Let's start by saying that we all have to start somewhere. If you're a comedian, you start where you are. I love you as a human. But as a comedian, I'm not so sure. There are some massive mistakes you can make as a comic that will automatically alienate half of your audience (the female half), and maybe more. Want to avoid them?
So when I refer the dick joke, I'm referring to a whole class of humor… a dick joke, rape joke, chicks are easy joke, sex joke, or really any joke, if you’re 19, straight, white, male, and think you’re being “edgy”.
So let's go over why I, who am normally enthusiastic and supportive toward new comedians, need to get some things off my chest.
5. You’re not breaking new ground.
Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor broke all the ground already. They had shovels. There's already a big hole in the ground now. With highrises built all over that ground.
In a time when that shit was taboo, they spoke it. They mastered the profane. It wasn’t ok to say, and so saying it was ok! And now that it’s ok, you’re really, really not sharing anything new with me.
INSTEAD: Find something try breaking new ground. Not by getting even MORE obscene, but by being even MORE creative. What would that look like?
4. You just started doing comedy a year ago.
You still think the dick joke you thought of is the most revolutionary thing ever because people are actually laughing at it.
INSTEAD: Go watch ten old comedy specials from the 80's and see what they were doing back then. Cross out any joke of yours that is at all similar. Throw out your old set and write a new one. Pat yourself on the back for just keeping going, and just keep going. It gets better. And you will too.
3. You can influence people with your comedy, even if your comedy is evil.
Comedy is supposed to be subversive. That’s why we love to be edgy on stage. Edginess gets its strength from subverting the dominant paradigm. But guess what? The systems in place still support the people in power, who are STILL straight, white, relatively rich men (give or take a few). If you’re not poking fun at power, you’re not being subversive. If you’re not being subversive, you’re not being edgy, you’re just being shocking, and that’s empty and gratuitous. And I'm bored.
And now that straight white men think they’re oppressed, so they now think that telling their boring old dick jokes is actually edgy, subversive, shocking, revelatory, and controversial. guess what? It snot. It’s just more old paradigm bullshit, and it’s uncreative.
INSTEAD: Find a creative way to expose and make fun of a powerful institution or person who is abusing their power. Hint: politics!
2. You’re not Louis CK.
If you’re not bringing your own vulnerability, I’m bored.
Any joke that doesn’t reveal something about your vulnerability is a missed opportunity for us getting to hear your true voice. people who are willing to be vulnerable with their dick jokes, like Louis CK.
People who are not being as vulnerable, but are poking fun at those in power are also doing something revolutionary. Jon Stewart. Stephen Colbert.
Truly vulnerable humans touch their own pain and their own hearts and their own insecurities, and when they do, they touch ours. It’s nice when somebody is finally getting touched. The audience can only go as deep as the comic can go, and if you’re playing at surface-level emotionality, or you’re in your head that’s where you’ll take the audience.
INSTEAD: Show us your heartbreak. Show us what you care about. Show us the thoughts you wish you didn't have. Make fun of yourself. It will change everything.
1. You’re not that funny.
Let’s say you’re brilliant. you’re on par with Emo Philips or Mitch Hedberg (I’d give you an example of female comedians, but you only know a few of them). Let's say you are really, really good. You could say something I totally disagree with, and even find offensive. But you're so creative and you do it so well that I'm still impressed and I laugh. If you do that, congratulations! Here’s your frickin' tiara.
The truth is, being that good is like being a baseball star. You're probably not there, yet. You're probably not that funny. So…
INSTEAD: Don't try so hard to be funny. Give being real a try. After a while, people will start to want to hear what you have to say. You will find punchlines naturally. You will get better and better. I promise. And then I'll come see your show.
I want more from you. You can do it.