June 19, 2013

The stand-up comics' cartel

Stand-up comedy is doing well right now for a form of entertainment that's been around for a long time. It's not an easy life, touring, hoping you'll get popular enough to do some specials and nursing the dream that you'll be one of the few to get a stable sit-com that will allow you to stop traveling. But, it does seem to support a relatively large number of quite good comics at present. There aren't too many massive superstars in stand-up right now, but that's probably a good thing.

The field seems surprisingly resilient to being disrupted by new technologies, the way that, say, star disk jockeys playing other people's music have taken away a lot of the music industry revenue that used to go to the bands' themselves when they toured.

Can you imagine people paying to see a Joke Jockey who just plays the best jokes from the best comedy albums of all time, serving up the precise joke that this particular audience will laugh hardest at at this particular moment, weaving all the famous comics' bits into an unexpected tapestry that's more than the sum of the parts?

Well, I can't either, but James Brown probably scoffed at the notion that DJs would largely replace live bands.

And 35 years ago, a lot of funny radio morning men across the country laughed at the idea that in the near future everybody would listen to Howard Stern out of New York instead of to local talents like them. How could they patch in the traffic updates?

That stand-up is still standing may stem in part from a professional culture that emphasizes paying-your-dues and doing things the time-honored way.

As usual, comics themselves tend to be tightly-wound bundles of resentments and hostilities, as suggested by comedian Patton Oswalt's lengthy venting in Slate on three topics: 

Heckling -- Oswalt's against it. I can't say that drunken fools add much to the performance of expert professionals in other realms (Roger Federer, for instance, isn't expected to volley nimbly with an overserved spectator who stumbles out on the court wielding a trash can lid as a racket), so Oswalt has a point here.

Rape jokes -- He's against them. Or, to be precise, he's against jokes about raping women. Not surprisingly, it doesn't seem to occur to Oswalt to object to (or even notice) jokes about raping men, such as the cliched but still hugely popular prison rape jokes that have been almost de rigueur in detective shows for the last generation. To Oswalt, the problem with rape jokes is that they are anti-women, not that they are pro-rape.

You might think that comedians would be better than the unfunny at noticing things outside the Who-Whom identity politics framework (Who are the bad guys? Who are the good non-guys?) that dominates mental life these days, but this just shows how unnatural are objectivity and principle.

Joke stealing -- He's really against it. He's extremely sore about various individuals over the last couple of decades who have used his jokes without attribution, such as a young person who told one of his jokes in a valedictory speech at a graduation ceremony. Each example gnaws away at him still.

This is perfectly reasonable, even if reading Oswalt on the subject is not going to incline you to think: I hope my kid grows up to have the perfect personality to be a stand-up.

But Oswalt isn't too interested in thinking about any of the obvious grey areas, other than his non-ethical example of when he started doing a joke about Hot Pockets, only to discover that Jim Gaffigan already does almost five minutes on Hot Pockets, so forget Hot Pockets, it's stupid to even to try to compete on that obscure topic with another top comedian who has mastered the subject. (By the way, this is a more male attitude among comics -- female stand-ups have a more limited variety of topics.)

There's an interesting contradiction between the increasingly fundamentalist Code of the Stand-Up Comic -- an absolute ban on joke-stealing that sort of extends to using jokes that you've paid for -- and the rest of popular culture's growing enthusiasm for, uh, "reappropriations," mash-ups, parodies, re-editings, and general meta-ness. 

For example, recently I quoted a member of Sweden's great and good explaining to Swedes that it's stupid of them to object to more immigration because brain surgeons don't need to speak Swedish: after all, their Swedish patients are sedated. I enthusiastically agreed, pointing out that, hey, it's not rocket surgery!

I've been using the "it's not rocket surgery" phrase for a number of years, but did I make it up? A quick check online today finds that you can buy T-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with the saying, so the answer is almost certainly "No." I must have stolen it from somebody else. Who probably stole it from somebody else. 

In other words, it's part of the culture.

But, the fact that "rocket surgery" is a widely known cliche joke just makes it funnier that the Swedish nag set herself up for it. If you are going to say something stupid, don't say something stupid for which there already exists a well-known joke. 

Stand-ups have their own cultural references that they use over and over, such as Henny Youngman's punchline "And, boy, are my arms tired." They've gotten a lot of meta-mileage out of Youngman's just-flew-in-from-Las-Vegas joke over the years, and, on the whole, that's a good thing. A shared culture of common jokes is extremely useful for speeding up the exchange of humor and of ideas in general.

My impression is that stand-up comics have evolved a set of norms and values that serve to keep the business semi-artisanal, that prevents the stand-up job from fully going down the superstar route of so many others. (Stand-ups are by no means averse to cashing in big with television sit-coms or sketch shows, but that's considered a different medium and a reasonable reward, which includes that you don't have to live out of a suitcase anymore.)

It's interesting to compare the contrasting opinions held about two giant figures in 20th Century stand-up comedy: Johnny Carson and Bob Hope.

Speaking (as always) broadly, professional stand-ups love Carson and hate Hope.

Why? Carson's Tonight Show was the main chokepoint for success in stand-up, so the people Carson liked tended to become the stars of the business, the ones who get interviewed about the history of their craft. It's a mutual admiration society. (Presumably, there are ex-stand-ups teaching English in Tulsa or selling real estate in Raleigh who weren't liked by Carson and who, if you asked them, would not offer a high opinion of Carson's taste, but nobody asks them.)

Bob Hope, on the other hand, you'll be informed, didn't write his own jokes. He employed -- I'm sure you'll find this a shocking revelation -- joke writers.

Carson, of course, also employed joke writers to help him come up with his nightly monologues. But that's okay because they weren't very good monologues. The funniest things about them were Johnny's spontaneous, unscripted reactions when his writers' jokes bombed. (And I know that Johnny's comebacks were spontaneous and unscripted because, uh, because everybody knows they were!)

In contrast, Hope didn't do all that much for other comedians (including for his brother, who billed himself as Bob Hope's Brother Jim -- "Sure I helped him out,” said Hope. “I helped him out of showbusiness.”) Moreover, he garnered a massive fraction of the public's stand-up dollars for himself by the popularity of his radio, television, movie and tour appearances. Mark Steyn wrote in 2003:
He was the first comedian to run himself as a business, and he succeeded brilliantly. Time magazine reported in 1967 that he was worth half a billion dollars. Asked about the figure, Hope said, “Anyone can do it. All you have to do is save a million dollars a year for 500 years.”

That semi-billionaire-in-1967 figure sounds exaggerated by an order of magnitude, but growing up in the Southeast San Fernando Valley in 1967, the English-born Hope was the local squire, the most prominent landowner.
When you’re that big – when you’re as mass as mass media can get – you don’t have hardcore followers, you’re not a cult or a genius like Buster Keaton or Monty Python. 
... As a boy in Cleveland, he’d dress as Chaplin and waddle down Euclid Street. But, as soon as he could, he dispensed with the pathos of the little tramp, the sentimentality of the ethnic comics, and embraced instead the dapper assurance of a newer American archetype: the wiseguy, the kind of rat-a-tat quipster you could find in the sports columns and the gossip pages of the Jazz Age but not in its comedy routines, in their way as convention-bound as grand opera. 
Much of what we now take for granted as the modern comedy monologue – the delivery, the structure, the subjects – comes from the template developed by Hope.

Like Bing Crosby among singers, Hope was perhaps the first comedian to appreciate the revolutionary impact of the microphone.
If Hope started out as the first modern comic, he quickly became the first post-modern one.

