September 07, 2007
Originally published April 2, 2004
Since I've had all kinds of free time on my hands lately, I've watched a lot of stand-up comedians on television. I can identify with that kind of act, because when I was playing solo guitar for a living, a lot of my act was stand-up comedy. I learned to juggle, tell jokes and handle hecklers in an environment filled with alcohol and cigarette smoke.
I know a good comic when I see one.
Some of the ones I've seen lately purely suck and they are famous. If I watch a 30-minute act and I don't chuckle at least once, I have no respect for that comedian. Ellen Degenerate is a good example. How the fuck did SHE gain such popularity? She's not funny (unless you're a lesbian who believes anything said by a lesbian on stage is hilarious) and her entire show is one long, self-pitying monologue that is worse than my blog.
What the hell made Chris Rock a celebrity? That bastard isn't funny. He's young and black, with a foul mouth, and I suppose that's enough anymore. Comedy isn't what it used to be.
Bill Cosby is a comedian. Steve Martin was a great stand-up comic years ago, and he still manages the best body-language acting that I've ever seen. Steven Wright is unique. He cracks me up. There's some gal named Rita (I can't remember her last name right now) who does a terriffic deadpan act and she slays me. But most others leave me cold.
I took a course in creative writing in college where we spent a week studying comedy. Do you know what makes a good joke effective? You have to SURPRISE the audience. People laugh when they are shocked by the unexpected. Never telegraph the punch line and present the story or the joke in a way that people never see the end coming until it hits them.
Getting up on a stage and saying "Fuck George Bush" in San Francisco is not my idea of comedy, no matter how loudly the San Francisco crowd may applaud such an act. That's not comedy. That's bullshit.
My late friend Steve Hamby was one of the finest joke-tellers I ever knew. He knew the rules by pure instinct. He would start a joke, stammer around totally deadpan as if he had lost track of his story, then hit you with the punch line with perfect timing. I almost fell into a camp fire more than once after hearing Steve tell a joke. Bejus, but I miss him.
He was a lot better than some of that shit I've been seeing on TV lately.
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