You’re not a comic! (Semi-annual post to comedy fans)

Comics, please feel free to share this with your fans and followers…

In January I wrote an entry that was aimed more for the friends who support you.  This entry will address an issue that came to life at a one-nighter I did last Friday.  If you’re a fan of stand-up, let me first thank you for supporting the art, going to shows, buying books, t-shirts, CD’s whatever else we sell after the show.  We need that money to pay for things like food and life.  95% of you are great and we thank you for making our careers possible.  I also understand that most of the time at a comedy show you’re drinking and maybe not at your best.  We know you wouldn’t normally have the balls to yell something dumb out during a show, but even after just one or two drinks it doesn’t seem that hard.

For the past month there have been various controversies with comics vs. crowd members.  Tosh, Pescatelli, Eddie Griffin, etc.  Those were all big news to the comedy world, but a lot of us comics have seen or experienced worse.  There just wasn’t an iPhone there to capture it all, plus we don’t have television shows so no one cares if anyone throws a glass at us.  One of my friends had a guy threaten to take his life with a gun a few years ago, it didn’t make the news. 

I know none of you are the extreme crazies who are going to make the news, but there is still something annoying that comics have to deal with usually after the show, although a lot of times during.  You feel the need to be funny too.  When you go to a football game, do you tackle people in the stands?  Just relax and let us do the ha-ha’s. 

I bring this up because a lot of times crowd members, usually hammered, think they have a license so get away with certain types of humor.  I’ve written an entry on here, and a section in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage about the right and wrong ways to joke about race on stage.  The key words being on stage.  Here’s what happened the other night.  I was working with a black headliner in an all-white town.  When this happens a black comic must point out that he’s the only black guy around.  (I say must because it happens 100% of the time, I guess there are exceptions so I don’t need comments arguing this.)  The comic’s job is to be funny and that helps.  The audience doesn’t have that right to make racial jokes back.  Their job is to laugh.  Not to mention hangings, ropes, sheets, and lynchings.  Common sense to most of us (it was a rough gig though). 

I know (hope) most situations aren’t this extreme (yes, those words were actually mentioned in heckles on Friday).  However, after the show and the apologies by the bar owners and some audience members, one guy who was married to one of the apologetic, still felt the need to tell a black joke to the black headliner.  His logic was that he had just told me one involving a teacher who molested him (because I’m a teacher so I’d get it?), so he had to have one that related to the black comic. 

I realize I’m preaching to the choir on these obvious and extreme examples, but you’d be surprised at the number of black headliners who have to suffer through racist jokes after a show.  There’s something in a drunk redneck’s brain that says, “This is my one chance to deliver a black joke to a black man with no consequence!  Finally I get to feel what the 50s were really like!  Grandpa will be proud.”  No it isn’t.  I’ve heard the people on the Comedy Central Roasts have the same problem on the street.  People walk up and slam them with some low blow because they think that’s what those people enjoy.  It isn’t, the roast aired five months ago.

As for me…white guy who isn’t known for anything but the thirty minutes they just heard…I don’t really want to hear any jokes either.  Your breath smells like vodka, it’s loud, I can’t understand you, and you’re blocking my table of merch that I need to sell so that I can fill up and drive home from your ignorant-ass town.

One last thing, never suggest bits to us.  In twelve years I’ve never used anything from a crowd member.  It’s degrading when people start, “I don’t know, you can probably use this in your little skit…”  No.  We can’t.  Perhaps you’d like to try it on stage?  I know a good book that helps you get there.

I’m not mad, just stop suggesting and telling jokes to us after a show.  I can’t think of any comics who enjoy that.  There’s lot of other things to talk about and we’re happy to have conversations with strangers to prevent the road from being so lonely, but leave the comedy to us.

About Rob Durham

With an English Degree, three years as a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone, over a decade of stand-up experience, and a recent certification in teaching high school English class, writing a book seemed like the next inevitable step for Rob Durham. The son of a coach, Rob has an excellent ability to teach and explain things in the easiest and most direct way possible. His (often labeled ridiculous) memory allows him to think of every possible situation that a new comic might face because at one point he was there too. Rob gives an inside look at comedy that doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges every performer faces. Without ego and the myth that “anyone can do it” Rob gives the reader a true feel of what living the so-called dream feels like, from preparing for that first open mic night to touring the country. View all posts by Rob Durham

2 responses to “You’re not a comic! (Semi-annual post to comedy fans)

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