Have you ever had the 'Stand-up Comedy audience moment'? You know, when you're guffawing aloud about a joke on another community, and the next one turns out to be on your own. Or worse, you happen to laugh longer than the rest. Not because you got the joke late, but because you found it really funny. (Yeah, right!) The spotlight then turns on you and the Comic begins to get on your case. Ha-ha. The joke's now on you mate.
American stand-up comedy has come far from the days of the 19th Century when comedians wore costumes of ethnic groups and milked their stereotypes for a few laughs. The essence of most stand-up comedy still involves taking prejudices and turning them on their heads. But in today's age, nobody is spared - majority, minority, the party in power or the underdog - stand-up comedians have no boundaries. Even audiences have to be ready to, you know, take a joke.
Most stand-up comedy fans will remember Jerry Seinfeld's simple and unassuming sense of humor. He was known for his charming quality to take little mundane quirks that we all share and turn them into a joke. Jerry was also instrumental in introducing the pleasures of stand-up comedy to millions of viewers on TV that lead to the resurgence and popularity of the art. After his show wound up, he didn't pack his bags and go off to LA. He went right back to Stand-up, performing to packed audiences around the country.
But if it was TV that led to the popularity of Stand-up, it was TV that led to its decline. Most talk show hosts that get to chat with one famous Hollywood actor or the other, night after night, often open with a poor quality political stand-up routine, like Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno. It is these poor quality sets and proliferation of amateurs, especially online, that brought stand-up comedy down.
Sadly, Youtube gets much flak, despite the fact that it introduces viewers to some of the best stand-up comics and their sets, like George Carlin's dark humor and wonderful insights on American culture, and Richard Pryor, who has been listed No.1 on Comedy Centrals' 100 greatest comedians of all time. Richard was one of the earliest comics to comment on race relations. Some of the videos of these deceased stand-up comics have over hundred thousand views!
Skits of current day comedians are also popular online, it can only lead to interest in viewers, who may wish to see their favorite comedians for real. Contrary to what many say, sites like Youtube are, in fact, leading to a resurgence of stand-up comedy.
They say that the economy going south is also one of the reasons why stand-up comedy is getting a shot in the arm. Apparently, in the 80s, when inflation was at an all-time high and interest rates were soaring, people were going to their local bars to have a few good laughs. Since we're in serious economic recession, what could be better than a bunch of irreverent jokes and a few beers! With this is mind, crowds are filling up at Stand-up acts once again.
To capitalize on the resurgence of Stand-up and the crashing popularity of Broadway, a smart Broadway exec decided to put none other than Chris Rock on stage! Rock quipped to the media, in quintessential Chris Rock style, that he was glad to do anything that kept him out of 'Dancing with the Stars'. But Chris Rock on Broadway was just a ploy to get a new audience into the theatre, for it is an actual play that Rock stars in, which is far from a stand-up routine.
And if a stand-up star offered his star power to Broadway, a Hollywood star lent his post-Harry Potter appeal to Stand Up comedy. Last year Daniel Radcliffe performed on Jimmy Fallon's Late Night, and although his set was incredibly short, it was not, thankfully, incredibly bad. Partly, saved by Radcliff's humility, he is said to have started off the set by muttering, 'This is going to be incredibly bad'. Lower expectations and surprise was his strategy, and it worked!
If all this talk of Stand-up is making you want to catch a show of your own, then remember what we said in the beginning; don't laugh so loud that you drown out the others. You're sure to be picked on. And, whatever you do, don't be one of those sods who attempts his own punch-line while the comic is about to make his. If you were so good, you'd be up there, instead of him! Making a living in an awesome way instead of kissing your boss's fat you-know-what.
Just kidding folks! Have a good laugh.