The celebrated "post-modern" elements in Woody Allen's films come straight from Bob Hope's films, as Allen has often pointed out.
Other comedians had writers, but they didn’t talk about them. Radio gobbled up your material so you needed fellows on hand to provide more. But Hope not only used writers, he made his dependence on them part of the act. 
... In vaudeville, a performer would have a comic persona – he’d be a yokel, say, and he’d tell jokes about rustics and city folk – but Hope’s comic persona was the persona of a comic: he played a guy who told jokes for a living, and the conceit (in every sense) worked; by advertising the fact that he had a team who did all the tedious chores like providing the gags, he underlined his extraordinary preeminence. 

I find quite funny the fact that by about 1950 Hope had already managed to embody much that would become characteristic of American culture by 2000, such as metaness, knowing irony, post-modernism, and winner-take-all superstaritis.

But, you can also see why other stand-ups would resent Hope's dominance. So, we now have a culture in which stand-up comedy is supposed to be artisanal rather than industrial. Each stand-up is supposed to write his own jokes (until, of course, he gets a television show).

In 1976, President Gerald Ford's head speechwriter was a famous professional joke writer named Bob Orben, who had written for Dick Gregory and who published a newsletter of gags used by so many 1950s stand-ups that Lenny Bruce advertised that he advertised "no Orben" jokes to distinguish himself from the herd.

But that seems like a very different era. Now, there's quite a bit of culture-molding that goes on about the purity of stand-up comedy. For example, post-Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld periodically issues documentaries or interviews about how he's laboriously perfecting a tiny new batch of handmade jokes. For example, from 2012:
Seinfeld will nurse a single joke for years, amending, abridging and reworking it incrementally, to get the thing just so. “It’s similar to calligraphy or samurai,” he says. “I want to make cricket cages. You know those Japanese cricket cages? Tiny, with the doors? That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.”

Here's a question that I've been looking around on the Internet for an answer to for a few days. But, not only can't I find an answer, the question doesn't seem to occur to anyone: Back before they started making their sitcom together, did Larry David write jokes for Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up act? If not, why not?

In the 1980s, Seinfeld had a flourishing stand-up career that must have put stress on the quantity of jokes he could come up with himself. Seinfeld was a handsome, likable, skilled stage presence, while David was a brilliant writer but an antagonizing live performer. Moreover, it's not as if David and Seinfeld were on wholly different personality and comedic wavelengths. I don't think it would have taken the genius of Adam Smith to have noticed the opportunity here for some division of labor in the stand-up business.

I don't think it's at all sinister that the best performers and best writers will gravitate toward each other. But I also don't think the current artisanal ideology of stand-up is a bad thing either. 

129 comments:

Ray Sawhill said...

Great posting, like a comic monologue in its own right.

Bob Hope was a genius.

wren said...

I wonder if more comics than Leno will soon do Obama jokes.

There seems to be plenty of material.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if more comics than Leno will soon do Obama jokes.


Leno didn't begin "doing" them (even though there's been plenty of material from the get-go) until it was announced NBC was dumping him again.

The only comics with the balls to do Obama jokes and get at the serious stuff while still being funny are gone now...Richard Pryor and George Carlin.




dufu said...

That reminds me, the Opie and Anthony show on Sirius XM can be pretty great because they have relationships with lots of big name comics, Louis CK, Ricky Gervais etc. I think hearing those guys shoot the breeze with each other can be a lot funnier than their stand-up.

An added plus is that one of the hosts holds some views that are pretty congenial to the typical Sailer reader, and isn't afraid to talk about them on the air. I wonder if he's a reader.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder professional joke writers steal a lot of their jokes off of twitter these days.

Anonymous said...

"Moreover, it's not as if David and Seinfeld were on wholly different personality and comedic wavelengths."

Yes they were, and are. Larry David is neurotic in the stereotypical Ashkenazi way. Seinfeld is atypically happy, content, even-keeled. I've always attributed that to him being only half-Ashkenazi. His mother is of Syrian Jewish background.

Kibernetika said...

Vic and Sade was an extraordinarily well-written radio show, way back in the day. Amazing.

Way far out. Jean Shepherd dug that show, and he made modern radio ;)

Really so much more advanced than most of our modern, dumbed-down, lowest-common-d comedy. Rhymer was an incredible writer. Modern-day comedians have nothing much new to offer, if one looks back (and knows where to look). Except for the profanity.











Hunsdon said...

Wasn't there a little tiff recently about George Takei not writing his own jokes?

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised East Asian comic Aziz Ansari hasn't come under fire for a joke that presents black dudes as being childlike. I saw him live last month. I kinda thought his "Black dudes are blown away by magic tricks...my favorite racial stereotype..." joke was a bit racist.

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3q3udb/

Anonymous said...

Comedy has a weird east-coast/west-coast (LA/New York, really) split where LA comics tend to be college educated and from improv backgrounds while New York comics tend to be working class and to have done little but tour and work spots at trashy clubs. The culture difference is about what you expect: LA comics usually identify viscerally with various left wing talking points and cringe away from the sort of ubiquitous shit-giving that occurs between comics in New York (best represented by Colin Quinn's Tough Crowd and the radio show Opie and Anthony). New York comics are also fairly frequently left wing but there's no missing the mean streak so absent from LA comedy. I've also never seen an established East Coast comic come out declaring that anything is Not Okay to joke about.

The dichotomy isn't perfect, Tosh is an LA comic, but the differences are real and noticeable.

Anonymous said...

SCTV parody - "Play It Again, Bob"
Part 1 and Part 2.

-meh

Aaron Gross said...

Bob Hope was a comic genius. He wasn't funny, but he was a comic genius.

When did joke-stealing itself become a comedian's joke? Who came up with that joke? I still remember a Hollywood Squares question asked to Milton Berle: "Milton, how do you `burl'?" "Well, first you steal all of Henny Youngman's old jokes..." Jokes about stealing jokes were probably already stale forty years ago.

Good post, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Hip Hop also has a similar culture of originality. Attributed sampling is okay, of course, but using another person's rhymes or beats seriously undercuts your reputation as a rapper/producer.

Anonymous said...

Yes they were, and are. Larry David is neurotic in the stereotypical Ashkenazi way. Seinfeld is atypically happy, content, even-keeled.

No, they're actually very similar. Seinfeld is more relaxed and even-keeled in presentation, but his comedy is very neurotic. I think that was a big part of Jerry Seinfeld's success: he was able to package neurotic humor in a presentable package, without the aggressive or whiny presentation that can be off-putting.

Anonymous said...

The other difference between Carson and Hope was the same as the one the previous commenter noted as between David and Seinfeld: the former was (as Steve noted most stand-ups are) unhappy, ill at ease in social settings and full of resentments, while the latter was happy, not at all navel-gazing (Hope banged his way through showgirls like a PUA), and genuinely liked the world. Naturally stand-ups identify with Carson. Steve's truism is true: funny people aren't happy people, and happy people aren't funny people.

In like manner, after the show went off the air, the genial, David-less, young-Shoshanna-banging Seinfeld's first post-TV stand-up tour famously bombed.

Anonymous said...

"I'm surprised East Asian comic Aziz Ansari hasn't come under fire for a joke that presents black dudes as being childlike."

*South Asian (Tamil, specifically). Probably because rappers themselves are so fond of him he's in a Jay-Z/Kanye West video.

See - 1:37

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoEKWtgJQAU

I've heard stories of whole NBA teams showing up to see him.

O.Y.T. said...

I have been a fan of stand-up comedy since I was child. One of my earliest memories of getting my behind whipped by my parents is when they caught me watching Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip on that old clunky Laser Disk machine we had. I find it a touch sad that a comedian like Oswalt is afraid to challenge the tolerance crowd.

Bubble Tea said...

"I don't think it would have taken the genius of Adam Smith to have noticed the opportunity here for some division of labor in the stand-up business."

