Something that has been on my mind recently is the concept of comedy and how it has in a sense lost its overall allure.
Back in 2015, Jerry Seinfeld made an assertion that “comedy is dead,” citing the rise of “PC culture” as a main culprit in this theory. Since then, PC culture has been an ongoing topic in both the comedy community and with the masses. Additionally, there has been a huge rise in comedy consumption; Netflix is likely making the biggest profit off of comedy today, even paying some comics millions to produce a special.
Nowadays, there are so many comics on the scene, shows, and media that is comedy-centric and it makes me wonder if comedy in a sense has lost that luster?
Here are my thoughts.
Overconsumption has killed the “taboo” element.
When I was a child (and even ten years ago), comedy in a way still had that taboo element. I remember being in my teens and having a television in my room and my parents not knowing I was watching HBO or Comedy Central specials when I should have been asleep. I got a thrill off of that because it felt like it was something that was risque: listening to comics saying the dirtiest things at an unreasonable hour of the night. Now, I can just jump online and pick from a virtually limitless selection of comedy.
It reminds of how the porn industry took that direction. You used to have to go to a shady section of the video store to find Big Bosom Bitches (not a real title...or is it?) and now you can just type that into the search bar on various free porn sites. It’s almost a mindset of “if I can get it so quickly, why get excited over it?”
My parents would never have taken me to a comedy show as a kid and now I see children in club shows where the subject matter is likely something they shouldn’t be present to hear. A lot of the loss of the taboo of comedy is primarily because of this overconsumption.
Even when it comes to people who want to do comedy, prior to ten years ago, you kind of had to be seen as a personality that made sense to do stand-up. Even with telling people you are a stand up, some element of your personality had to be seen as “off.”
For me, I was seen as “well-adjusted” which confused some people as to how I’d be a stand-up. Luckily, over time the crazy has come out and now people who still think I’m well-adjusted are shocked by my change (yay for me!); Now everyone and their mother wants to try stand-up.
Quality has diminished.
The first comedy show I saw was when I was seventeen visiting New York. It was actually a showcase at Comic Strip Live. Looking back, this show was one where comics, new and seasoned, were actually telling good jokes. Now, if I went to that same showcase, you’d probably see a few of the comics perform decently and the others be forgotten by the end of the night. Maybe it’s my experience as a show producer, but you gain a different thinking as you are involved in casting processes and you start to see where quality is lacking. Comics are often just going up there to talk about their opinions without punchlines or any real depth to their jokes. In conjunction, they also discuss things that are don’t really allow us to know who they are as a comic.
Perhaps PC culture has affected this too, but I find many comics are just not willing to push the envelope as much anymore. They lack honesty in their writing which is the basis of a good joke.
What do we as comics do?
Yes, it can be a bit disheartening to realize comedy has in a sense lost its luster, but that doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. The reason why current high profile stand-ups are successful is because they are willing to go there and push it further, even in a time when it may be taboo to do just that. For my scope of the current scene, it’s somewhat easy to recognize who will make it because they remain genuine in their comedy brands to produce quality comedy. That’s what really makes the difference.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!