Recently I shared a video of a hilarious moment from one of my recent shows. I spent a few minutes roasting a guy in the audience. If you pay attention to that clip you’ll see that of everyone in attendance, he was the one laughing the hardest.
As a performer you have to be aware of your surroundings. You need to be able to read the room and know what kind of environment you’re in. When you’re aware of the situation you can start pushing boundaries and taking chances. But it all depends on where you’re working.
The jokes I make at a corporate event are different from a college show. And both of those rooms are way different from the comedy clubs I work when I’m home in Chicago, which is where that clip was filmed.
That video is one of my favorite moments this year. It’s everything that I want my show to be: memorable, hilarious, fun, and totally unique to that particular audience.
Every time I do a show I’m looking for those moments. If someone does something stupid, I’m going to call them out on it. If someone says something funny, I’m going to make it funnier. And if I do something dumb, then I’m going to roast myself. (Case in point: ten years ago I ripped my pants during a show. I proceeded to ridicule myself for ten minutes. The audience loved it.)
As I was making that joke I was watching that dude and making sure he was cool with it. I was also watching his friends and listening to the rest of the room. They were all laughing. If you listen close you can even hear his friend say “This is my favorite!” Those signs were all I needed to know that I was in the clear and we could all have fun together.
Yet, some people reached out to me to tell me I was demeaning to the audience. (Someone offended and outraged in 2019? No way!) They felt I was being rude or alienating the crowd. They seemed to believe that I should perform passively and never push the envelope or have any opinions onstage.
I once heard a performer say that they didn’t do any political jokes because they “don’t want to alienate half of the audience”. Fair point. But, I feel differently about it.
I don’t want to go onstage and only say things that everyone will agree with. I don’t want to play it safe so everyone will like me. I want to go out there, say what I think, and not be scared what you think about it.
I want to play with fire.
Last weekend at my show I made a joke about “impeachment”. I had a couple Trump voters in the audience who started booing. Here’s the clip: “MAGA Hecklers Need Safe Space From Impeachment Jokes”.
After the show one of those guys got in my face and said, “Leave the politics out of it!” (Hmmm, triggered much?) I laughed.
If they had been able to take a joke and not been so sensitive, they would have heard the second part of that bit where I ridicule myself and the whole “resistance” movement. But, they were too quick to boo so I had to double down.
We’re living in really strange times. There’s no nuance any more. Everything is hyper partisan and divisive. It’s exhausting.
I feel it in my audiences. I sense it in performers I share the stage with. It seeps through in everyday conversations, everything I read, and everything I watch. As my wife would say, “Everyone is too woke to joke.”
Here’s the thing: if you don’t like something, then maybe it just isn’t for you. Maybe you aren’t the intended audience. Maybe instead of complaining about it or posting bad reviews you can just go find the things that are intended for you.
If you don’t like a sandwich then don’t tweet about it, just go find a different deli.
If you didn’t like a movie you don’t have to berate the people who spent months working on it from the safety of your blog. Just find a different film to enjoy.
And if you can’t take a joke, then don’t go to a comedy club.
I started a new series on YouTube called “STAGE TIME”. I’m sharing fun clips from my shows there now, so be sure to subscribe.
I was just on the Eager To Know Podcast. Check out my episode here.
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I was talking to someone about a movie I saw recently and they said “Everyone online said the ending sucks so I don’t know if I’ll see it or not…” What a shame our opinions and ideas are so easily formed by stuff we see online. Maybe don’t read other people’s thoughts on a thing and decide for yourself? Recommendation: I just saw “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (not the movie I referenced above) and it was great. Don’t read a review or check Rotten Tomatoes, just go see it for yourself and enjoy.