June 25, 2007

Comedic Navel Gazing, Boring Installment #3247563427956

Second City alum David Steinberg is on Charlie Rose right now, making some very interesting observations about how sometimes, more "personal" comedy, like Dave Chappelle on Comedy Central can find a wider audience than "generalized" comedy on the big networks.

He's also talking about finding one's authentic self, and how timing is so important in comedy in so many ways - the literal timing of joke delivery, the timing in a comedian's life and creative development, the synchronous timing with the Zeitgeist, and so on.

A huge issue I've been thinking about since last week's open mic - letting the audience know you enough to know they can trust you, so they can be comfortable with you delivering riskier jokes. I did three bits last week, and spent the entire hour before my five minutes obsessively reordering them. It was ridiculous. I kept writing "Sunburned," "Inappropriate," and "Uncool Job" in a different order again and again. (Yeah, you should have been there for my proofreading joke...it left the room in tatters.)

My first instinct was to put a safer and more self-deprecating bit first, before going to something a bit sharper, but at the last minute I switched the order, and led off with the edgier joke, which got a fairly flat reaction. Honestly, as soon as the words started coming out of my mouth, I had this creeping feeling up the back of my neck, and I thought "Oh, crap, I haven't let these people know me enough to let me get away with saying something this barbed without thinking negatively of me." I knew it, but I had to keep plugging along. I know better for next time.

This has been your semi-regular installment of comedic navel-gazing. You are now free to explore other internet amusement options that are actually interesting.


Timothy Carter said...


That's a good point you make. I haven't done any stand-up myself, but the principle's the same for other things. I think about that a lot when I'm writing my books, thinking about which one would be best to follow the one that's out there. I've just sent a controversial book off to my agent, which you can read about on my blog. I wouldn't have felt comfortable putting that one out straight after my first book, unless I had something in-between them to prepare my audience somehow. That's why I'm glad Epoch is in stores now - it's got just enough controversy in it to prepare readers for the next one.

Bella Rossa said...

Timothy - absolutely. I'm so new to stand-up, I haven't even begun to establish a baseline that would let an audience know what to expect of me.

I was thinking about this recently while watching Kathy Griffin do her thing - she's so well-known people come to her shows knowing what to expect, and hoping to hear certain things.

Dan said...

Also, that house was fucking STOIC. You know I'm having trouble gauging last week's bits as well. I enjoyed all your bits, though perhaps "Sunburned" and "Uncool Job" most. I mean come on, what's not funny about prescription headwear?

Bella Rossa said...

Dan - good point. Once again, the audience response isn't really enough to help us judge the quality of our material. Another poke in the rear toward creating our own venue.