Q. You don’t think some kind of threshold has been crossed?
A. When you’re workshopping it, a lot of stuff is bumpy and awkward. Especially when you’re working on the edge, you’re going to offend. A guy like Tosh, he’s at the Laugh Factory. He’s making no money. He’s essentially in the gym. You’re mad at Ray Leonard because he’s not in shape, in the gym? That’s what the gym’s for. The sad thing, with all this taping and stuff, no one’s going to do stand-up. And every big stand-up I talk to says: “How do I work out new material? Where can you go, if I have a half an idea and then it’s on the Internet next week?” Just look at some of my material. You can’t imagine how rough it was and how unfunny and how sexist or racist it might have seemed. “Niggas vs. Black People” probably took me six months to get that thing right. You know how racist that thing was a week in? That’s not to be seen by anybody.
Q. What’s the solution?
A. Honestly, I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to do it. ’Cause the few times I’ve gotten onstage and thought about touring, immediately, stuff’s on the Internet, I’m getting calls, and I’m like, this isn’t worth it. I saw “Dark Knight [Rises]” the other night, and Bruce Wayne’s walking into this party, and he presses a button, and no one’s camera works. If I find a comedy club where no one’s camera works, I’ll go. I’ll go back to comedy clubs when they get a real no-camera policy, the same way they did with smoking. But hey, they used to be the smokiest places in the world.
Totally get where Rock is coming from but I also wonder if this is like music industry execs complaining about people not buying music the same way they used to. Things change. Horse and buggy drivers probably weren't happy about cars. I bet novelists hate Twitter. Journalists are getting screwed by technology too.
I think the real question is what happens next. Maybe albums/specials go away. Maybe what really matters is what happens in that room that night. Maybe people turn over material every month instead of every year.
Does this mean a loss of craftsmanship and depth? Most likely. But that's happening everywhere else in society too. Why should standup be any different?
Also, it seems like it's mostly a problem for big-name standups. Little guys don't have to worry about being taped because no one gives a shit.
Also, how many people are really viewing these sets later? Are TONS of people watching shitty cellphone taped sets of Chris Rock or Louis CK or Daniel Tosh?
I get why it'd be bad if someone captures you saying something that gets blown up by the speech police. But Tosh's whole rape joke thing wasn't even taped. It was just that someone who was at the show wrote about it online. The genie's out of the bottle on this thing. Secrets are tough to keep these days.
I'm not saying taping shows is the right thing to do. Maybe there will be some sort of technology that blocks cellphone use at clubs in the future. (Man, that sounds great.) But if it ain't something that can really be stopped, the next step is to ask, "What are we gonna do about it?"