Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Case For Alt. Comedy

When I first moved to the city and started to do comedy, I was urged by many to go what is known as the alternative route. Apparently because I was a woman and was different, it would be the perfect home for me. So I decided to check it out. As opposed to the clubs who want you to bring to death and have no interest in passing you, especially if you are a woman, the alt rooms didn't require me to bring. That's what I decided to check it out.

There were things I liked and that I didn't like.

I liked the fact that they were more welcoming to women comedians and their performers thought out of the box. Sometimes, because the vibe could be more experimental from time to time I felt more like I belonged. And also, I had several supporters in the alt world who opened their doors to me, and also recommended me for other shows and auditions.

On the flipside there were things I didn't like. They were too politically correct for me. Not to mention they were comedy snobs, always picking apart every joke. Offstage they were stoic and treated comedy as serious business and actually couldn't take a joke. Not to mention that they were all from schools like Wesleyan, Sarah Lawrence, Oberlin, Bowdoin, and Barnard and you name it. As a result they tried being different for the sake of being different making them all the same and annoying. They wanted the challenge the audience and forgot their job was to make the audience laugh. Not to mention they were uptight about being politically correct. Comedy isn't about being politically correct.

Oh and then they all bragged about living in Williamsburg or Bushwick-posh hang outs-forgetting two blocks away they could easily get robbed by the Latin Kings.

For the most part I was hit or miss in Alt Rooms. Sometimes if I went on towards the end when the hipsters were drunk they loved me. However if they were more uptight this was not going to work. Eventually I wandered away from the Alt scene. In part because their definition of ground breaking had nothing to do with groundbreaking but just being weird looking with no substance. Not to mention they were too cliquish for me. And the bookings didn't come my way. I ended up doing a bunch of club shows, hitting the shows, and in between was affiliated with a circle of comedy that was seemingly the antithesis of alternative comedy.

However this past summer I changed my mind. I was invited to do Ed Sullivan on Acid. Pat O'Shea was hosting in Park Slope. I had known Pat for years and admired him as a comedian, but had never been asked to do the show. Finally one night after chilling with Sean Lynch we were all hanging and Pat invited me. I remember getting there and being nervous because it was an Alt show. I had always been shut out of the ECNY Awards and seemed to be the thing many an Alt person detested.

I spoke to some of the comedians before the show and I felt at home. Each were serious students of the art of comedy. It was refreshing to see.

The show started and the house was packed. One by one, each and every comedian that performed  was funny. Not only were they gifted in the ha ha department, but also they were exceptional writers. Their material was smart, challenged the audience, and still got the laugh. Alternative Comedy didn't just get my respect that evening, but it made me want to do more alt rooms as a matter of fact.

I went up and I did well. Sure, I was out of the box but I couldn't help feel that I didn't match up as far as my writing went. Actually, I know I didn't. Afterwards, the comedians were very complimentary towards me. We talked at length about comedy, our favorite and least favorite and about what made things funny. At that moment I didn't want to slum for laughs anymore. I wanted to make my audience not only laugh but think.

Some of the funniest comedians are alt and that is not an accident. So many times I have seen club comedians go to the lowest common denominator for a laugh and treat their audience like they are stupid. Alt comedians treat their audience like they have a brain, what's wrong with that? Not to mention club comedians are so busy telling the latest dick joke that they rely on stage presence-something I have been guilty of in the past. However in the alternative world it is all about the writing because in the end the joke writing is all you have.

That being said, I have seen excellent club comedians too that do care about their joke writing. And also I have seen bad alt comedians who believe they are too cool to make the audience laugh.

On the same token, when an Alt comedian is excellent, they are beyond the pale.

Bottom line, there is too much division and fighting in comedy. Instead of calling each other names maybe we should all be learning from each other. The alternative comedians taught me I was doing the right thing by being me and that I need to step up my writing game. They taught me not to hide my brain.

Why should you choose to be stupid.


I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
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  1. Awesome.
    You get it.
    Too much division.
    Thanks April!

  2. Hey no problemo Champ! You get it too. Just make people laugh!