Anger and comedy often go hand in hand. I’ve never been one to be all that angry on stage, but my anger off stage has certainly made me less than proud of the way I talk about people. The big reason some of us comics are so angry? Pure jealousy. If comedy was like baseball it would be easy to measure everyone’s statistics and find out who’s funnier. With so many variables like location, venue, appearance, the crowd type, who else is in the show, and pure luck, all you can hope for is a fair shot. Showbiz isn’t fair, so as a result there is a lot of frustration over who gets the attention and success. Throw in how nutty some comics are to begin with, and it’s no wonder there are so many Internet fights (most of us are pansies so we choose this method, often taking it a step further and using a false name).
Anger on stage is also a common thing. Dennis Leary, Lewis Black, and others have made their living from it. It’s no wonder so many young comics full of angst try this when they start out (but usually fail).
Comedian, actor, and author Ward Anderson summed it up best when I asked him why anger doesn’t work for so many younger comics. . .
When I started, I would rant onstage and wonder why the audiences just looked at me. Well, it was because I was a 20-something kid who thought he knew what anger was. I had nothing to be pissed about, yet I was up there being pissed. All of my idols were pissed, so why not me?! Well, now that I’m almost 40, I realize that the problem is that the only person who relates to pissed-off 20-somethings are other pissed-off 20-somethings. There’s something to be said about that if you want to work colleges. But don’t be surprised if club audiences don’t necessarily follow it. Exceptions to every rule, of course. But just like a man doesn’t want to sit and hear a female comic talk about how worthless men are (especially after PAYING to hear it), not a lot of middle-aged audience members can relate to a 22-year-old kid spouting off what’s wrong with the world today.
I talk more about anger as well as other styles comics try to take on stage in my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage…The Stand-up Guide to Comedy. And if you’re one of the comics mad at my book? Hey–you’re normal! (But stop reading right here because this next part’s going to piss you off even more.)
I’d like to thank everyone for a record setting week for my book. I sold over twenty at my show Friday night as well as quite a few online sales. I only have a few copies in stock until my next shipment on the 27th, so try the high-tech method.
If you’re into ebooks (whether it be downloading a PDF for your PC or using the web on your Kindle) go to my online publisher at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/133839 and enter CC74Y to save 25% (making it only $7.49). Offer valid for a limited time!
To read this and other entries simply visit www.dontwearshortsonstage.com to scroll through past advice for those looking to make money doing comedy. New entry every Monday!
3 thoughts on “Anger on and off stage”
have you considered that the reason something doesn’t work has nothing to do with what emotion is presented but rather because it just isn’t funny?
Yes, very true. Good points Geoff. On the flip side it isn’t funny because people can’t relate as well. But yeah, newer comics have a habit of things not being as funny as they need to be.
And don’t forget to watch Geoff on Craig Ferguson tonight!