One of the most interesting things about comedy is the disconnect between how much everyone loves laughing, and how little respect comedy gets on the whole. No one would ever say "I hate laughing" but plenty would say "I hate comedy". The Moth Attracts 150+ people every week in NYC, and the funniest story usually wins and yet it's a struggle to get 30 people to a great stand up show. Mysterious.
Hmm, not sure it's that mysterious. First of all, there's only a handful of storytelling shows compared to the dozens of standup shows available every night of the week in NYC. So I can see how supply/demand might favor storytelling shows.
Also, from what I understand, The Moth is huge. Hit podcast, mentions on This American Life, big name drop-ins, etc. I'm sure there are storytelling shows that struggle to get attendees too, right?
As for people who "hate" comedy, I think people hate certain things about live comedy. First of all, it forces you to pay attention. At a bad rock show, you can talk to a friend or hang in the back and tune out. Comedy demands 100% rapt attention. And that's why it's so grating when it's bad. You're trapped in a painful performance prison. (A bad play is also an awful experience. John Mulaney has a great bit about that.)
Also, I'm reminded of something a civilian friend told me about a visit to a comedy club. He went with his girlfriend and the person seating audience wanted to sit him and his gal in the front. He asked not to be seated there. He said he didn't want to have any interaction with the comics, he just wanted to watch the show. The person seating him told him not to worry, it wouldn't be a problem.
Sure enough, the first comic comes out and starts fucking with him and his gal. He hangs in for a minute, but the comic keeps it up so he gets up and walks out.
He's mentioned it a couple of times to me. It really pissed him off and he felt lied to and doesn't want to go to another comedy show. He doesn't discern between club and alt shows. He just thinks comedy shows involve that kinda assholery and he doesn't feel like dealing with it. And I understand that.
From a comedian's perspective, it's always painful to be at a show where everyone sits in the back and leaves the front rows open (I often open up in a room like that by calling it "the prevent defense" of crowd formations). But y'know what? I think those people are smart to avoid the front. I never want to sit at the front of a comedy show either. Seems like there's some sort of fundamental problem when the best seats in the house are the last place people want to sit.
Permalink | 9/07/2010