Costanza wasn't exactly a Fields Medalist, but he understood the division of labor advantages when he and Jerry combined to manage a girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Seinfeld spends so much time on each joke honing them in private because they are terrible. He sucks.

Patton Oswalt is also totally not funny in his stand-up routines, though he is a good comic actor. His movie Big Fan about a white loser absorbed in hero worship of a criminal black football player is required viewing for the iSteve audience.

It is great that Patton Oswalt managed to write such a bitter, pouting screed about humor.

Bob Hope is hated also because he was so cozy with the Reagans.

anony-mouse said...

1/ Apparently a lot of modern comics hate Leno much the way older comics hated Hope, and I understand, Berle, too (although everyone like Benny).

Green-eye disease as the Chinese call it?

2/ There's a lot of comedy of all different types on this internet thingy. Anybody who can't find whatever type of comedy they want isn't looking (or doesn't understand the internet)

Silver said...

Does anyone who came up with "When I told people I wanted to be a comedian everyone laughed at me"? That was one of the first examples of "clever comedy" I can recall laughing at as a kid. Actually, it still gets a chuckle out of me today. Anyway, was it one specific person, or is it a kind of "natural joke" that thousands of people "discover" at the same time?

Yes they were, and are. Larry David is neurotic in the stereotypical Ashkenazi way. Seinfeld is atypically happy, content, even-keeled. I've always attributed that to him being only half-Ashkenazi. His mother is of Syrian Jewish background.

Well yeah, they have different "race souls," it goes without saying. Duh.

Jack Hanson said...

Saw Aziz Ansari and a writer from Parks and Rec when they came through Phoenix. enjoyable, minus the entire pro homosexual marriage argument that literally segued out of nowhere.

Patton Oswalt is such a whiny beta though. He had a rant after the Boston bombings that went viral among the SWPL crowd equating that act of terrorism with misogyny. what a dork.

Yehuda Yergacheff said...

tldr

Anonymous said...

Younger comics aren't very fond of Leno, mostly because they're only familiar with his show, which stinks.

By most accounts he was a very talented road comic before transitioning to TV.

Education Realist said...

Hope and Crosby were the first to "break the fourth wall" in movies. While asides have been around since the Elizabethan era, Hope and Crosby were the ones to make asides as Hope and Crosby rather than their character.

Carson and Hope aren't really equivalents. Carson was never a standup. Comedians worshipped him because of his power and his timing, but he wasn't funny. And I don't know what reasons are generally given for disliking Hope, but I'd be very surprised if he's dropped out of favor because he didn't write his own jokes.

Much more likely--he lived a long time and not only adjust to newer norms, but lost a lot of his edge by the time today's comedians were growing up. Then he had the audacity to treat the Vietnam War like other wars, and do his show over there. Finally, he was a Republican.

As for his wealth, whenever anyone asked Bob Hope or Bing Crosby which one was richer, they said, "Fred MacMurray".

Five Daarstens said...

He wasn't standup, but I was a big fan of Jack Benny. I really loved his TV show back when Cable was showing alot of old shows in the early 80's.

Anonymous said...

Interesting bit of history there.

Anonymous said...

"Larry David is neurotic in the stereotypical Ashkenazi way. Seinfeld is atypically happy, content, even-keeled."

So a bit like seinfeld and george then?

Anonymous said...

Woody Allen, in one of his best movies, Love and Death, made several rape jokes. I mention this only because smarty pants liberal comedians like Patton Oswalt revere him And then there's Blazing Saddles, the highly regarded comedy of another trollish jew revered by lefty comics. "You said 'rape' twice." "I like rape."

Unknown said...

George Carlin was an ultra PC over-rated asshole. He's often mentioned in the same breath as Richard Pryor but in truth couldn't hold Pryor's dirty socks.

ScarletNumber said...

@7:39PM

Ansari is obviously South Asian (Indian) not East Asian (Oriental).

Hepp said...

Do people here like Louis CK? I've seen a few clips that were dripping with anti-white contempt. I could never support or even enjoy a Tim Wise of comedy, no matter how much I liked his other material.

Unknown said...

There's a funny comic named John Mulaney who makes some funny jokes about how dumb Ice T is on Law and Order. He does Ice T's dumb voice too. Pretty funny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLkkYcVVYsQ

By the way, Ice T made a joke about raping "white bitches" at one of those comedy central roasts (Hefner's, I think) to great laughter and applause. Where were the feminists then? I guess like actual rape, white feminists only give a fuck when white guys--say, frat boys or lacrosse players--do it.

Kaz said...

Youtube breaks that cartel down pretty hard.

Random kids are becoming big hits on youtube with tiny budgets.

Unknown said...

Do people here like Louis CK? I've seen a few clips that were dripping with anti-white contempt. I could never support or even enjoy a Tim Wise of comedy, no matter how much I liked his other material.

He can be funny but he's another one of these "edgy" ultra PC guys (like Bill Maher or Jon Stewart) who would never crack a joke that wasn't in complete harmony with the powers that be in terms of race, gender, LGBT (or YUCK as Adam Carolla call them) etc.

Steve Sailer said...

Bob Hope's movie characters' main theme was his physical cowardice. Not surprisingly, this was hugely relevant to audiences from 12/7/1941 through the Korean War, then slowly stopped seeming relevant.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Bob Hope, Woody Allen got a great deal of his sort-of lovable coward shtick from Hope, right down to many of Hope's mannerisms.

Harry Baldwin said...

Joke stealing -- He's really against it.

This guy is a real kettle of rage. He's even furious that a college valedictorian used one of his jokes in his speech. (Really?)

I recently read that Mike Myers and Dana Carvey only recently patched up their friendship, Carvey having held a 20-year-grudge about Myer's stealing his Dr. Evil persona from an impression Carvey used to do of Lorne Michaels.

Carlos Mencia was hated by other comics for his joke stealing. Joe Rogan in particular went after him.

Does anyone think Jerry Seinfeld's jokes are really such perfectly crafted gems as he does?

I saw Richard Pryor on the Carson Show a few times. One incident that stuck in my mind is when Pryor started expressing some racial resentments and Carson said, "I don't subscribe to the notion of collective guilt." Pryor back-pedaled so fast it was embarrassing. He really didn't want to get on Carson's bad side. (I guess that was back before all show business figures were terrified of offending black people.)

Steve Sailer said...

Compared to Carson, Leno is a terrible interviewer. But he gets more criticism over his comedy, which strikes me as being about as good as anybody could be 200 nights per year for 20 years doing a show aimed exactly at the 50th percentile of everybody.

Anonymous said...

@Unknown

I wish more alt-right dudes would do a little bit of research before labeling performers line-toeing idiots.

Origin of the "N" word:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRDXeinEUJQ

"You should never rape anyone, unless you have a reason-"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wu9q4sM1vmc

Anonymous said...

There seems to be an effort afoot to culturally excommunicate Leno, and it has a decidedly ideological odor. I saw Leno live back in the mid-80s (Circle Star Theatre, front row, in San Carlos) and he was the best, the best stand up comic of that era (with Seinfeld right there with him). He's still funny, just not the party-line liberal he used to be.

Steve Sailer said...

I saw 9 comics at the Improv in 1981, and came out thinking, "That Jay Leno fellow was the best, but not by much." But thinking back the next day and a week later it was clearer that Leno was unquestionably the best.

Dr Van Nostrand said...


re Larry David and Seinfeld

Larry David was/is obsessed with non existent etiquette and sees himself standing alone against the tide of those barbaric line cutters,double parkers , excessive self pitiers et al
Seinfeld show prior to David's departure in 1995 was essentially Curb Your Enthusiasm with a laugh track.It then got increasingly whackier and surreal due to Jerry Seinfeld more playful outlook

Sailer
Compared to Carson, Leno is a terrible interviewer. But he gets more criticism over his comedy, which strikes me as being about as good as anybody could be 200 nights per year for 20 years doing a show aimed exactly at the 50th percentile of everybody."

