Monday, May 14, 2012

A Reflection on the Nature of Comedy

I saw an ad for The Comedy Awards, which apparently began last year. Almost immediately, it struck me as really odd to have a big cable TV (it's a Comedy Central jam) awards show for comedians. Like it's contradictory to the very nature of comedy.

Historically, comedians have always been the kind of people you don't want to keep on display out in the daylight. You'd go and see them late at night, in an ill-lit, smokey club, and the whole scene had an amazing underground element to it. Comedians, just as brilliant and creative as any other artist, were regarded as less worthy of being recognized for the unique genius they possess. But that's okay. They fed on that. They were the underground, the drug-addled, alcoholics reflecting openly all the stuff everyone does in private, saying the dick lines it's in our nature as human beings to think, but socially unacceptable for us to say.

It was amazing, brilliant, and really filled a very specific void in our collective subconscious.

The entire comedy sub-culture seems to have been slowly creeping it's way into the mainstream since the 90's when open-mic nights started disappearing, and it's watering down the entire experience. Then there was another leap in the early 2000's when Dane Cook and Blue Collar Comedy Tour gained popularity, and now we've got this award show.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say every funny person, or even every professional comedian is some kind of a train-wreck of a human being. Although most of them will.

I have the pleasure of being friends with someone who has experience on the stand-up circuit, and one of the first things he said to me when I approached the subject was "most comedians have a very dark side". He continued, saying:
...My best friends that are comedians and that are actually good, have experienced so much more in life than most would. They are literally down for anything, any drug, any situation. They don't say no to anything, because regardless you can get a story or an experience out of it. Some of the stories that I've heard just bs'ing after a show, is 10x funnier than bits they do in their acts. You can't make that mainstream.
In all honesty, I'm not sure I could write a more accurate conclusion than that final line:

You can't make that mainstream.