The Hack’s Guide to Millennial Comedy

by Warren Wright

Edited by Al Bahmani

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The public’s idea of what a hack comedian is seems to be set in the 1980s. When we imagine a hack, we imagine the guy in a checkered suit telling jokes about airplane food. Some of the more prevalent hack topics included jokes about how men and women are different, Indian clerks at convenience stores, and fat people eating bacon cheeseburgers with a diet coke. With a vast demand for live performers in the 80’s, a comedy “boom” hit, and hit hard. The 15 + comedy clubs in every America city raked it in off of drink minimums, and still had the cash to pay hacks upwards of  $100,000 a year. Stand-up comedy had become another big economy in the Big Eighties. As all others, the market wasn’t ready for the future and couldn’t sustain itself. The club work dried up, and openers stopped making $1000 a show. Perhaps the market became over-saturated. It could have been the internet, which gave us access to all the comedy ever and thereby raising our standards. Perhaps widely-conceived clichés failed to be funny anymore.With the new Wifi Era  and its’ changing ethos of the day, hack comedy changed. Internet Apps changed the way we talk, and hacks took to the stage with new bits about,

Perhaps the market became over-saturated. It could have been the internet, which gave us access to all the comedy ever and thereby raising our standards. Perhaps widely-conceived clichés failed to be funny anymore.With the new Wifi Era  and its’ changing ethos of the day, hack comedy changed. Internet Apps changed the way we talk, and hacks took to the stage with new bits about, “How mean the comment section on Youtube can be”. Copy and pasted stock lines engulfed the mainstream lexicon. (“Party-foul!” “This is why we can’t have nice things!”). Hacks are now armed with a whole electronic world of easy, safe jokes regurgitated in a “share if you agree” format. The airplane food jokes of old have become “hipsters with smartphones” jokes.

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Describing Millennials

“These kids nowadays can’t change a tire!”

“So I went to (X college) and got a degree in (something useless). So I’m a barista”

“None of us will ever retire!”

Around 2008, the word “Millennial” became the hottest buzzword to describe the new crop of youth with far less money than their parents. According to journalists, they often are described as having useless college degrees or moving in back home with their parents. The journalists of the day described millennials in such generalized and blanketing terms that it seemed everybody between the ages of 18 and 30 lived an almost unanimous narrative. When they write about millennials, you can almost guarantee that the phrases “Skinny jeans” or “App-Savvy” or “Safe space” is soon to follow. “Millenial” had become an insult, and thereby something for hack comedians to exploit. Hack comedians and hack journalists both describe millennials tirelessly as narcissistic , nihilistic, and too sensitive to cope with reality. How many times have you heard the phrase “Everybody gets a trophy” this week? Hack social commentary begat hack comedy. Most of these easy generalizations  eventually find their way to the stage, and easy jokes are written about aimless deadbeats on social media.  So hipsters are known for taking pictures of their meal and putting it on Instagram. Who honestly gives a fuck?

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Lethargic, Self-Indulgent/ self-depreciating , Pizza/Taco Humor

“Have you ever smoked weed all day, indoors for 24 hours straight, and just binge-watching until you’re crying into your Whataburger? So I’m single. LADIES?!”

“I watched Netflix until it asked me ‘are you still watching?’. DON’T JUDGE ME, NETFLIX!”

“Some of my friends are becoming lawyers but pizza is my everything”

Scroll on Facebook for 2 minutes and you’ll come across this breed of humor. This is one of comedy’s lowest common denominators. It is the  bold declaration that binge-eating, laziness,and binge-watching will go on unabashedly. So many memes and comedians follow this formula to great success, as they resonate amongst the general public. The narrative of the everyman eating pizza and watching copious amounts of TV in the face of normalcy works so well because they are, in fact, telling jokes to people living in western society, all of whom are so familiar with this. We all enjoy lazy days indoors as we all have to work such long hours to get by. We all eat a lot of food. Sopranos-style cliffhanger television is as addictive as fuck and we’ve all been asked “Are you still watching?”. Normal, normal,normal. These jokes work amongst younger and older crowds, as sociologists have been warning us against binge-eating and binge-watching since as far back as the 50’s. This joke, however common , can be done in a clever and inventive way by very funny comedians. Honestly, I’d rather hear from the astronaut comedian tell jokes about his day job.

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Taking a Strong Stance on a Safe, Agreeable Platform

“So Donald Trump is evil. More like ‘Make America Hate Again’, amirite? ”

“They’re pro-life but they’ll still bomb an elementary school”

“You don’t beat your wife and crash your car stoned on weed. More like raid the fridge!”