Say what you want about Leno. He is pretty much the only comedian who has consistently mocked Obama and no not because he is a closet conservative as many imagine(he voted for Dennis Kucinich) ,perhaps not even because he is fair and honest.Most likely he has a "fuckit, Ive got a zillion dollars and Ill retire soon" so why not attitude.


Ansari is obviously South Asian (Indian) not East Asian (Oriental)."

Tamil Muslim to be exact. Somewhat OT this community is probably one of the most pro free market and independent minded ethnic groups in India. Too ethnic groups many in India want quotas for themselves or protectionism from foreign competition(the corpse of the East Indian company is in often propped up to make an increasingly stale point)

Anonymous said...

Hipster irony doesn't count. Evidence: No one even noticed it. Louis CK draws NO blood.

Education Realist said...

But he gets more criticism over his comedy, which strikes me as being about as good as anybody could be 200 nights per year for 20 years doing a show aimed exactly at the 50th percentile of everybody.

I agree, but I think that's part of the problem. It's not just that Jay aims his comedy at the middle of the spectrum, but that's where his intelligence lies as well. Kimmel, Fallon, O'Brian, Letterman, Stewart are all considerably smarter, and their comedy is likewise aimed at smart people. If Jay were a smart, hip guy who was deliberately targeting him humor to a lower common denominator, he wouldn't catch as much grief. But TV critics want late night comedy for smart folks.

This will eventually kill late night, something that most critics don't seem to understand.

Harry Baldwin said...

Well, I stole a joke. . . And got big laughs.

Here it is: “Whenever I’m sitting on a bus, and someone asks me if the seat next to me is free, I have an answer that guarantees no one will want that seat. I look up and smile and say, ‘No one but … The Lord.”


Oddly, the way Oswalt relates that joke doesn't even make sense.

Q: "Is that seat free?"
A: ‘No one but … The Lord.”

Obviously that's not the way it went. Maybe instead of writing such a long article he could have done some proofreading.

Probably because rappers themselves are so fond of him he's in a Jay-Z/Kanye West video. . . I've heard stories of whole NBA teams showing up to see him.

There's so much great material about black culture that everyone's scared to use that whoever has the cojones will generally do well. And I suspect blacks would enjoy seeing some honest humor about themselves. Chris Rock had his "Black People VS N-words," which was about as honest a discussion of race as Eric Holder could have asked for. Rock retired the routine out of fear it was providing aid and comfort to the enemy (white people), much as Dave Chappelle had a nervous breakdown after hearing a white person laugh inappropriately at one of his racial jokes. Dave didn't understand that, by his criteria, half his white audience was laughing inappropriately. That is, they were laughing because they considered the stereotypes he was playing off to be accurate, not laughably deluded.

Dennis Dale said...

Leno is a terrible interviewer

True. He had Dick Cheney on and he choked--I mean he looked for a second like he was literally choking before confessing to Dick how he couldn't think of anything to ask, not that he was sitting there.
And Cheney's just smiling like a Ralph Steadman lizard before taking command. Painful.

But you have to hand it to Leno--he's closest to riffing on the real hypocrisies, for a mainstream guy. And he's long been the best stand up in Late Night. New York and Hollywood simply won't abide his bougie well-adjusted narrative. F-- Rodney Dangerfield, Leno gets no respect (oddly enough, the real Rodney Dangerfield did get respect, but he was still a miserable SOB!).

Daniel Tosh seems brave enough to go there but his deliberately glib style means he can't go far. Not a gitch but a feature, as they say.

Dave Pinsen said...

I retweet Patton Oswalt's post last Friday with a comment about how it was worth reading for parts 1 & 2 at least, and got some heat from readers assuming I was pro-rape or something because I didn't embrace part 3. But, in fairness to Oswalt, his take in part 3 was a little more nuanced than you describe.

Regarding the current comedians' "fundamentalism" about original, "artisanal" material: Maybe part of it might go back to George Carlin. See, for example, Louis C.K.'s eulogy for him, where he praises Carlin for tossing his material and writing new stuff every year. Also in there, you hear Louis C.K. praise the faux-edginess of Carlin (e.g., making fun of anti-abortion protesters at Carnegie Hall is risky?).

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in reading Sailer's 10 greatest standup comics of all time list. Has this ground been broken before?

Steve Sailer said...

I don't really do Top 10 lists.

My cousin Darryl introduced me to Bill Cosby records when I was about 8, so Cosby would be the first I can recall word for word. Before that my memory is kind of a blur of Ed Sullivan bits (I can recall Rodney Dangerfield tugging on his collar) that I probably didn't understand too well, but Cosby was a giant who did comedy about being a kid. So, the timing was perfect for this kid.

Anonymous said...

"funny people aren't happy people, and happy people aren't funny people."

I think Bob Newhart is a happy guy and very, very funny.

His best pal, Rickles? I think he's happy.

Anonymous said...

"Kimmel, Fallon, O'Brian, Letterman, Stewart are all considerably smarter, and their comedy is likewise aimed at smart people."

That's such BS--they toe the liberal line, that's it. They challenge nothing.

Think of their audience, bunch of twenty or thirty-something guys sitting on their asses, living with mom and dad, or kids still in college who know nothing.


Letterman is nothing but an unhappy, bored old man who has become vicious at times. His audience is comprised of people who mistake constant sarcasm as humor, even when there's no insight in that sarcasm.

Kimmel has a decent personality, not much else.

I have NEVER been able to see a lick of talent in Fallon. Nothin', nada, zip. Not delivery, not body language, not jokes, not insight, zero. What sophisticated audience does he appeal to?

I like O'Brien but I wouldn't say his audience is any sharper than Leno's.

Stewart? How many times does he get laughs by simply mugging for the camera. He has schtick, that's it. Same thing all the time. Intelligent audience? Nope. Liberal audience. Not the same thing.

RWF said...

"Does anyone who came up with "When I told people I wanted to be a comedian everyone laughed at me"?

Silver- I think it came from Bob Monkhouse- a British comedian who worked from the 1950s up until his death about ten years ago.

He was a very good joke writer (he wrote for Bob Hope at one point) whose reputation in the UK probably suffered because he presented so many tame, mainstream gameshows.

Dr Van Nostrand said...

I like Conan O'Brien ,his humor is often juvenile(but then I first saw him when I was in college so I didnt mind) and crass.
But he is also quite clever.
He was the editor of the Harvard Lampoon and to my knowledge the only major comedian with an Ivy League education

Dave Pinsen said...

Another theme in Oswalt's post is a sort of Randianism: Oswalt might not be the John Galt of comedy, but he's at least a Hank Rearden, and Eddie Willers better pipe down if he thinks he can suggest a better way to riff on a Twilight movie. That may be behind the hate for Dane Cook, since Cook isn't very funny, but became successful through hard work and a bit of luck.

Anonymous said...

Letterman is nothing but an unhappy, bored old man who has become vicious at times. His audience is comprised of people who mistake constant sarcasm as humor, even when there's no insight in that sarcasm.

Kimmel has a decent personality, not much else.

I have NEVER been able to see a lick of talent in Fallon. Nothin', nada, zip. Not delivery, not body language, not jokes, not insight, zero. What sophisticated audience does he appeal to?

I like O'Brien but I wouldn't say his audience is any sharper than Leno's.

Stewart? How many times does he get laughs by simply mugging for the camera. He has schtick, that's it. Same thing all the time. Intelligent audience? Nope. Liberal audience. Not the same thing.


