Friday, October 24, 2014

Bad Advice


I don’t often write about doing comedy. I kinda figure if you really want to hear about the comedy experience of someone you haven’t much heard of there are about a million blogs covering some jackass’ “process” as he was writing that huge fisting closer. If that doesn’t quench your thirst then right now at this very second there are roughly 47,000 podcasts out there waiting for you all of which will go into mind numbing detail about the trials and tribulations of being a comic. I’m not trying to say that it’s all unnecessary or it’s all horse shit, I’m just saying the vast majority is. So I’ve always steered clear. Until now that is. This one is mine though, so that means it has merit and isn't just another act of navel gazing horse shit. Also I'm a hypocrite.

Don't worry all 8 million plus are adding something valuable to the discussion 


If you do standup more than zero times in front of people then chances are you’ll be approached afterwards and be given advice by some of these people. We comics have a word for advice like this, we call it “shitty.” This advice is almost always wrong. It’s not the advice giver’s fault usually. They’re not bad people it’s just that more often than not someone who spends time doing comedy is going to understand doing comedy more than someone who’s never done comedy. Also, most of them are bad people.  

I do a joke about the prevalence of the n word on internet comment sections and message boards and how that's not cool. If you haven’t heard the joke or been on the internet in a while, I’ll let you know that there are a lot of people tossing that word around. Something about the combination of being both anonymous and white makes folks pretty comfortable tossing it around. Not just a little, but a whole lot. A lot of sites employ auto-filtering software. So if you type the n word it will automatically be removed or replaced with stars or something like that. You’d think if that’s the case then that would eliminate the problem right? WRONG! People who routinely throw around the n word don’t let that stop them. They employ inventive spelling like using three Gs, numbers, or symbols anything really to get their shitty racist voice heard loud and clear.

The joke I have about this is very funny. I was telling it at a show and people were laughing at it. Everyone was happy. I had thought that tell joke, receive laughter was going to be the extent of our interactions for the evening. That was not the case, because after the show a gentleman came up to me to give some patented “shitty” advice that strangers at comedy shows are famous for. He was telling me that he thought it’d be a good idea if I pepper that joke about the prevalence of the n word with liberal use of the n word. I’m paraphrasing but he was saying “you know that joke where you talk about white people being way too loosey goosey with the n word, well what that joke needs is you, a white person, to say the n word a lot. You’re welcome.”

This, of course, is a bad idea. What’s worse it that’s not the first time I’ve gotten that advice. Other time I got that advice was also from a white guy. No offence to these particular dudes. They were nice enough to go see comedy and were pleasant afterwards, but the only thing worse than a comic who runs around shouting the n word for no reason is some random dude who runs around trying to convince other people to say the n word. Then to better make his point he said “even if it goes terribly, who cares?” I do. I care. I know every set isn’t going to go swimmingly, but I’ve got enough problems in this business without being known as the white guy who just assumes he’s got a pass to say the n word. He then asked me what’s the worse that could happen. I can think of a few shitty that can, and in all likelihood, would happen.

What could happen is that I would probably piss off a bunch of people. I don't know if either of these guys have ever spoken to black people about how they feel about white people just assuming they can use it, but from what I've gleaned most are decidedly in the anti camp. I don’t really give a shit if in telling a joke some easily offended jackass takes umbrage. There are a lot of people with no sense of humor who spend time at comedy shows. But there’s a world of difference between stepping on the toes of someone who goes out of their way to be offended and running around trying like hell to piss people off. There are white comics who can get away with it. Either they’ve developed the kind of fame and reputation where they’re given a pass or the joke they’re telling is one that needs to use it in order to make people really question race, society, the power of words, and language as a whole. This joke ain’t that. It’s a fine bit don’t get me wrong, but it’s not “subverting the paradigm” good. White comics should always ask themselves a question before employing racist language. That question is “you sure about this?” Then if the answer is yes they should ask themselves another question. “Really sure?” The answer to that is usually no. By following this guy’s advice I could really piss some people off. What’s more I could piss some people off to the point where they want to kick my ass. I don’t like that prospect. That is something bad that could happen. I consider that a downside enough to not follow this advice.

Dr. King says "not cool bro."


What’s worse is I could piss off the wrong people. There have been numerous instances where a joke has been taken out of context, some blogger in the audience posts some shitty diatribe about what a shitty person the comic is, and a media shitstorm ensues. That’s not even the worst case scenario though. I think the absolute worst thing that could happen is that I end up in front of a bunch of people who are really into it. As shitty as it would be offend someone by being a white guy who goes around saying the n word I think it’d be more detrimental if I ended up resonating with some blogger. I’m not too picky about people liking me. Please do. But I guess I’d rather not wind up winning Stromfront’s comedian of the year. That would really fuck up my Google results. I guess I could use just about any press at this point, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my days touring with Michael Richards doing benefits for the Donald Sterling legal defense fund.
Oh, you were just trying to be edgy? Our mistake carry on!

So Mr. hipster looking advice giver in Brooklyn last week, those are the worst things that could happen, and yes I care about them happening. But I didn’t tell the guy any of that. I told him what I tell every lunatic who wants to give me advice. “Yeah, maybe I’ll try that sometime, excuse me I have to go to the bathroom.”

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