Stand up citizen or stand up comedian?: how to enjoy comedy

Kyle Parikh ’18, Business and Ad/Circulation Manager

“The worst thing to call someone is ‘crazy;’ it’s dismissive. I don’t understand this person, so they are crazy. That’s BS; people are not crazy,” legendary comedian Dave Chappelle said during an interview. This dismissive attitude is to the dismay of comedians around the world, they are called crazy and are ignored due to their unusual antics. Comedy is all about context. A bit may include traces of offensive behavior, but that offensive behavior is rationalized through the rest of the joke. Getting offended by what a comedian says is fair, but only after you consider that they are joking. People are so eager get offended and to feel like a victim of something, that they are very quick to tune out a comedian from the very start of a brilliant joke.

In order to properly enjoy a comedian, you need to let them breathe. They are going to say things that may seem offensive at first, but then they explain the statement and their unexpected thinking. The ‘funny’ lies in the journey to coming to the offensive conclusion. Comedians may choose to start their bit by stating the conclusion first for shock value, then explain their convoluted and somewhat realistic thought process.

For example, Andrew Schulz has a bit in his stand up that says, “What I learned about Egypt, a bunch of liars in Egypt, just want to point that out, liars. ALL of them, liars. I’m supposed to believe 4000 years ago, you guys built the pyramids. Right? And for the next FOUR-THOUSAND years, you guys don’t build jack —-? Not happening. You built the greatest thing ever created by human beings 4000 years ago, and then for the next 4000 years, the BEST thing you can create is cotton sheets? You think I’m just going to believe some lie like that?” If you only hear the first sentence out of context, it makes complete and total sense to be offended, but that is only because you missed out on the cartoonish explanation of why he ‘hates’ Egypt. His argument for not liking Egypt is so outlandish, weak and ultimately satirical that everybody in the room understands that he truly does not believe that Egypt is a country of liars, but is simply pointing out the intrigue of the pyramids.

Celebrities are worshipped too much. Remember, these are regular people who go to work every day just like the rest of us. You should not expect for a comedian to be a role model for kids; their job is to be funny and anything else they offer is an added bonus. Just as nobody cares about what Ja Rule thinks about 9/11, nobody cares about what Katt Williams’ thoughts are on net neutrality. There are comedians who are able to be funny while also having a positive and uplifting tone to their act, and that is what makes them special. We should not hold everyone to the highest standard.

No pun intended, but comedians who proudly carry the responsibility that comes with fame are a vast minority: Hasan Minhaj, for instance is one comedian who has the ability to make people laugh while also empowering brown audiences, but that is what puts him ahead of the pack. If we expect everybody to be special, then nobody is special anymore. A comedian should be able to choose that they only want to be the funny guy and not a social commentator without feeling guilty.

People do not want to laugh anymore; it seems as though they would rather have an extra thing to complain about. As a society, we give a lot of support to people who go through hardships, just as we should. The problem lies in the fact that support and attention are ultimately synonyms. This leads to people embellishing their struggles, and that’s where the danger to comedy lies. Even the slightest hint of bigotry will be jumped on and their joke becomes a headline in no time when taken out of context.  

The comedian switch is not always on. When a comedian steps onto the stage, they embody a different persona. All eyes are fixated on the performance because audiences pay to see the character played by this comedian. Things that are spoken into the microphone do not necessarily reflect who the comedian is as a human being. At the end of the day, if people laugh, the job is done.

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