I agree with most of this, though I've always liked Letterman's dry humor and I think he can be very funny. I just think that he kind of gave up and stopped caring after not getting the Tonight Show gig since there was really nothing left for him to achieve at that point. Hence the bitterness and attitude.

Kimmel like you say has a decent personality and his show can be pretty funny at times, though this may be more due to his writers.

Fallon is terrible. He's not funny at all and has absolutely no talent. I have no idea why he's not working at Costco or something.

I like Conan. His gags and sketches are funny though he's probably a better writer than performer, where he can be kind of annoying.

Stewart is terrible.

Anonymous said...

All the stand ups seem to love Letterman and hate Leno.

Anonymous said...

Fallon seems to have coasted by and on to better and better gigs by not making an impression on executives. I wonder if executives have routinely confused him with actual, talented, funny performers.

I remember when he was first on Saturday Night Live thinking that he was not funny.

Then he went on to make forgettable performances in forgettable movies.

Then he got a late night talk show hosting gig, and he's been terrible on that.

Next year, he's going to replace Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.

He's awful.

Anonymous said...

I guess like actual rape, white feminists only give a fuck when white guys--say, frat boys or lacrosse players--do it.

And even when they dont in fact.

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/06/19/why-men-are-going-galt-a-review-of-men-on-strike/

Cupid Shrugged

Anonymous said...

There is (or was) a strand of British comedy that caould be best described as the 'big, fat northern bastard' school of comedy.
Basically it involved the working men's clubs of the north) of England (in between strip and variety acts) having a coic as a 'warm-up man' between acts. The audiences were notoriously rough, tough and unforgiving (typically callous handed hairy-assed coal miners njoying a 'saturday night out' between copious pints of bitter) and many a comic literally 'died' on stage. Basically if a comic was no good he'd be bottled off stage in double quick time.
The archetype and dare I say it paragon of this school of comedy was the late, great Bernard Manning. An obese, gruff voiced Manucunian, Manning specialied in rude, dirty insulting gag, most particularly aimed at so-called 'ethnic minorities' (which exploded in Britain during the 1970s). The quick-far offensive gags were usually accompanied by peals of laughter from the betrayed Labour voters. Manning was in fact a psychological catharsis, like the court jesters of yore, Manning could say the unsayable, in the guise of comedy, and thus release paroxysm of pent-up, orgasmic anger and resentment. Needless to say the lefties hated Manning with a passion.
Typically, the 'big, fat northern bastards' wore a satge uniform of a black velvet jacket acoompanied bya ruffled' frilly shirty and a dicky-bow tie. Their only satge props were a mike and a gruff northern accaent. Women were also a favored target of insults.
As I said, the whole set-up was, more deeply, a ritualized form of psychic release in which deeply hidden and strongly held memes were suddenly released by ventilation in a paroxysm of joy - completely analogous to sexual release, in fact. They were also 'male bonding rituals', rugby-clubs were notorious for employing BFNBs in stag-nights that often included what I can only delicately describe as 'blue strippers'.
The BFNBs performed the role of being the little gods of resentment and anger - and thus almost worshipped as lost leaders and visionaries.

Taken to the extreme, one outrageous BFNB was 'Ned Kelly' (a pseudonym, I hope). A balding, bespectacled,bearded, hard-drinking, hard-living Glaswegian Irishman of a certain age, Ned Kelly's shtick was to show up on stage stark, bollock naked, save for a Wellington boot, bizzarely, tied to his penis. He had a prominent, large eagle tatooed on his chest. Anyhow, on one occasion, Ned Kelly, turned up at a working man's club, walked on stage 'in costume' only to be immediately 'frogmarched' off stage by an outraged, irate, red-faced screaming management unaware of the nature of his act. Apparently they had not been informed beforehand of the 'non-family' nature of Ned Kelly's performance.
this provoked an an absolute classic 'Sunday Sport' newspapr headline that I still treasure to this day, namely:

"NUDE COMIC KICKED OOT FOR F*CKING A'BOOT".

Leno Fan said...

"Anonymous said...
There seems to be an effort afoot to culturally excommunicate Leno, and it has a decidedly ideological odor."

Funny you mention this ...because the same observation came up during a conversation my brother and I were having last week.

Why is NBC so anxious to get rid of Leno? Something stinks that is for sure...and it is not his ratings or routine.

I wondered aloud if maybe it was secretly discovered by the PTB at NBC that he was a closet conservative... (for example perhaps they discovered he is big donor to iSteve?). Or maybe he just does not sufficiently have that enthusiastically militant self-hating White style of humor that it seems is now neccessary to be lauded by MSM?

But if he voted Democratic than he is not particularly conservative...so I dunno... though he does take shots at Obama which virtually no other comic will. ... and he likes cars which is a conservative type thing (if you have not ... check out his award winning show Jay Leno's garage on Youtube where he show cases and discusses classic motor vehicles... car lovers will dig it).

By the way are there any comedians out there who are very politically incorrect and culturally conservative in a way that might appeal to a reader of iSteve and TakiMag?

RamzPaul and waiting around for Tom Wolfe's next book release is extremely thin gruel for a cultural conservative who likes to laugh.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Agree with whoever said Oswalt is a talented comic actor but unfunny as a stand-up. He's got that "You've got to like me - I'm dorky yet cool and have all the right views" thing going on (kind of like Tina Fey) which I find annoying. I prefer comics who are original and put themselves out there to be liked or disliked, like Gilbert Gottfried.

Anonymous said...

Letterman is nothing but an unhappy, bored old man who has become vicious at times. His audience is comprised of people who mistake constant sarcasm as humor, even when there's no insight in that sarcasm.

I think something similar is going on with left/liberals I argue with online, they dont have any answers and fall back on well worn sarcasm. They see it working on TV and in stand up, so its got to work for them too?

Anonymous said...

Red Eye, a late-night free-for-all discussion show on late nights on Fox, is a good place to spot some talented stand-ups. Right now I'm enjoying the formidable Jesse Joyce. Frequent guest Jim Norton has his moments too.

Anonymous said...

"All the stand ups seem to love Letterman and hate Leno."

HBD at work. A lot of comics are like Letterman, angry, so they identify with his snark.

Leno is indeed a happy guy with his hobbies, his bikes and cars, Married, like a normal guy.

Dave is the guy to whom it's important to appear cool so he resists thinking any institution is, on balance, a good thing. He thought it cool to avoid marriage while living with the same woman for decades. Even after having a kid he resisted marriage as if marrying would mark him as main-stream.

I think the word "snark" was invented to describe Dave Letterman.

Teenage boys laugh at snark and are themselves, as they approach and move through puberty, snarky. I think of Letterman's audience as primarily made up of guys who have teenaged personalities and like snark. They belong to a club and are nothing as individuals yet.

Anonymous said...

Unknown said...
George Carlin was an ultra PC over-rated asshole. He's often mentioned in the same breath as Richard Pryor but in truth couldn't hold Pryor's dirty socks.
.................................................................................

Agreed. See the classic Pryor bit bellow and try to imagine Carlin saying something remotely similar.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=7a7_1239138821

-The Judean People's Front

Anonymous said...

Why is NBC so anxious to get rid of Leno? Something stinks that is for sure...and it is not his ratings or routine.

No offense, but I assume anyone who says they're a Leno fan to be dumb.

Maybe he's a funny guy in real life, but how can anyone with an IQ above room temperature find his lame, stale monologues to be funny? They're so lame, and most of them seem to be riffing off of contemporary celebrity gossip.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjIuPSuYSOY

Patrice O Neal on rape.

Anonymous said...

I don't really do Top 10 lists.

I know, but at various times you have talked about how <a href="http://isteve.blogspot.com/2005/05/flynn-effect-basketball.html>great</a> Robin Williams was, about Hope and Carson, about how Jay Leno was better than various others, so it occurred to me that you might have some overall opinion as to who was best at various times over the years. Or not.

