standing out, but the better someone gets as a comic, it just seems that the more their originality (if they have any) just naturally emerges. To use Gaffigan as an example again, his "inner voice" (which I think you've discussed on your blog, Matt) would not work if he wasn't so damn good as a comic. Even that "schtick" probably arose very naturally from him just becoming a great comic.

Matt Ruby said...

Chris, good point about how it's being good that ultimately matters most. I just think you make your job that much harder when you talk about the exact same stuff as everyone else. When you have a unique angle and/or original topics, you're that much closer to really grabbing people's attention and doing something with it. For me, the most painful thing is when mediocre comics latch onto generic topics. If you're not that funny, at least talk about something interesting or that you truly care about.

"The better someone gets as a comic, it just seems that the more their originality (if they have any) just naturally emerges." I think there's something to that but I also wonder if the opposite is true too: The more someone is original, the better they get as a comic. That's when you start hitting on riper, more surprising material.

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