"25% of comedy is keeping people in suspense." - Robert Reall
My friend Jason was in town last night to do stand-up at the Funny Bone comedy club. They had an amateur/semi-pro “competition” where seven newbies and three seasoned comics performed. The audience voted with applause at the end of the show. He’s been doing stand up for a few years and is trying to get in to the next level of comedian. I can’t tell you exactly what the levels are, but from what I saw last night, they go something like this:
Level 5 – Your top comedians. You know who they are. They get paid millions and sell out auditoriums. They also usually get TV shows with their character having the same name as them so there is no confusion on set.
Level 4 – These comedians travel the circuit, have guest appearances on the Late Night shows and usually play the Level 5 comedian’s In-Law on the major TV show.
Level 3 – Never going to make it big time, but still very funny. These comedians you see in snippets on Comedy Central and opening for the Level 4 comedians at the clubs. The ones you read about dying of an overdose and not recognize they are a comedian. If they find someone dead in a hotel room, alone, with a huge jar of grape jelly, it was probably a comedian.
Level 2 – On the circuit and doing shows for $20 a gig. They pray to the God they make fun of during their act that they will be noticed and make it to the next level. This is the worst part of the job because this is where most comedians dwell. Or toil. Toil’s a better word. Jason toils here.
Level 1 – Amateur Night comedians. Aspiring comedians work on their material, practice in front of their friends and stutter through jokes on the stage. You cringe at their unnecessary use of the word fuck and have to think twice about whether the ass gravy joke was funny. It wasn’t.
But, there was some very good stuff on the stage. One super hot chick (rare in the comedic world) tried to get women to embrace the word “slut.” Very funny stuff. Another guy who was unkempt and fat (not rare in the comedic world) did a bit on getting a yeast infection in his nose from doing blow off the kitchen table where his roommate had been banging a prostitute. (Yeah, not funny when I write it, but I laughed my ass off.)
There was some good stuff. But then…
Level 0 – Holy shit. Level 0 comedians. Only funny after the show when you talk about how badly they crashed and burned on stage. I can only compare these people to American Idol contestants who are told by everyone at the Karaoke bar that they can sing. They get up to perform and afterwards are surprised that they suck. “They don’t know what talent is.” I give these people credit for getting up in front of an audience, but please go over your material with someone before the show. Oh, and avoid these words and phrases (gleaned from last night’s show):
Corn and peanuts on my dick
Juices (vaginal and ass)
Fuck (I’m a big fan of the word, but keep it down to less than 23 times, champ.)
I’m not a homophobe, but I don’t like gay peoples
Eating that pussy
Mommy (while acting out the phrase above…)
And, yes, edgy comedy can be hysterical. All those examples above can be funny under the right circumstances. One girl almost accomplished it last night. But you've got to be practiced before you start throwing around “weight loss by abortion” lines.
Jason was really funny last night. He’s got some great material. Not that I’m the town crier for decency, but his act is very clean and still very funny. That takes talent.
Jason made it on to the next round (he was the funniest of the three semi-pros) and will be performing next Monday at the Funny Bone in the semi-finals. I’ll see you there.