I recently noted in a post how Demetri Martin, somewhat good-naturedly, asked people to stop recording at the Human Giant show. I caught him again at this past Friday’s Greg Johnson Show at the sadly-soon-to-be-defunct Rififi. Near the end of his set, Martin thought a man was taping his performance with a cellphone. And this time his reaction was more insistent, asserting that he would come over and delete the file. The man said he was not recording. (I’m unsure of what he was doing. Perhaps taking a photo? That’s what a second man with a digital camera (unnoticed by Martin) appeared to be doing.) Martin finished his set soon after, noting his frustration with new jokes getting out there before they’re ready, interfering with his ability to make a living. It should be noted that, to my knowledge, no video of either set has made it to the web.
Martin is not the only one unnerved by this trend. I previously spoke to Michael Ian Black about the issue, who stated:
Honestly, it drives me fucking crazy. Because I feel like they’re stealing something and disseminating it without my permission.
Michael Ian Black also went on to state that he feels it’s a losing battle, but perhaps people are unaware that performers dislike it. Another comic annoyed by the trend is Sarah Silverman. The most recent issue of Wired, in an article about “Things That Suck”, Silverman is quoted as saying:
“I make a joke explaining why I’m asking them to stop, and then guess what,” she says. “They keep shooting — usually with shit-eating grins on their faces, waiting for me to get mad or do something embarrassing. Those people suck. They suck balls.”
This is just three comics, there’s more I’m sure. (I’m also sure there might be a couple who don’t mind. Does anyone know of one?)
Part of this is the age we’re living in. We have access to new technology that makes recording easier and have a generation of people who are auto-documentarians. Will people calm down after a time? Part of me suspects the next generation, disturbed by people who get hurt by living so openly on the web, might be naturally more guarded and less inclined to film, photograph and blog everything they experience. But that’s just speculation. So let’s assume that this is something performers will continue to deal with.
I understand the impulse to post video on the web from companies. It’s an end product that often networks have failed to make available, despite some demand. Many artists also understand this behavior (Ian Black in the same interview said he was actually OK with people stealing his album). But a live stand-up set is not an end product. It’s a moment in time. Sometimes the performer may have new material that’s being developed that they want to put into a product like a CD or a special. It’s ready for the audience attending. The comic wants to give them a good show. But it’s not necessarily ready for wide dissemination.
Comedy is so dependent on presentation. It has to be frustrating to not be able to have the time to be able to enhance and improve upon an idea before it reaches the whole world. Recording video from a stand-up show is not akin to recording a band’s concert. It’s akin to releasing the initial jam session or rough track for a CD. You can see the root of the idea and it might be enjoyed and appreciated, but it’s not in any way ready for a general audience to consume. Musicians can go and work out a song in private, comics don’t have that luxury. They must test and test and test before a live audience.
How can people be made aware that the price of a ticket does not give the right to tape? Are announcements necessary? Why do some persist in doing it, even after being asked (as in Silverman’s case)?