I don’t actually go see stand-up comedy very often. I have never seen anyone fancy perform in person–no Louis CK, no Dave Chappelle, No Margaret Cho, no Blue Collar Tour, no Kings of Comedy. Paul F. Tompkins…he’s the fanciest person I have seen in person. He is a fancy dresser, to be sure.
But the fact remains that I rarely go to comedy clubs or to theaters for shows. I don’t know why. Maybe my hermit-ish tendencies. Maybe that 500-page dissertation I am turning into a book. Maybe I don’t like paying. Graduate students don’t like paying. Nor do unemployed academics.
Thus, my favorite comedian to see in person is Doug Mellard. Doug is funny. Doug was the funniest person in Austin. But Doug has one other thing going for him: he puts me on the list. Free comedy. It’s my favorite. Pay $5 to download a comedy special by Louis CK? No thanks. I’ll wait for the FX special.
Since my research is on Mark Twain, not stand-up, I can justify my cheapness. But if show promoters want me, or one of our contributing editors in LA, Boston, or Ypsilanti, Michigan to review a show, please contact us about where to pick up our free tickets. Seriously.
Back to the point. Thanks to Doug, I went to Cap City Comedy for a show (for free) with Doug and Chuck Watkins. Both Doug and Chuck moved from Austin to LA to pursue comedy dreams, which involved sharing a one-bedroom with a tent in the living room. On an unrelated note, follow Doug on Twitter.
Funny guys. But I also noticed, since I figured I would write something about the show, the difference between watching a stand-up special on TV and watching live comedy. People. An old man laughing at jokes despite only hearing half of them. A woman with a blank face in the front row–only smiling occasionally. And many people laughing, primed to laugh, wanting to laugh.
I have grown increasingly fascinated by watching the audience during comedy–mostly during free specials on the TV. The reactions of audiences are, of course, central to all art, but especially for stand-up. John Limon, in Stand-up Comedy in Theory, Or, Abjection in America, posits three theorems that define stand-up as an absolute genre:
1. If you [meaning “you” the audience] think something is funny, it is.
2. A joke is funny if and only if you laugh at it.
3. Your laughter is the single end of stand-up. (11-12)
I’m not so sure these work out all that well, but I do think they are a good starting point for a discussion. But I don’t have much to say about the audience at Doug and Chuck’s show, as I was busy laughing. I would like to hear from other contributors to this blog about their views on audience reception and laughter.
I wanted to present you some clips from Doug and Chuck’s respective comedy CDs, which I purchased (cheapness be damned!), but my disk drive is broken (cheapness be damned!). Instead, here is a video of the title joke from Doug’s CD, “Wipe your Paws,” followed by a song from “The Sophistimicated Wit of Chuck Watkins, Esquire.”
And Doug, feel free to send me a track or video to post here. If you send me a clip of you reading from the list, I will pay to go see you next time (cheapness be damned!).
See more here.
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See below for flyer for a Chuck Watkins show about ALF.