Old School Comedians Complain About The Internet

from the when-I-was-your-age-I-performed-to-3-people-in-a-shack-and-I-liked-it dept

Well, it seems bound to happen in just about any profession that has been impacted by the internet in some way. Eventually, the “older generation” is going to whine and complain about “the way things used to be.” Apparently that’s even true of stand up comedians. A bunch of stand up comedians are apparently worried about the internet’s impact on young up-and-coming stand-ups, because (I kid you not), they’re worried that the internet lets young standups have too big an audience. The reasoning is basically that it’s better for young comics to fail in front of small audiences, learn their lesson and get better. Of course, what none of the complaining comics explain is why those “bad” young comics will have that big an audience in the first place if they’re so bad. No one’s going to watch them.

These same comics seem to ignore the flip side of the coin — which is that a good young comedian can actually use the internet to amplify his or her comedic talents in order to get noticed and move on to bigger and better things. A great example of this would be Andy Samberg, who basically made a name for himself online, before being snapped up by Saturday Night Live. It certainly doesn’t seem like there’s any lack of young comedic talent these days compared to in the past, and it seems like the internet often creates a much better feedback loop for those young comics. But, of course, since it’s “not the way we did it”(TM) it must be bad.

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Comments on “Old School Comedians Complain About The Internet”

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24 Comments
Francis Burdett says:

Re: Re: Potential Downside?

Oh I didn’t _really_ mean that Dan Cook was case in favor of the “old school” comedians.

I was being a bit jokey myself. I am sure Masnick’s point is on solid ground.

The only stand up I have ever seen from Cook was decently amusing (and PG rated), but not so stellar that it would have been indicative of a massive comedic talent (given his popularity).

But it is a question whether humor is anything but discrete and personal.

Can one “define” humor in any absolute way?

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

What happened to irony?

What would really help up and coming comedians is if their audience had been brought up with a modicum of irony in their diet.

Too many folk are irony deficient these days, especially Americans.

There’s an entire class of satire that becomes inaccessible to those unable to digest irony – having not been fed it when young.

Anon2 says:

Upsides and downsides

I think the original post is an extremely inaccurate, narrowly selective description of the article and of the comments of most older comedians who are quoted in it. The article itself, and many of those quoted, does not focus on relative size of audience, but only notes that as one minor issue. The focus, rather, is on the observations by some that the dynamic is different, because making videos for the internet does not ordinarily involve interaction with a live audience. But those observers are not really saying that this is a bad thing, they are simply noting that it’s different. Also noted is that what seems to succeed the best on the internet is sketch comedy, but that standup routines still require a club, because a standup comic is making a lot of different jokes, and people are going to be less inclined to forward a comic’s routine.

I think it’s an intelligent article. It also makes the point that internet fame can be both fast and fleeting, and in that sense, it doesn’t necessarily displace any of the other ways that comics build their careers. I.e., it’s a new development, providing a whole range of new tools and opportunities, and it will help some and probably will be of less help to some others.

Doombringer says:

Dane Cook should go die...

Dane Cook is the worst comedian on the scene right now. His jokes are lame and only make you laugh if you are a neaderthal. Also alot of them are “had to be there” kind of jokes, all he does is run around on stage talking about situations that never really happened. On the topic though, the internet is a good thing I think. Some really great comedians like Zach Galfianakis, and Patton Oswalt have gotten a lot of great exposure from the internet and the tours they do, which get out there because of the net. Also, the masses are dumbed down anyway, so it doesnt matter with the interet, people are still gonna see all the same things, but now hopefully the better ones will receive more prominence, and hacks like Dane Kook will fall off the face of the earth.

Anonymous Coward says:

You people are missing the point. The point is that comedy takes practice, and it is usually better to fine tune your show before you make it available to a large audience. With the internet that doesnt happen. Stop turning every little comment into generational wars. They weren’t “complaining” about the internet they were making an observation that failure at an early stage can help people learn. Whereas if you get really popular because of one “bit” but you have no idea what you are doing the fall from higher up the popularity ladder is going to hurt alot more.

Its sort of like learning to crawl before you walk. It wasn’t “complaining” it was an observation. GEESH!

Drake (user link) says:

Comics on the Net

Comics may have to manage their brand identities, and bombing in front of millions may hurt their image, but it’s a small risk if you are talented and can expose so many to your craft.

The real challenge is that the internet is a very scalable, low cost copy machine. And if you are a talented comic, others will quickly and easily pirate your material. You don’t have to look beyond the Mind of Mencia to see this in action.

Hutch Carpenter (user link) says:

Interview with MadTV's Chris Kula re: social media

I actually did an interview in September with a comedian regarding use of social media. Chris Kula is a writer for MadTV and formerly from the Onion Network, and he’s got some pretty funny shit out there on the Web. He uses video, and created a funny punchline site based on Flickr photos.

Here’s the link to our interview: http://bhc3.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/using-social-media-in-hollywood-an-interview-with-madtvs-chris-kula/

Anonymous Cowherd (user link) says:

Ignoring? No.

“These same comics seem to ignore the flip side of the coin — which is that a good young comedian can actually use the internet to amplify his or her comedic talents in order to get noticed and move on to bigger and better things.”

That’s not what they’re ignoring. That’s what they’re secretly fearing and Dare Not Name.

Competition that uses new media to outmaneuver the old guard.

Same fears driving all other Net-hostile attitudes, from newspapers to the recording industry to Hollywood to Malaysian and Turkish politicians.

Jake says:

The more I think about this, the more I think they might have a point. I can see how an initial period of relative obscurity, when nobody cares enough about you give you a bad review, might be an advantage when relatively new to the scene and still getting the hang of it; in this day and age however, someone could spot your name on a poster and look you up with a search engine, and the second search result after your MySpace could page could be someone’s blog entry describing in excruciating detail how badly you died on your arse at that gig six months ago that you couldn’t back out of even though your dog died the night before. At their peril do performance artists forget that the Internet is a double-edged sword.

Eric Gudmunsen (user link) says:

Old School Comedy

I’m a self-confessed “old-school” comedian. The bastard love-child of Bernard Manning and Chubby Brown. I’ve been doing stand-up for years in my own venue in Lanzarote. I’ve recently relocated to Dublin, Ireland, and on the few occasions that I get an open spot at a club, I get big laughs but no follow-up paying gigs. I can only put this down to the fact that the organisers are a lot more precious, elitist and up their own arses than the public are. People in comedy clubs these days are being force-fed rather than given a choice. Check out my you tube channel and make your own minds up! And if you visit the Edinburgh Fringe, check out my FREE show, Ryanair Lost My Baby.

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