You know that feeling you get when someone starts boring you with details on the "crazy" dream they had the night before? That's the way I feel when comics start talking about TV shows or movies onstage. When I hear "I've been watching a lot of TV lately and..." from a comic, I know I'm gonna hate him.
It's almost always about how some show is "so stupid." And that's what you want to talk to me about? You have a stage, a microphone, and an audience and your big topic is how something on TV is silly. No fucking duh. Why do you think we're here in this room instead of home watching TV. Not to mention that The Soup and Best Week Ever have this ground totally covered.
What I always want to ask these standups: Who are your favorite comics? How many jokes do they have about a stupid TV show? Probably zero. Because no one gives a shit in the long run.
I saw a comic who's nationally known do a downtown show where he started out with "I just got cable" and followed with 10 minutes of jokes about how stupid reality shows on cable are. Really, some show on the National Geographic channel about haunted houses is dumb?! And wait, let me guess, the people on it are dumb too! No way!!! Thanks for the newsflash. Next thing you know there might be some drama on The Real World!
Or do I need to listen to someone tell me for five minutes why Urkel (or whoever) was a dumb character? You know who else realized that: The writers who wrote Urkel to be funny. You're making fun of something that was intentionally created to be silly.
Where's the discovery there? It's like going off on a rant about how dumb a Dr. Seuss book is. "What's the deal with green eggs and ham??? I mean ham, sure. But green eggs. Those sound really unhealthy! Is it food coloring in there? Or seaweed! Am I right, people? I don't know what kinda doctor this Seuss guy is but I wouldn't let him operate on ME!" Making fun of shit that was created to be silly in the first place is pointless.
This stuff doesn't need more attention. We're already buried under an avalanche of televised terribleness. I go to a bar and there are so many TVs on every wall that I can't have a conversation without stupid shit flashing in my face from every direction. And it's always a monster truck rally or a shitty sitcom or highlights from some hockey game that's the Flyers vs. a city that I didn't even realize had a hockey team now, and no one cares yet we can't turn off the TVs because we must have shit flashing in our faces all the time.
So why on earth do I want to go to a comedy show, a place where human beings actually congregate to share something real and listen to someone's thoughts, and hear you tell me how stupid Beverly Hills Chihuahua is?
I know it's stupid. That's why I didn't go see it. Why are you bringing it into my life? I successfully avoided it. I don't care what you think about Watchmen. Or Friday the 13th. Or anything else that is already discussed endlessly in our culture. Don't be a megaphone that amplifies the same crap that's on Access Hollywood and Us Weekly and the rest of the PR machine that dictates what we should care about and consume and watch like we're babies that need to suck on some media conglomerate tit.
You should make sure to record that Beverly Hills Chihuahua joke on an album. Because people will totally want to hear it again in 30 years. That way they can go, "Hey, remember that joke we didn't give a shit about 30 years ago? Let's listen to it again and still not give a shit. And then we can sit around and wonder why on earth this person was ever talking about it in the first place."
So anyway, how about that finale twist on The Bachelor! Were you as absolutely floored as I was? How could he do that to poor Melissa???
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My least favorite thing to hear: "I've been watching a lot of TV lately and..."
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But didn't I recently say there are no hack subjects, only hack approaches? Yes. I do think it's possible to do a joke about a TV show that's funny (see The Soup or BWE). Zach Galifianakis has some funny jokes about reality TV on his Comedy Central special. I even told a bit about a movie before. But I think you really need to have a creative approach if you do one. Otherwise it's a pretty lame target for reasons mentioned above.
Also, I think, like the "Hack List", this is a subject that funny and honesty trump the general rule. There are comics out there that truly love movies and it is a big part of their life, so talking about them on stage is a very honest thing. I think the key is exploring the universal through the specific. Just referencing something weird or silly is not hard, but using as an example of where we're at as a society or why people watch the shows/movies can be interesting. But, I agree, in general most references to movies and tv shows function as little more than topical throw away jokes that will be useless in a few weeks.
I agree in that jokes with the punchline "That's so stupid" usually suck. But if you find a way to make the reference part of the joke, not the joke, I wanna hear it.
I love Kumail's rant on Lost for example because the act out is so brilliant. But if he just said "I'M lost" yeah the joke would suck.
Absolutely. People who complain about VH1 and the like are worse than the people who watch it. It's the theory of that these shows don't exist to sedate stupid people, but to keep the rest of the people angry at stuff that doesn't matter so they're not paying to the big stuff that does matter.
I feel the same way about these hacks out there doing jokes about classic American Literature. I mean, look, I know that Henry and Catherine Barkley are drawn together by their own misery and gloom of the first World War, but to be bound by one's own misery when you know the ultimate outcome is exactly what you've come to expect out of life is only an afterthought in the grand scheme of things.
So yeah, WE DON'T NEED AN ACT-OUT!
Jeez I'm sick of people complaining about hack comedians who do bits on shitty TV, it's so overplayed
A+ on this post!!
Also Mulaney's jokes about Law And Order are amazing.
The righteous man is beset on all sides by crutches.
I try to ask myself "What am I adding to the conversation?" And then I respond "I am painting a picture of what it would be like if several contemporary celebrities were in The Wizard of Oz." And then I pat myself on the back and move onto the next joke.
Thanks a shit ton, Matt. Now I've lost six minutes from my bit "Why I couldn't tell the difference between My Two Dads and My Three Sons."
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