Ungracious acceptance speeches

A few months back, Morgan Murphy won the award for Best Female Comic at the ECNY awards. When she accepted her award, she made a crack about the crowd of performers. Can't recall exactly but something like: "There are seven comedians in this room that I know. And the rest of you are the 150 reasons why I quit theater class in college." I thought it was hilarious. Rest of crowd = not so much. Actually felt a bit tense in the room after that.

Talked with someone afterward who thought it was in bad taste. My .02: If you're a comedian, you should be ok with getting made fun of. Thick skin is part of the deal. Don't like it? Start a book club instead.

The whole thing reminded me of Seinfeld's speech when he accepted "The Comedian Award" from HBO:

Your whole career as a comedian is about making fun of pretentious, high-minded, self-congratulatory, BS events like this one. The whole feeling in this room of reverence and honoring is the exact opposite of everything I have wanted my life to be about. I really don’t want to be up here. I want to be in the back over there somewhere, or over there, saying something funny to somebody about what a crock this whole thing is.


soce said...

I feel like those are two different cases. One is a successful comedian lightly poking fun of a crowd of other successful performers.

The other is a successful comedian being putting herself above a crowd of not-necessarily successful performers who are working their butts off to get nowhere, many of whom would love to receive or even be nominated for a reward such as hers.

Now I'm thick skinned and didn't take it personally and even found it kind of funny (yes, comedians can be pretty wacky and antisocial at times), but it felt kind of in bad taste all the same.

That kind of behavior happens a lot at reward shows in general. Those who want it the most rarely receive it, whereas those end up winning don't really appreciate it (because they tend to win various accolades so often by this point).

Josh Homer said...

I think that joke was hilarious, and very accurate. It was the fucking ECNY Awards, a circle jerk if I've ever seen one and she called it for what it was. Hilarious.

I believe you do a joke about hipsters where you say, "I couldn't tell if they were not having fun or making fun of not having fun" and as one of the producers of the ECNY Awards said, 'ECNY makes fun of other awards shows'. Well Murphy just did exactly what the "spirit" of these "awards" are "supposed" to be. Too bad the ECNY Awards can't take a joke.

myq said...

I agree with Josh, that the joke was directly in the spirit of the evening and the show's mission statement, AND it was funny.
I disagree with him that the ECNY awards couldn't take it. If I recall correctly, it got a big laugh, did it not?

Yes, she's more successful than a lot of the comedians who were in the audience.
And she made a funny joke about it.
We're comedians.
If she had just gone up there and shit on people without making any jokes or being funny, that would have been in poor taste.
If you're going to say things that can offend people as a comedian, if it's funnier than it is offensive, then you win.

Of course, that logic could be extrapolated to justify the telling of hilarious jokes that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise ignorant jokes that make fun of the less privileged from a position of power.
But this isn't that.
Morgan wasn't born into a comedy aristocracy. She worked for it. All the comedians she was referencing, the audience at that show, they're not a disenfranchised group. They're people who have chosen to do what they love, what they want to do; and when that thing that they love and do is make comedy, they should be the LAST people to complain when comedy is made.


myq said...
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Anonymous said...

Let me throw something out there. Never heard of her; not in the scene myself. YouTubed her to see what the fuss was all about. Clicked on her stint on Kimmel, figuring that that had to be good. One of her first jokes speculated whether or not it would be appropriate to ask a dog you've just hit with your car, "why you all up in my grill, dog."

Presuming the first or second joke out of her mouth on Kimmel is among her best, please let me know why she's good. Thank you.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

New book recommendation:

"The Last Laugh: The World of Stand-up Comics" by Phil Berger. Covers comedy in America from the 30's to 1985. Spends more than a few pages focusing on Robert Klein's career, but it provides insight into certain key players' rise and fall with regard to popularity. The narration uses the jargon of whatever period it's covering at the time, which makes it interesting.

We should be mindful of how we define success in this business. If your goal as a comic is to make people laugh, then that the is the reward in itself. If you're able to feed yourself or your family from a career of making people laugh, then that's the shiny award.

This is on the heels of reading about Eddie Murphy's rising star in the aforementioned book. He was determined to become a millionaire and talked about it from age 16. He got what he wanted. Along with rumors of a transvestite prostitute solicitation and a gaggle of unwatchable films clinging to his legend. Success accomplished?

Nobody in the ECNY audience should have been angry with Morgan if they happened to feel bad about themselves. They should be angry with her for letting that beautiful curly hair go ages without fancy styling. Not so much as a Topsy Tail.

Buddy said...

I definitely remember hating her for that and until now had no idea why because I couldn't remember the quote for the life of me. I think the main problem i had was that it was a NY comic award and Morgan Murphy is not at all a NY comic, really. Just to think of all the funny ladies I have slogged through the muck with over the years and then an outsider wins and tells us all to go fuck ourselves. Yeah, but its cool not to care about anything. Fuck me, fuck you, fuck everybody, i don't give a fuck. I love working my ass off and wallowing in anonymity and i love people much more successful than me shitting on me.

myq said...

Nick, I understand what you're saying, but I don't think anyone's saying it isn't cool to care.

Obviously we all care about what we're doing, every comedian that was there, Morgan included.