Beefy Levinson said...

If it weren't for joke stealing, we might have never known Jack Benny or Milton Berle. Think of the plagiarism monologue from The Simpsons: "If somebody hadn't stolen from The Honeymooners we'd have no Flintstones. If someone hasn't ripped off Sergeant Bilko we'd have no Top Cat. Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Ha! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney. Animation is built on plagiarism!"

Anonymous said...

"Number six is when me and the boys go ridin' into town, a-whippin' and a-whompin' any thing that moves to within an inch of its life. Except the women."

"You spare the women?"

"Hell naw! We rape the s*** out of them afterwards at the number six dance!"

x said...

speaking of comics, what's the go with louis ck. liberals/swplers/reddit readers love this guy and he is frequently hailed as the greatest comedic genius of our time. when i listened to himn on i just heard this vulgar, expletive heavy rant about how much it sucks to be middle age or something lame like that. it wasnt funny at all and had me scratching my head about whether i was losing touch despite not even being in my 30s.

x said...

also: george carlin is horrible, he doesn't even tell jokes. he just goes on stage and rants about misanthropic liberal / left wing crap. he's what i call an applause comedian who makes political pronouncements rather than actually funny jokes. american comedians and honestly comedians in general don't tend to be very funny.

x said...

i also listened to another vulgar, horrible comedian from america once called bill hicks. he was regularly commended/hailed as some sort of standup genius/hidden gem but listening to him is just like listneing to louis ck, a vulgarian of the highest order who doesn't really tell jokes but just spews obscenities and (frankly, hateful) liberal b.s. if these are meant to be the masters of the comedian craft i would hate to see what the lesser comedians are like.

Anonymous said...

The funniest part of this thread is Steve's dry treatment of precious stand-ups objecting to hecklers. Roger Federer... Ouch. Roger expects a respectful audience because he has taken the trouble to more or less master the small thing of tennis.

Gilbert P.

Anonymous said...

Oswalt has made his way over to Taki's mag a couple of times to read Gavin McInnes...he's linked to two of his articles on Twitter.

Anonymous said...

The funniest comedian I ever saw was Jackie Mason. I saw two of his live shows and laughed till I cried all through them. Does Steve have an opinion on Mason?

Anonymous said...

I got censored on a COMEDY thread?!?

What are we allowed to even say around here anymore?

Jesus Christ.





Dr Van Nostrand said...


Stewart? How many times does he get laughs by simply mugging for the camera. He has schtick, that's it. Same thing all the time. Intelligent audience? Nope. Liberal audience. Not the same thing."

Thank you .Stewart is intolerable and so is Colbert.
Actually thats not fair, its their shows that are bloody awful so they are so heavily politicized and self righteous it just sucks out any vestige of humor

Their stand up was pretty good , they were better writers than performers before they went full on libtard. Strangers with Candy was pretty funny

Anonymous said...

"No offense, but I assume anyone who says they're a Leno fan to be dumb."

Beside the point. He is popular and his show makes NBC a lot of money. For those who control the media, the political agenda is more important than profits.

ErisGuy said...

A discussion of rape jokes might include the homosexual rape by a gorilla that concludes the caper in “Trading Places."

Hunsdon said...

I've never followed the man---a result of the whole Katy Perry thing---but
Russell Brand absolutely dominated the Morning Joe bunch on MSNBC. He made them look like buffoons, and when he took over the news he delivered more news in two minutes than they probably deliver in a week.

slumber_j said...

Jim Gaffigan is a good guy and a devout Catholic, which I find interesting. He's also very funny in real time--really quick-witted--which not all of these people are. I wish I liked his actual comedy more, but what can you do?

Seinfeld comes off as horribly precious in that remark. Fortunately I'm not a huge fan of his comedy either, so I don't care.

Anonymous said...

The Bernard Manning mentioned above, the vulgar British fat "bastard" who appealed to white, working class people by making ethnic jokes was himself of Russian Jewish and Irish origins - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Manning

FredR said...

"My cousin Darryl introduced me to Bill Cosby records when I was about 8, so Cosby would be the first I can recall word for word."

When I was 10 my dad played me Bill Cosby doing his Noah and the Ark routine, which for a few years I thought was the funniest thing ever. Right up there with the bit about his brother Russell.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V03zgKQidt4

Anonymous said...

Funny that Steve riffs on joke stealing when his previous post seems to be a restatement of widely-disseminated Ted Cruz tweet.

Luke Lea said...

Being able to toss off an essay this good on a subject like stand-up comedy just goes to prove Sailer the is most talented as well as the most fearless (we already knew that) journalist writing in English. He's a national treasure, the Orwell of our age, and hopefully this will be recognized before he's laid in the grave.

Cail Corishev said...

My cousin Darryl introduced me to Bill Cosby records when I was about 8, so Cosby would be the first I can recall word for word.

It'd be hard to beat early Cosby, especially for clean, family-oriented comedy. I still have some of those albums, though they're warped and scratched beyond use. It's amazing how well I, a rural Midwestern white kid, related to his stories of growing up as a black kid in urban Philadelphia. I'm not sure I even knew he was black at the time, and I'd never seen a subway car or played in an empty lot with broken glass, but every story rang so true.

It's a shame those old concerts weren't video taped (as far as I can tell, nothing before "Himself" was). As funny as they are to listen to, you can tell the physical comedy that went along with them was excellent too.

Cail Corishev said...

"Kimmel, Fallon, O'Brian, Letterman, Stewart are all considerably smarter, and their comedy is likewise aimed at smart people."

That's such BS--they toe the liberal line, that's it. They challenge nothing.


You're not disagreeing with him; he said they're smart, not that they challenge anything. They're smart (not wise), and their comedy is oriented toward telling an audience of smart (not wise) liberals that they're smart because they get the jokes. That's why it seems like they're winking the whole time: "Aren't we smart and funny and ironic? Isn't it great how we're smarter and hipper than everyone else?"

poolside said...

Watch a few minutes of the old Dean Martin celebrity roasts, maybe with someone like Foster Brooks speaking, then compare the humor with the current Comedy Central roasts.

The old guys may have been square but they were hilarious, and their humor holds up 40-plus years later. The current batch of comics wouldn't have a thing to say if they didn't have vulgarity.

Anonymous said...

I've gotten to know a few well known comedians, as well as lesser known, and I'd wager most of them suffer from narcissistic personality disorder at best, and are sociopaths at worst.
The more intelligent ones, who also happen to be the most successful ones, are better at hiding it, but it's there.
btw, I don't believe the majority of comedians have college degrees. Most of the ones I knew weren't that bright, although sometimes it's hard to tell since many of them are potheads, coke heads, drunks, adderall enthusiasts or all of the above.
In any case, all comedians are aspiring cult leaders. It's like the prime directive of their occupation. To get as many people as possible who can't think as quickly as them, to follow them.
Once the crowd reaches critical mass, they cash in on them, and use them as their mallet to pound anyone who challenges them.
Robin Williams was a hellacious joke thief, and he essentially got away with it, because he had the critical mass of "fans" to smother any major protest.
Carlos Mencia had not yet reached critical mass, so he got the smack down when caught stealing.
In any case, in my experience, most comedians are petulant Peter Pan fucktards in real life, with few exceptions.
If you ever get the chance to get to know one... don't.

Sam said...

I have read up on Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld for a while but Jerry has never given any indication that he had that close a relationship before they created the show. Check Jerry Seinfeld on Charlie Rose where he explains part of the process behind Seinfeld and the differences between Jerry and Larry.

