Making Fun of the Zebras isn’t Edgy

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

This is a guest post from Matt Ruby, a New York City comedian who blogs over at Sandpaper Suit. He is the cohost of “We’re All Friends Here,” the comedy chat show/podcast with boundary issues.

Why am I excited for an Obama presidency? Because it means I won’t have to sit in the back of another NYC alternative comedy show watching some 20-something white dude who dreams of being “the next Bill Hicks” spout off on how lame McCain and Palin (or Bush/Cheney before that) are.

Oh really, you mean you DON’T think Sarah Palin is smart? And you think she talks funny? And John McCain is old? Thanks for the news flash.

This is lame because:

  • What’s the point of making fun of Republicans in the East Village? Everyone here already gets it and is on the same page.
  • Stewart and Colbert have this beat covered pretty damn well. If you’re not bringing a fresh perspective, what’s the point?
  • Who wants to hear a kid talk about politics anyway? Watching someone without life experience talk about politics is like listening to a virgin explain how to fuck.

I get that this guy wants to be “edgy.” But walking into a room and telling everyone there that what they already think is right is not edgy.

Edgy is telling audience members why something they think is wrong, or missing the point, or stupid. It’s presenting a new point of view, not just confirming preexisting ones. You wanna be edgy in a NYC alternative room packed with liberals? Make fun of NYC alternative/liberal crowds. (There’s plenty to mock on both sides of the fence.)

Some examples:

Greg Proops, in Houston, making fun of country music and the people who attacked the Dixie Chicks (audio). He also goes after “God is on our side” types and Rush Limbaugh in other parts of the set.

Bill Burr telling the entire city of Philadelphia why he thinks they’re a bunch of “stupid Philly cheese-eating fucking jackasses” (video).

Todd Barry, at a show in Cambridge, Boston, calling out a “narrow-minded fake liberal fuck” for stereotyping the south (audio, starts 1:29 in).

Paul F. Tompkins telling a UCB LA crowd why he hates the odd pets of “crazy hipster alternativo types” (audio).

Chris Rock, in his classic “Niggas vs. Black People” bit, telling a roomful of black people why he hates “niggas” (video, starts 10:18 in).

(Some of those are obviously edgier than others but you get the point.)

Bottom line: If you want to be edgy, don’t come into the lion’s den and make fun of the zebras. Come into the lion’s den and make fun of the lion. That takes real balls.

You can see “We’re All Friends Here” live tonight (Thursday, Oct. 30) at 8pm at The Slipper Room in NYC (show details).

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Comments

Posted by John Morrison on 10/31  at  11:54 PM

Outstanding… should be printed up and handed out before every show.

Posted by Cockatron on 11/11  at  05:45 PM

FUCK EDGINESS!

Was that edgy enough? Whoa, easy there, lions.

Sam Vargo
Posted by Sam Vargo on 11/12  at  03:59 PM

I enjoyed your criticism of some of the very nasty but trite and stupid comedy surrounding politics. A lot of idiots (and I humbly commit myself to this asylum, too), really jazzed up the soup with not only some fine carrots, but some real nasty gruel bits, too.

A few side slants, if I can, though, is first, the First Amendment allows for such buffoonery. Smart and dumb people alike will call unfunny comedians on their dross and drool. No real need to lambaste them here. Remember, friend, the bottom line in any comic’s bag of snickety tricks is always “Was it funny?” Read the Dead Frog banner on this point - an old line about dissecting a frog pinned down by Wit of the Old Moldy Times - Samuel Johnson, I think -

Another point is the reaction from these nitwits who are being picked on is what has really driven all the moose jokes, the how many houses does Mc have jokes, the Alaska is a continent joke. Funny thing is when these issues become non-issues, that’s when no jokes will be told. Sadly, all the Sarah Palin jokes will cease, but so will any and all talk of Ms. Palin. I personally respect this lady for taking a very bold stance and showing some actual patriotic fervor in running for a Republican very high office. Nothing wrong with that. Most NLHN writers and comics probably respect Sarah, too. Sadly, however, in four years nobody will know her, unless she does some really good and unique things in Alaska as a governor. We’ll see.

Isn’t it nice to live in a country where we can tell some silly little joke about a powerful politico and keep our heads? I mean, really, guy, I’m talking about the thing on your shoulders as a form of matter.

Read some of the writers who come from totalitarian regimes and thank God we have a First Amendment right to free speech in the good ole’ U.S.A. Without it, someone would’ve signed me away a long, long time ago, along with about a zillion other funny people and not-so-funny people.

One thing’s for certain, Dude, don’t try to analyze comedy. It’s impossible. Ask Mr. Todd jackson about this one himself.

Posted by Karl on 11/21  at  02:46 AM

“Who wants to hear a kid talk about politics anyway? Watching someone without life experience talk about politics is like listening to a virgin explain how to fuck.”

Whew! and to think, I almost voted!

that’s the first of my qualms.

Posted by Tom on 12/08  at  11:25 PM

(coffee spit take) Exactly! 

This is perfect. Really nicely thought out there, Todd.  Thanks much for this.

Posted by Jono11 on 12/18  at  04:30 AM

“the First Amendment allows for such buffoonery.”—Fortunately, Matt wasn’t trying to change the Constitution to disallow freedom of speech.  I can see how you might have mistaken what he was saying for a desire to amend the Bill of Rights, but I want to alleviate your concern.

“Remember, friend, the bottom line in any comic’s bag of snickety tricks is always “Was it funny?””—Dude, NO!  Larry the Cable Guy can ALWAYS answer “yes” to that question.  Art is more than “Did the mediocre fucko audience like it?”

“I personally respect this lady for taking a very bold stance and showing some actual patriotic fervor in running for a Republican very high office.”—Yeah, well, she’s also a fucking douchebag.

“Isn’t it nice to live in a country where we can tell some silly little joke about a powerful politico and keep our heads?”—Yeah, but it would be even nicer to live in a country where people didn’t act like that’s a privilege, and it’s something we should always be thankful for while we pay off our 20-year-old student loan debt and our house payments and slowly but surely mortgage our hopes, dreams, and futures to a cold, soulless machine that makes us all dead inside.

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