Monday, August 31, 2009

Bring the Funny (A.K.A. Stand-up Comedian not Stand-up Philosopher)

The other day on AMC, I watched Mel Brooks’ ‘History of the World: Part I’ ( I laughed, chuckled, guffawed and giggled through the spoof, having a wonderful time and then I became quite sad when the Roman period spoof started and Mel Brooks’ character described himself as a ‘Stand-up Philosopher’ and then performed like a stand-up comedian. This got me thinking about the inverse – Stand-Up Comedians becoming Stand-Up Philosophers.

I love stand-up, absolutely love it. I can distinctly remember two times in my life where I have laughed until it hurt. Once was in California listening to cassettes of Bill Cosby routines and the other was at a comedy club in Utah called Johnny B’s. Several times, on a lazy Friday night, I have watched stand-up for hours on Comedy Central and even though sitting on a couch eating potato chips in the dark doesn’t lend itself to gut busting laughter, I chuckled and enjoyed my evening very much. Currently, my two favorite comedians are Brian Regan ( and Jim Gaffigan ( Brian Regan is completely clean and what I’ve seen of Jim Gaffigan (King Baby special on Comedy Central) is clean as well. These guys make it hard to eat while watching because chewing and then swallowing does not work cleanly with laughing out loud. These guys are amazing and I hope that they never exceed their current level of fame and notoriety.

You may have read that last sentence and thought to yourself, “Why? Why, Dan, if you like these guys, would you not want them to gain more fans, make more money and generally become more successful? You sound like you’d be a terrible friend. I don’t think I can look at you anymore.”

The reason I don’t want them to become any more famous is purely selfish and based on my personal pleasure only. I don’t want them more famous because I want them to stay funny.

Yep, that’s right. For stand-up comedians fame = not funny. There are exceptions to this rule just like any rule. Some famous comedians stay funny until the day they die. Most don’t. And I’m not writing about the Robin Williams type comedians out there, those that still try to be funny but just aren’t anymore. I’m writing about the ones that just stop trying to be funny and move from ‘Stand-Up Comedian’ to ‘Stand-Up Philosopher’.

“What is the difference?” you may be asking yourself. Here’s a simple checklist below to let you know if your ‘comedian’ has given up funny for poignancy.

1. When watching them, you realize you are not laughing.
2. When watching the audience, you realize they are not laughing either.
3. There are catcalls, whistles and applause but these are not preceded by laughter.
4. You ever find yourself thinking, “That was a good point. Not funny, but a good point.”

Does any of this seem familiar? (I hope so or I’ve just wasted about ten minutes of my life putting together this post.)

Stand-up Comedians are observers that point out the funny. Stand-Up Philosophers are people that believe because fans have listened to them for years and enjoy hearing the funny, said fans must also want their opinions. I don’t. I don’t want opinions. I want funny. I don’t want political views, unless they are funny. I don’t want to be encouraged to vote, unless it is for something funny. Go ahead, make fun of W. That’s funny. But then don’t turn around and explain how awesome Obama is without making fun of his ears or speech patterns (Jamie Foxx’s impression is incredible). Just don’t do it.

I know that it’s incredibly easy to sit back and say, “You there, funny man that I am watching on my television, be more funny or I shall be forced to change the channel.” I know that I am Monday morning quarterbacking stand-up comedy, which is really very sad. All I am asking though is if a ‘Comedian’ decides that their opinion is more important than entertaining, they need to have new business cards made that say ‘Stand-Up Philosopher’ and stop pretending that they bring the funny.

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