It takes a true professional to get onstage, take a safe side on a sensitive subject, and still get laughs. However, a hack can take a safe side and get an easy “Gimme” applause break. (“Clap if you’re happy the gays can get married”. No shit, this is fucking Montrose). The so-called “Social Justice Hacks” are fairly prevalent, as there is a shit-load of injustice in the world. My college ethics professor had a running joke. He used to joke that “If you’ve read anything about slavery or the Holocaust, hopefully, your opinion on it is a negative one.” This joke always killed the class. The edgy should and always will beat out the safe in comedy. In politics, however, this trend is reversed. Politicians cannot be edgy, they must be voted in. When Obama mentions war, the message is “We need to keep America safe”, rather than “We need to go overseas and put landmines where children play”. On the Drug War, the message is  “We need to keep America safe from vicious cartels”, rather than “I think 15-year-olds should get ten years in prison over a joint”. When I imagine someone who thinks that is an acceptable policy, I imagine somebody very cruel and ignorant.The point being is that it is very, very difficult to elegantly articulate terrible, cruel ideas that will hurt a lot of innocent people. Granted, Hitler and Reagan had a gift. As we remember from the year 2008, Obama used to not be the first President in favor of Gay Marriage. One day at least 55% of Americans were pro-gay marriage, and so was he. What seemed to him taking a stand for truth and justice was essentially Obama taking a popular stance; the political equivalent of pandering. With politics as polarizing as ever, the “edgy” comedian doing a bit about legalizing weed is taking a very safe route as 50 million registered voters agree with him. Plus, Bill Hicks already said all of this shit years ago. Viewpoints on stage seen as cruel or ignorant will rarely yield laughs. It’s probably better to assume the audience you’re performing to is smart enough to know the difference between good and evil.

 

 

 

 

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Tim Mathis: Houston’s Loose Canon Tightens Up

by Al Bahmani

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“Tim is a silly, funny and intelligent everyman who has this ability to be to liked by both black and white audiences.”

Theodore ME Taylor

 Houston Funniest Person 2011

So what’s new?

This Sunday I’m going to be in Kevin Hart Presents “Hart of the City” with a few other Houston comics and a Dallas comic. The other Houston comics in it are Crystal Powell and Ken Boyd. Alfred Kainga is the Dallas guy. The episode was filmed at Cafe 4212 which is a little jazz club in downtown Houston.

Where are you from and how’d you get into comedy?

I was raised in Clute, Texas. It’s a smaller town right off of Hwy 288 right by Lake Jackson, Texas about an hour south of Houston. The population was about 8,000 people when I grew up there. It’s very different now. I was homeschooled and then went to Christian school and then I went to the Navy in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which was horrible. I did anti ship missile defense. I didn’t do much there except paint. When I got out of the Navy, I went to Alvin Community College because I wanted to get into radio.

A College radio station in Alvin, Tx?

89.7 FM KACC is a classic rock station. Back then I had my own weekly show that was a mix of politics and pop culture. Radio is where I learned how to write jokes. (On the radio) I was always trying to be funny. Some of the jokes were a little too edgy, so I had to get approval to get them on the air. From there I got a job as a radio producer for KSEV 700 AM, a radio station owned by now Lt. Governor (of Texas) Dan Patrick from 2007-2011.  I had an early morning Saturday show. I was libertarian before everyone else was.

What did radio production involve?

With radio production you do the behind the scenes stuff, like run the show clock, answer calls, run the sound board and if they are a bunch of guests in there, you check the levels. Basically you keep the show on the rails. It’s not totally different from running a comedy comedy show. You still got to deal with different personalities. Comedy is different because it’s a live performance. With radio I can cut mics and go to commercial. You can’t go to commercial in comedy.

The transition from radio to comedy was much easier because I had my own radio show since I was in college in 2007.  I already knew how to write jokes and talk without verbal ticks like “uh, um and like” and all that. It was a really smooth transition into stand up.

What led to that transition from radio to stand up?

I got laid off from my radio gig in January 2011. Lt. Governor. Dan Patrick is actually the guy that laid me off. After two or three month of being depressed, I needed a creative outlet. I always wanted to do stand up so I went to the Sherlocks open mic and did my first set in April 2011.

I don’t know who the host was but Kid (Chris Reid) from Kid N Play did thirty minutes. He was supposed to seven and did about thirty. I was like, “I’ll be here a while”. I went up at one seventeen in the morning. So I was one of the last guys there and it went well for the four people that were there. I kept going on at Sherlocks and there Rich Williams told me about Uptown Hookah. I started going there and from Uptown, Netra Babin introduced me to Ali Siddiq and I became a regular at The Horn which is a room he used to run.

