How to Talk to a Comedian in Public (Besides “Don’t”)
Last week I wrote about the rules for going to a comedy show. Those are hard and fast rules. Practically gospel. This week leans more towards my opinions, even though I believe they are commandments for how to treat a comedian in public. Join me as I further alienate any current or potential fan-base in my budding comedy career.
I don’t believe people are ill-intentioned or malevolent in their approach. My therapist said to me once (a week) that people are just “trying to connect” with me. People find a hard time figuring out what to say. They don’t realize that silence is an option. I’m not much for small talk. It’s fine to exchange pleasantries but beyond that, I’m not fond of unnecessary chatter. Some people might call this behavior ‘bitchy’. I’m alright with that. The truth is I’m actually quite introverted and socially anxious. It takes me a while to warm up to strangers. Like years. It’s probably not worth the investment, honestly.
Since starting comedy I have noticed an incredible phenomenon when people discover that I am a “comedian”. I use quotes because I consider myself to be one and have had a modicum of success with it, but maybe not an actual real-life comedian. I don’t bring it up in conversations really. Even when asked what I do for a living I’ll say “musician”. I don’t like to tell people that I am a comedian because that instantly changes the dynamic of the interaction. Everything slows down. The clouds roll in. Their eyes light up as if fueled by fire. They turn and look you dead in the eye.
I die a little inside. That’s not how this works. In a pinch, I’ve said, “What’s red and bad for your teeth? A brick. Now shut the fuck up.” I didn’t write that but I do love telling it. How do you think some people take that joke?
I’m blessed with being pretty funny. I enjoy telling jokes. I enjoy talking to people and just having them laugh. But I’m not a monkey. I can’t be commanded to just spit up a joke on command. It’s rarely funny. Stand up is an art form. A well-crafted set takes a lot of variables to work properly. Also, I don’t do one-liners. One of my best “jokes” is about 5 minutes long and really only works if you’ve heard the entire set and gotten to know me a little bit first. You asking me to tell you a joke isn’t akin to supporting our endeavors either; you’re likely looking for an opportunity to begrudgingly laugh or say “meh, that wasn’t THAT funny.” Either way, just stop asking. Or come to a show. Or don’t. I’m not your boss.
Also, did you know that comedy is not an exclusive club that requires any sort of membership? It isn’t! You’re welcome to try it anytime you’d like! In fact, we’d prefer that to you saying, “I got something for you.” That’s not how that works. We write our own material based on our own life experiences. Also what you said is probably not that funny. Maybe it is to you or your elite circle of friends but it’s not gonna work for us. Thank you anyway! When you say something clever and follow up with “you can use that!” I definitely appreciate your permission to use your tasteless story about your wife’s tits but I think I’m gonna pass.
One time my (former) dentist told me a joke about a nun getting raped. Told me I could use it. While his hands were in my mouth.
“Put that in your little skit,” is probably one of the more condescending things I’ve ever heard. Again, I don’t believe the person is being intentionally patronizing, but it’s just so rude. It’s not a skit. And it’s not little. Stop it.
I pretty much talk non-stop so the laws of probability maintain that I’m bound to say something funny. I’ll decide what goes in and what doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll say something to a friend and they laugh. Hard. I get excited thinking “that’s gonna work!” and I’ll try it on stage and die a thousand deaths as the joke bombs spectacularly.
My friend is a fucking idiot.
“You should come to where I work” or “where I live. You’d get tons of material!” Doubtful. Sounds more like a horror movie you’re inviting me to watch. Try and take note of how often I laugh when you’re speaking.
Lastly, when you reference current political offices and how horribly things are being run under a current administration, don’t suggest, “it’s good for comedy”. There’s nothing funny about it. In fact, it’s terrifying. The fear sends me into a downward spiral of despair and depression which, well, is actually a place where most comics reside so… okay, fair. Full-circle. This one works I guess.
Oft times we kind of hope to never see you again. If this is how you are “off the cuff” I can only imagine what you’d come up with if given time to plan. It keeps me up at night.
It’s not even what’s being said. I can get past someone saying something stupid. I’ve been doing it MY WHOLE LIFE. It’s that their whole demeanor changes in the person. They become really aggressive. Like they’re on a game show and the timer is counting down and there’s a whole lotta money on the line. “You just found out you’re talking to a comedian. You only have five seconds to say the perfect thing.” They get nervous and start to sweat and can’t catch their breath. The audience is screaming at them. “Say something! ANYTHING!” This is your only chance! You’ll never get to speak to a comedian again! And you blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. “UH DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE NUN WHO GOT RAPED?” Except in real life, there’s no sad trombone sound to let you know that you’re the worst.
Don’t worry, I’ll be your slide trombone.