Also for a great book on stand up comedy check out Comedy at the edge by Richard Zoglin. He traces the roots of the post 60's comedy starting with Lenny Bruce personalizing comedy(like rock)and shows how it gave birth to many new completely different strains from Pryor, Carlin to Klein and ending with the mainstreaming comic Jerry Seinfeld. Also Steve Martin's book,Born Standing up, which Seinfeld calls the best book on comedy.

Dufu
I completely agree. I love hearing comics come into Opie and Anthony where they are completely relaxed and much funnier than many other venues. For somebody like Patrice O'neal who was somebody who was incredibly interesting and shined on the O&A show he only managed to transform his interesting take on life, into a comedy show a year before he died.

And yes Anthony is probably the only guy in mass media who talks about differences in race(IQ) and culture with blacks and how the media refuse to acknowledge black crime and black resentment towards whites. Jim Norton is also quite good. I don't get how Anthony hasn't already been run out of radio considering their show gets the big comics like Ricky Gervais and Louis CK.

Here is Anthony+Jim Norton talking about black crime and the media.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxByAanKcZc

Luke Lea said...

I'm old, and I suppose there is no disputing of taste, but I just don't get it with Louis CK, Joe Rogan, Patton Oswalt, or Aziz Ansari. My idea of funny is David Chapelle on why black people hang out with white dudes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIRjB6CPxLE

Or Wanda Sykes on detachable vaginae: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8FfFwtL91Q

Anonymous said...

Letterman was at his hysterical best when he was on NBC at 12:30, before Leno stole the Tonight Show out from under him, and before he moved to CBS and 11:30. Since then he became more of a mainstream guy and toned down a lot of his humor because he believed the older audiences at 11:30 wouldn't like it. Leno was funny when he was a stand up, but as soon as he got the Tonight Show he dropped the intelligence of his stand up by about 30 IQ points and he still can't interview well after 20 years. Most people today don't even realize that Leno was once funny, because they have seen 20 plus years of horrible opening monologues.

O'Brien was also at his best when he was on NBC at 12:30, although the network and Leno never really gave him a chance to succeed at 11:30. Now he is stuck at TBS and I don't think he as funny as he was at NBC and he seems to be feeling the pressure of getting his ratings up, because the TBS audience isn't a talk show audience. Fallon getting 12:30 was another stupid corporate decision by NBC just like with Leno both times. The job was originally supposed to go to Robert Smigel, who worked on O'Brien's 12:30 show who did the Triumph character, and did the very politically incorrect SNL shorts " TV Funhouse " which were hugely popular even when SNL wasn't that funny. Naturally the NBC corporate brass went with talentless Jimmy Fallon who will now take over the Tonight Show from Leno.

Luke Lea said...

George Carlin isn't always politically correct as s.o. alleges above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB0aFPXr4n4

(I'm not sure he's a comedian either. What's the opposite of a comedian?)

Ray Sawhill said...

I'm surprised more iSteve fans don't know of Bill Burr. I think he's amazing, and he skirts as close to anti-PC as anyone. Lots of clips of him on YouTube. Here's a fun one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN9hy4YNIv0

Anonymous said...

Patrice O'Neil was great on Tough Crowd. I loved the dynamic Patrice and Nick Dipaolo had. That was a great show. Figures they canceled it. Christopher Hitchens, believe it or not, was on it once.

Anonymous said...

Some serious chutzpastics

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/my-sister-rachel/

Oh blithersome couturier of wordifactious spewage,
Your loathsome predilection for effluxicating brewage
Has found its proper gallery in hurricanus sewage.

Oh odious splendiferatious tonguer of all piety,
Ambassador-at-very-large for platitudiniety,
Your prosody’s ontology’s all Sartric nullibiety.

It’s thus we say, with due respect, and many years’
assizing:
Oh, literary colporteur, the words of your devising
Appear to land upon the page without palpable revising.

Ray Sawhill said...

More great Bill Burr:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsghfxYq7DU

guestiti said...

...but growing up in the Southeast San Fernando Valley in 1967, the English-born Hope was the local squire, the most prominent landowner.

Steve continues to have subject-predicate problems.

eh said...

What percentage of Hope's 'jokes' consisted of simply mentioning the name, "Phyllis Diller"?

Anonymous said...

I don't quite know why some of you guys are saying he's against rape jokes per se, I thought he made a thoughtful defense of the right of comedians to work out their material. The heckling bit tied directly into this. Some jokes fail, comedians don't need to be crucified for this. He did say that your jokes need to be topical and fresh and not be insulting to your audience. There shouldn't be anything controversial about this at all.

His argument implies, though I don't believe he would endorse it, heterogeneity in audiences. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle got burned because they took the path to fame and that included a substantial white audience. Comedy clubs in the past were "clubs" in the literal sense of the word, for men (and their dates.) If you're a man and you're playing to men, you're with the "in" crowd and you can make those kinds of jokes.

Of course heterogeneity reinforces "privilege" by keeping out women and minorities so ultimately the path that society and these fawning comedians are taking will lead to the end of comedy. You would think comedians would be attuned to this, but the counterculture of comedy has been co-opted into controlled opposition. They are part of the system now.

Feminist joke:

Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: "that's not funny."

Anonymous said...

You guys would all dig Anthony Jeselnik's stand up, as he hammers on more alt-right themes than any comedian I've ever seen. I suspect he's a closet iSteve reader, too. Enter "Anthony Jeselnik" and "Google Search and Destroy" into YouTube for evidence. Honestly, I don't know how he gets away with it, but I'm glad he does.

Anonymous said...

Woody Allen has been making rape jokes for decades.

"I was told that my ex-wife was violated in the street, and I said, 'Well I know for certain it wasn't a moving violation.'"

helene edwards said...

Circle Star Theatre, front row, in San Carlos

Saw Pryor there in '76. He explained everything about differing life outcomes, thusly:

"White people walk like this" (tight, hurried). "Black people walk like this." (loose, languid).

not a hacker said...

@Luke Lea:

So as an example of how funny Chappelle is, you suggest his mendacious cliches of how cops treat blacks? Wow, that's good stuff.

mel belli said...

@x:

Thank you. Why nobody ever calls out Hicks as the talentless hack he was is one of the wonders of existence.

C. Van Carter said...

The Emergence of Intellectual Property Norms in Stand-Up comedy.

C. Van Carter said...

Norm Macdonald is really funny.

C. Van Carter said...

In 1990 Andrew Dice Clay sold out Madison Square Gardens on back to back nights, which is a curious bit of history.

Marc B said...

"Oswalt has made his way over to Taki's mag a couple of times to read Gavin McInnes".

He was also a friend of Taki's writer Jim Goad during the Answer Me! era, so I doubt that he really is such an uptight PC dweeb. Expressing unpopular opinions is not a good move for a show business person, but it's especially not a good move for a guy that looks like him.

Van said...

"You might think that comedians would be better than the unfunny at noticing things outside the Who-Whom identity politics framework"

Comedian Doug Stanhope has been pointing out for years that for some reason it's OK to make rape jokes where the male is the victim but not when it's a female. Despite his success, he lives in a small town in Arizona and not LA or NYC and doesn't fall for the group think in those comic communities. Stanhope is the funniest standup you will ever see, should you see him.

Also, there are plenty of stand ups who have no desire to get that sit-com deal. Brian Reagan, for instance. There's a lot of money to be made on the road and although it requires a lot of travel, it's not so grueling once you've made it. Many successful professionals have to log a lot of miles these days, but they don't get to say, take months off at a time and live wherever they want, the way successful comedians get to. Sitcoms can also be a trap because, like everything in Hollywood, it can all fall apart tomorrow, whereas the standup career of a veteran can only decline slowly at worst. The opportunity costs of trying a sitcom can be expensive, because it can be easy to lose your chops and your road crowd and because LA is a horrible place to get stage time, even if you have been on TV. Stand up fans aren't necessarily loyal to those who defect to TV. Jay Leno is only the best example of this.