How did you end up booking your own comedy shows?

 I started booking my own shows around 2014. There was a room in Pearland, Texas called Skeets. It was a one-nighter and the guy booking the show didn’t want to book it anymore. He told me the budget and I took it. At one point I was running 5 rooms, which is about 4 too many. If you put together good shows then people are going to ask you to do more shows. If you put together crap shows and then you have to find venues.

What’s the best thing about starting in a place like Houston, Texas?

It’s a city of 4 million people and we have a lot of really good comics. There’s only two clubs and in order to get those spots you gotta be one of the funniest guys there is. It’s that competition that makes you very funny.

The “competitors” kept you funny are?

As far as comics go Jermaine Warren, Bryson Brown, Rich Williams, and then were those that were my mentors like Ali Siddiq, Caroline Picard, Billy D. Washington and All D. Freeman. I’d also like to publicly apologize to Sam Demaris. I drug you into a beef with another comic and I shouldn’t of done what I did. You helped me out early on and I apologize for that. 

And what are the pitfalls of doing comedy in a place like Houston, Texas?

There were times I’d be drunk by noon. In comedy alcoholism is easy because for number one, you’re always in a bar or a club that serves alcohol. A lot of times, you get free drinks and people will buy you drinks. Still to this day, I joke about not drinking any more and after the show people will come up to me and try to buy me more drinks. You don’t want to be a jerk, but you don’t want to break your sobriety. Andy Huggins helped me out a lot when I reached out to him. I’m still an alcoholic but I don’t drink.

Any advice anyone just starting comedy?

Stay in your lane, keep to yourself and don’t worry about other people. And don’t start any unnecessary drama.

So what’s next for you?

Right now I’m prepared for what every comes out. I got my website updated and I got a passport. I’ve been saving money in case I need to move anywhere. Everything is up in the air. I’ve never been on national TV before. I don’t know what’s next.

The Houston episode of “Kevin Hart Presents Hart of the City” airs this Sunday 10:30 PM CST on Comedy Central. A viewing will be taking place at Cafe 4212 for more details click here.

Comedy Pro-Tip: How NOT to Ask a Booker For Work

Do NOT ask for work in the first contact you have with someone. Introduce yourself and ask how to submit. You’re human first, comic second.

Do NOT ask for work while congratulating someone. Then it just looks like you’re only congratulating them because you want work. And you’ve just erased your good will (and thensome).

Do NOT ask for work with a general “What do you book?” Take the time to know who you’re speaking to.

Do NOT ask for work with a giant BCCed email. Use a mail merge program like GroupMail Pro or Max Bulk Mailer so even if your emails aren’t personal, it looks like they are.

Do NOT ever lie about your draw or your resume. Anyone you’re asking for work has seen more comics than you have, and can see through it.

And Do NOT bring up a tragic event to strike up a conversation and then casually bring up work.

As always, the best way to get work is to concentrate on being a good human being.

Hugs,

Steve Hofstetter

http://www.stevehofstetter.com
Follow Steve on Twitter
Check out his YouTube channel

This was posted with the permission of Steve Hofstetter.

The Etiquette of Bombing: A 5 step guide to recovery.

BillyDWashington

By Billy D. Washington

Edited By Al Bahmani

It’s late Friday night and a comic hears a knock at his hotel room door. A half dressed cutie stands there and says, “I saw your show tonight and got so turned on that I want you to make love to me tonight!“. The comic asks, “Was it the early or the late show?“.

There is nothing a comic takes more personally than bombing. Most would rather be accused of a crime than to be exposed to the uncomfortable stares of entertainment inadequacy. You never see it coming. The Bomb assumes its position when you least expect it. There is no clue as to its arrival, no prep for its ire and certainly no remedy for its results. Pre-bomb symptoms often take on flu like qualities. They include a sudden hot flash, a tightening in your vocal area, watery eyes, confusion and that one bead of sweat that develops somewhere in the middle of your back and rolls precisely through ass crack center. No matter how physically comedic or rhetorically gifted you are nobody is outside of its realm of influence. Many years ago I performed at the HBO comedy festival in Aspen and watched George Carlin stop in the middle of a taping and opt to close a showcase show later that night because the audience just wasn’t there for him.
Somewhere over the Rainbow…. If George Carlin can bomb, why oh why can’t I.

There are many ways to handle the Bomb, but as a comic who has experienced it few times and witnessed it many, I wanted to offer a few options as to how to address the humiliation with your head held high.

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