Yes, the award might not mean as much to her as it could have to someone else, but she didn't ask for it. She didn't set out to take it away from someone else, the community voted for her. So hate them, or the committee for nominating her despite her less-than-total New Yorkiness.

As for what she said, I don't want to harp on the fact that it was just a joke, but to delve slightly deeper, her whole point was that she didn't KNOW most of the people there. So, her generalization certainly isn't based in any kind of informed opinion and so has nothing to do with the reality of what any comedian there experiences in his or her life.

Everyone reading this blog knows that there are people working hard, creating great art, being hilarious, whether Morgan Murphy knows them or what they're doing. And I don't think she was saying that that wasn't the case for everyone in the room that she didn't know--I think she was just making a comment about the spectacle.

I certainly don't want to tell anyone how to feel, I'm not saying it's uncool to care about what we all do, and I only moved here less than two years ago as well, so maybe this is still an outsider's perspective that doesn't matter as much to you because I didn't start here, but from what I understand, the ECNY awards started as a way to mock awards shows, while at the same time giving props to people who deserve it, and over the years has gained more legitimacy, turning into more of the thing that it started out aiming to mock, and isn't that really the core of the joke Morgan was making? Wasn't she really honestly capturing the original spirit of the event?

I don't know her well and I do enjoy her comedy and thought what she said was funny, and not meant to be taken personally or seriously.
I also respect anyone who honestly and whole-heartedly pursues what we're all doing.
And I don't think those things need to be mutually exclusive.

But everyone is free to have their opinion and feelings. I think it is cool to have feelings.

Buddy said...

So, according to Ruby, almost the everyone didn't like that joke and the entire room was tense. No one else is willing to say that it rubbed them the wrong way even though that was (almost) everyone's gut reaction?
It doesn't mean I have any ill feeling toward Murphy, that was one thing she said in her entire life that I found distasteful, I didn't form an opinion on her as a person because of it.
It was insulting, and judging by the audience, not particularly funny. Do I think Morgan cares either way? No. I don't really know why I do. I also remembered why I don't like to comment on blogs. It's as futile to share your opinions here as it is to share with in a roomful of theater losers at Comix.

myq said...

Nick, how can you call everyone losers? Even as a joke.

Sincerely, I don't think this is a waste of time. I think we're all having fun.

I honestly have a memory of Morgan's speech being BOTH tense AND well-received. Though I don't remember everything she said, maybe she got laughs with other things. Or maybe I'm completely wrong, in which case my bad. Though I would stand by the idea that just because some or most of an audience is tense, doesn't mean good comedy can't happen. (e.g. Colbert's Bush roast.) Not that I'm saying Morgan's joke was Colbert-level. And not that I'm saying you can't have a negative opinion of her or her joke. I'm just saying that even if someone had a negative gut reaction, upon review, that person could judge it as funny and less negative in hindsight.

Or not! See? Fun!

Abbi Crutchfield said...

I like jokes about drama geeks. I pretend I wasn't one because I didn't wear black or read poetry.

..and YET I was in plays in high school and college. So I'm a drama geek.

I also like jokes about hipsters. I pretend I'm not one because I have a normal haircut and eat at Buffalo Wild Wings.

...and YET I own a Macbook and wear mismatched clothes. So I'm a hipster.

I wasn't at the ECNY Awards, because I don't crash parties where I'm not invited. Unless they have tiny bruschetta. (Was there tiny bruschetta there?!) But I WAS at 50 First Jokes 2010. Remember when Anthony Jeselnik capped his joke off with, "Seth [Herzog], let's get the f[unkytown USA] outta here", and bolted? I thought, "Ha! He's too cool for this charade. Uh oh, he doesn't know anyone here, so pretending to be too important to stick around might be taken the wrong way." But I didn't hear any backlash. Maybe because it fits his on-stage persona.

Or MAYBE the NYC comedy community is more forgiving of a MAAAAAN than a WOMAN! What's with the double standard, hipster geeks?

Aalap said...
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Aalap said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Nick.

The joke was sort of funny (most of its effect came from the fact that it was an insult to most people in the room) but I found it to be in bad taste as well. I think we can honestly say the ECNY awards are not mocking awards shows in the least bit.

Her joke was not about not knowing all these people in the room more than it was about not knowing them AND disliking them. Just because we are comedians doesn't mean we can't be gracious while being honest, Jerry just showed us how in that video. We can throw the "we're comedians" mentality out whenever and where ever we like but I find that as a human being I don't like to insult people to their faces without good reason.

ECN said...

There's a difference between insulting the event and insulting the individual people at the event, though.

(I'm saying this as someone who has nothing against Morgan Murphy, mind you.

Then again, I'm also saying this as someone who has nothing against "reverence and honoring", and who almost invariably finds people trying to Poke Fun at Authority or whatever unbearably tedious.

I mean, if you like a thing that's going on, go ahead and like it. If you don't like it, just shut up about it and let the people who do like it do that. If the thing's so unavoidable that you need to go after it, don't stand in the corner and make passive-aggressive jokes. Get out there and make a serious argument. If it's not a big enough deal to justify sincere opposition, it's not a big enough deal to justify any opposition.)

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