Louis CK is working his ass by continuing to tour like crazy while having a successful show, because he knows that his live audience is his real pay check and wants to make sure they will be around after the show is cancelled.

The big problem in live comedy these days is that many things are now working in reverse: instead of standups getting sitcom deals, you have ex-sitcom stars who never put in the years to learn standup skills suddenly taking over stage time because their famous name gets the billing. Most people don't realize that comic acting and stand up comedy require very different skills, albeit with some overlap. Usually a good standup can pull off comic acting at least a little bit, whereas many comic actors can't do standup at all. Comedy without a setting and a talented cast around you is a completely different ballgame. But, I digress...

helene edwards said...

I have no idea what Steve means here by 'cartel.' In any event, the funniest thing I've ever seen was Letterman's GE handshake bit. If only he'd kept making fun of corporate life.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V6IU9tfXDo

Anonymous said...

What worries me as a someone who is far more sympathetic to Christian conservatism but who none the less reads this site, is that going forward a lot of comics will start telling jokes on alt right themes but that the sugar to force the bitter pill down will be an even greater penchant for Christian bashing.

As for Jesnelnik, at the Flav o Flav (I think it was Flav) roast he responded to Patrice O'Neal's comment that there weren't enough black people here to get that joke with "You know what no one ever says not enough black people." It was a remarkably quick comeback, but still it is shocking he got away with it. That said Kat Williams is still complaining about being hoodwinked into hosting that roast and claiming it was basically a modern day minstrel show.

The O'Neal Dipaolo repartee was excellent on Tough Crowd. Which is strange because I don't think Dipaolo's stand up is funny at all.

Baloo said...

I'm sure Steve is right about Bob Hope's innovation, but I've always had a hard time seeing anything funny about him. Maybe his persona just doesn't appeal to me. But I go way back. I remember watching and enjoying George Gobel, Sam Levinson, Herb Shriner and the like. I liked standups better than sitcoms. Some of them weren't as funny as I remember them — Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton spring to mind. And Jack Benny did do stand-up to some extent on his TV show, and I still think he was funny. Funnier than George Burns. And speaking of Benny, let us not forget Benny Hill, though his standup was pretty opaque for nonBrits. Somebody ought to do a comic strip about a Stand-up Guy.

Dr Van Nostrand said...


The more intelligent ones, who also happen to be the most successful ones, are better at hiding it, but it's there.
btw, I don't believe the majority of comedians have college degrees. Most of the ones I knew weren't that bright, although sometimes it's hard to tell since many of them are potheads, coke heads, drunks, adderall enthusiasts or all of the above.
In any case, all comedians are aspiring cult leaders. It's like the prime directive of their occupation. To get as many people as possible who can't think as quickly as them, to follow them."

I never understood why people often ask comedians for their opinion on serious matter such as politics, religion,history,war,technology and such.

What exactly qualifies Bill Maher,Chris Rock,Russel Brand,Norm MacDonald,Dennis Miller,Adam Carolla,Ricky Gervais et al to expound on these matters?

Anonymous said...

"star disk jockeys playing other people's music have taken away a lot of the music industry revenue that used to go to the bands' themselves when they toured"


Back in the day (60s/70s, maybe even 80s) you toured (and lost money) to increase album sales (where the money was).

Now everyone gets your stuff off the Web, and touring is where the money is. And comedians don't need much in the way of musicians, effects. The Brit comedian Michael MacIntyre played to nearly 700,000 people in 2012.

green mamba said...

A discussion of rape jokes might include the homosexual rape by a gorilla that concludes the caper in “Trading Places."

A hateful, dishonest anti-hbd (and Jewish-made, unsurprisingly - I'm Jewish btw) film. I'm embarrassed to say I liked it when it came out, but then again I was 12.

Russell Brand absolutely dominated the Morning Joe bunch on MSNBC. He made them look like buffoons

They ARE buffoons, each blow-dried liberal one of them. I'm not a Brand fan, but at least he's a human being, not a humorless phony line-towing careerist liberal cipher like Mika Brzezinski and Katty Kay, and that was a pleasure to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDCtFTyw6fI

jody said...

patton talks about why blade 3 sucked so bad and early signs that wesley snipes was losing it:

http://tinyurl.com/bd3o2pt

bill burr demonstrates how to handle hecklers, in THE worst city in america for that:

http://tinyurl.com/7ec7uxr

Dave Pinsen said...

"bill burr demonstrates how to handle hecklers, in THE worst city in america for that"

A better (and briefer) job of dealing with a heckler by Amy Schumer: Amy v. Heckler

Kibernetika said...

W.F. Buckley, Jr., v. Woody "Allen"/Koenigsberg (a german-language place name!):

http://youtu.be/GNErWi_lTig

Nothing special there, really.

Education Realist said...



"That's such BS--they toe the liberal line, that's it. They challenge nothing."

Cail has already pointed out the flaw in your response. (Thanks, Cail!)

Again, for those playing at home: Leno's popularity is in large part driven by the lower cognitive demands of his humor, and most critics suspect that Jay himself is not as "smart" as the favored comedians. I suspect that he isn't as smart, but then smart and funny are largely orthogonal.

elaine said...

I didn't care to hear George Carlin's words, but when he imitated a piece of bacon sizzling in the pan, it was one of the funniest things I ever --- saw. I mean, the man became a piece of bacon.

Another extremely funny visual was by a woman comedian -- I can never recall her name because her humor is mostly repellant -- imitating Barbara Streisand who was being forced to endure the adulation of a fan with cancer. My god her impression was good. Neither Streisand nor any other faux-god/goddess would ever appear in same light after that

Dr Van Nostrand said...


"bill burr demonstrates how to handle hecklers, in THE worst city in america for that"

Ugh these comedians can be such pussies ,they can dish it out(much of comedy is insult comedy where you skewer and lambast various personalities and (allowed) groups)
but they cant take it out

As long as hecklers do it right- call out some really bad jokes/lame PC gags, Im all for them.

Anonymous said...

"He traces the roots of the post 60's comedy starting with Lenny Bruce personalizing comedy(like rock)and shows how it gave birth to many new completely different strains from Pryor, Carlin to Klein and ending with the mainstreaming comic Jerry Seinfeld."

Good point. It went from an act to an art, from entertainment to social critique/satire and personal expression.
Bruce was to stand up comedy what Dylan was to popular music. They turned it into personal art.

But the problem with comedy, especially stand-up comedy, is you have to make people laugh at all times. Thus, it is limited as a form of personal expression. Dylan, working in music, could be funny, sad, romantic, spiritual, sardonic, and etc.
But stand-up comics, no matter how personal or critical, must be funny at all times.
So, while it can be witty and brilliant, it's not really an art.

Dangerfield had the best personality. Steve Wright did for stand up comedy what Larson of FAR SIDE did for cartooning. Really one of a kind.

Anonymous said...

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/army/307047-poll-majority-of-americans-support-women-in-military-draft

Purely symbolic. They know draft will never be used.

It's like some liberal Jews pretending to be critical of Israel. They know US policy will always be slavish to Israel.

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Wright

Shocking. Italian-American Catholic/Scotch Irish.

There has to be Jewish blood somewhere there. His sensibility is soooo brilliantly and absurdly Jewish.

http://youtu.be/F5ErMolRE8M

Anonymous said...

I think Robert Schimmel was the funniest standup comic ever. Just a stream of pure filth, via everyday observations. ("So I went in for a colonoscopy ...")

He was Jewish, and obviously so (his mannerisms, his Noo Yawk accent) but he rarely ever mentioned it. And he never talked politics. It was all sex and bathroom stuff, but he did it with a certain class. He was one of a kind.