Steve Martin, Ellen Degeneres, and true lies

Re: "standups should be authentic," two greats who were 100% inauthentic: Steve Martin and Ellen Degeneres. Listen to Let's Get Small; Every word is a lie. And it's great. For example...

I'm not into drugs any more. I quit completely, and I hate people who are still into it. Well.. I do take one drug now - for fun - and, maybe you've heard of it, it's a new thing, I don't know if you have or not. It's a new thing, it makes you small. [ indicates size with fingers ] About this big. And, you know, I'll be home, sitting with my friends, and, uh.. we'll be sitting around, and somebody will say, "Heeeyyy.. let's get small!" So, you know, we get small, and uh.. the only bad thing is if some tall people come over. You're walking around going, "Ah hahaha..!" Now, I know I shouldn't get small when I'm driving.. but I was driving around the other day, and I said, "What the heck?" You know? So I'm driving like.. [ extends arms high in the air like he's reaching up to a giant steering wheel ] And, uh.. a cop pulls me over. And he makes me get out, he looks at me and he says, "Heyyy.. are you small"? I said, "No-o-o! I'm not!" He said, "Well, I'm gonna have to measure you." They have this little test they give you - they give you a balloon.. and if you can get inside of it, they know you're small.

...Same thing with most of Ellen's early material too.

Sometimes the way you lie is more real than the truth. Or at least more interesting.

Also, it's interesting how well this material holds up over time. I find that Martin album way more listenable than almost anything else from that era. Most comedy ages like cheese in the sun, but these jokes have Happy Meal-esque shelf lives.

It probably gets fatiguing to lie like that all the time though. Perhaps that's why both of these comedians eventually moved away from standup?


Ben said...

It's presented along the lines of absurdist humor, so the audience doesn't feel like they are trying to get over on them with anything.

You can spot bullshit very easily at most open mics, but its usually just slight exaggerations they feel enhance an otherwise not so exciting story. I always hate "on the way over here" bit intros that comics still use.

If someone were to fake entire routines that they claimed seriously happened to them it would seem sleazy, but part of me slightly respects the creativity of it, in that they came up with the whole thing. There's a lot of established comics out there that a lot of their material consists of just weird shit people have come up and said to them. With that there doesn't seem to be much creation from the comic other than just reporting something and maybe slightly exaggerating aspects.

If you are going to be doing absurdist humor, it needs to not be believable to be understood as such.

Ben said...

Also, I remember when Greg Giraldo was a judge on LCS he said something to the effect of how he doesn't like it when he sees comics doing fantasy sets, like it takes him out of it.

Desiree Lavoy said...

Long time listener first time caller,
first off, I love reading this blog. ..and, I think there is a struggle for comics who are more inclined towards being jokey than talking about their lives and their feeling, sometimes it seems like jokey comedy lacks substance, but I think there's really something to be said for how cool it is to see someone talking about their perspective and their life without being so literal. "true lies" indeed!

Duug said...

Todd Barry has many jokes about what stupid people say to him and the punchline comes from his response. And I believe it's ALL exaggerated.

I honestly assume every single comedian I watch is telling made-up stories. I don't believe there's one comedian who is purely talking about their regular life without any sort of embellishment.

When Louis CK talks about his daughter slipping in her poop, I believe there's whole parts of that that are exaggerated. And NOT ONCE do I think about that while watching him talk about it. So I guess I'm saying its all arbitrary

Matt Ruby said...

Interesting Duug. I always assume all of Todd Barry's setups are completely true.

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