Comedy May Not Be Easy, But It Has to Be Yours
Back in the 90s, WBKR sponsored Comedy Caravan nights at the Executive Inn’s Timeout Lounge. I remember they were on Wednesday nights, and when I would emcee I was charged with giving away prizes and (wait for it)…doing a little stand-up comedy for about five minutes as a warm-up for the night’s performer or performers. But on the first night, I didn’t find out THAT part of it until I got down there. And the station didn’t know either; it was a request of the manager. Okay, no problem…or so I thought.
I found doing stand-up to be alternately fun and incredibly difficult. See, if you’re a singer, you can do a subpar job but people will still applaud. You still feel the warmth. If you’re doing comedy, they may not boo you off the stage (or they might). But when you’re not funny, they simply will not laugh to make YOU feel better. And when nobody laughs, you feel like you’ve swallowed an anvil.
But that’s okay, I didn’t expect anyone to laugh if I wasn’t funny. So as I quickly tried to come up with some material I was thinking, “I can’t really keep it too local, because this is a hotel and there’s a good chance many of these people are from out of town.” No problem. Skip the local. If it’s local, only a few will get it. If the material is of a broader scope, everyone will. And I could always talk about my family. Plus, I like to make people laugh anyway, and do. And, above all else, I made sure anything I used I hadn’t heard somewhere else. I mean, that is Commandment #1 in comedy: Thou shalt not steal. One of the Tonight Show’s writers might have forgotten about that one recently when Jay Leno did a joke that was nearly identical to one used a few days before on the late night Fox News program Red Eye. And he was subsequently raked over the coals for doing so. Although, in my opinion, I don’t believe Leno had heard the original and couldn’t have known it had been lifted. He was just regurgitating what his writers gave him.
Anyway, my little foray into comedy didn’t last long; the Comedy Caravan thing was only for a few months. But it was a lot of fun, especially after I got comfortable with it. To borrow from a Steve Martin album title, comedy is not pretty, but, as we learned this last week, it IS sacrosanct.