Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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84 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Relatively few people are talented and almost none are geniuses. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to write laws that say “You only get to be vulgar and offensive if you’re really good at it.” Those guys (and the crummy appetizers) are the price we pay for George Carlin, Chris Rock, and Dave Chapelle. And it used to be worse. At least standup these days isn’t 90% “Man, I was was so fishing wasted.”

    This is a serious suggestion: Next time you guys feel like a night of comedy, get your favorite drinks, make your favorite snacks, and rent the Hugh Laurie/Steven Fry version of Jeeves and Wooster.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      For the record, the hot pretzel I had was *WONDERFUL*. As in: I could see going back for just one of those, on one of those nights when there were no comedians around to listen to while I enjoyed it. (Seriously: It was a GOOD FREAKIN’ PRETZEL.)

      This was the first time I went out to a night of comedy since the last time because of the comedian himself: he was someone who was a senior when I was a sophomore and my dear, dear friends whom I love very much went to high school with him and they make me go to his show when he is in town.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The variant of comedy I expected (but didn’t get, to my surprise) was the “Different Persons Are Different!” kind of jokes.

    Example: “Men do (act) like this… but women do (act) like *THAT*!” (Variant: “White People do (act) like this… but Black People do (act) like that!”)

    I regret to inform that I find such jokes really funny.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      A woman will say to another woman “You are my oldest and dearest friend, and I cannot picture my life without you.”

      A man will express that same feeling by asking “You still driving that piece of shit?”Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

        The best stand-up comedians are really stand-up philosophers: they have the same goal as any other artist, which is uncovering and describing “truth.” Louis C.K. explores moral dimensions as deeply and as richly as any novelist I’m aware of. Bill Cosby, and George Carlin, and Maria Bamford, and all the good ones are really chasing after resonant observation,.

        Second- and third-tier comedians are something else entirely.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I’m with you on Louis C.K., Cosby, and Bamford (whose internet show is friggin’ hilarious), but Carlin, at least after his early success, always truck me as mostly just doing the sort of thing I describe below. It wasn’t funny, or particularly insightful, just quasi-intellectual to an extent that allowed the audience to feel smart by “getting it” and agreeing with it.

          “When I was a kid, I was a Catholic… at least until I reached the age of reason.”

          I always feel like saying, “Hey oh!”Report

  3. (Full disclosure: I hate standup. A guy with a two by four on his shoulder turning around and hitting someone? COMEDY GOLD. Someone standing in front of a crowd and telling a joke? That is my own personal First World Problem, right there.)

    ARGH! That’s actually the subject of a Stupid Tuesday question I’ve had brewing in my brain! (May as well go with it tomorrow.)Report

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    The comedy trope, used by some standup comedians, that drives me crazy is the one that essentially says, “Here’s an ostensibly smart thing thing that, when you laugh in response, allows you to signal how intelligent you are.”

    Something… something… something… quantum mechanics!

    Something… something… something… Sartre!

    Something… something… something… big words!

    This sort of joke is, not surprisingly, very popular among academics.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      And Dennis Miller.

      Ugh. Don’t hate him because he turned really conservative; hate him because he is, and always was, a terrible comedian.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I think Dennis Miller is a genius. His entire career is based on telling unfunny jokes, but including in those jokes enough obscure references and words that only people currently studying for the GRE would recognize that people laugh for fear of looking less intelligent than the people laughing around them. He realized that you don’t need to be funny to be a successful standup comedian, you just have to own a thesaurus and subscribe to The New Yorker.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          His name was the first thing that popped to mind when I read your comment. He’s really, really awful. Painful.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            My first thought was actually Carlin, before I saw Snark’s comment up above. My initial exposure to Carlin was not Seven Dirty words, but actually going to a show in the 90s with a friend of mine who was a big fan. I came out of the show thinking, “Dear God, that was awful. It just felt like a guy who thinks he’s smart, but really isn’t, saying things with enough confidence that people who are less confident in their intelligence will laugh out of insecurity.” My roommate laughed through the entire show*, and I don’t think I laughed once.

            *We were both philosophy majors, and both from small southern towns. I think we both experienced a lot of insecurity around other “intellectuals,” and therefore overcompensated by acting as though we liked things that we really didn’t like, because liking those things was associated with being an “intellectual.” I imagine that what saved me from “liking” Carlin was that I’d never heard of him before that night, so I didn’t realize that smart people were supposed to think he was hilarious prior to my seeing just how un-hilarious he was.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              I felt the same way after a Whoopi Goldberg show, expect that it wasn’t about being smart, it was about being moral. She was preaching standard liberal pieties slightly disguised as jokes. It was unpleasant as hell, and I mostly agreed with her!

              I enjoy Carlin because he was a smart guy who knew exactly what he was doing. Even when he was preachy, his mastery of the craft of writing and telling jokes was unmistakable. And not because the work showed, but because it didn’t. I don’t think there’s a funnier four-word sentence in the English language than

              “Forecast for tonight — dark!”Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Carlin was great because he could dance on the edge of being transgressive and mocking himself. It wasn’t always clear whether he was shoving your face in hypocrisy, ranting at society or playing an idiot then mocking himself. He was doing all three but you couldn’t always be sure which he was doing and when. I’ve heard people quote Carlin lines in service of their own beliefs. They didn’t even get the routine enough to see the part they were quoting was Carlin playing an idiot so he could laugh at himself.

                He also was loved and trusted enough by his fans, and had a great delivery that he could get laughs just by ranting. That isn’t easy or usually actually funny.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          And Miller gave us SO much to mock. Really good parodies of him are fantastic.

          And that is before we even get to… no, no… I won’t even mention what he did to Monday nights.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Do you remember Ed Anger from Weekly World Magazine? That’s what Dennis Miller’s become. All his jokes are wretched similes. I’m madder than a zombie with a mouthful of Joe Biden’s brains! I’m madder than a penguin on Miami Beach over all the mealy-mouthed politicians whining about the economy and not doing anything about it.


      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        When he turned neocon, he became Preachy instead of Ironic. Preachy is very near to the antipode of Funny.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      NPR did a story on comedians refining their craft and one comedienne told a story about how a bit of hers made reference to “Gravity’s Rainbow” (not an essential reference) and she was coached to change it to Tolstoy or Nietzsche or something. Make it more accessibly intellectual.


      • Avatar Chris says:

        That is perfect. I’m glad it’s a real enough phenomenon that comedians are being coached on it.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        And yet…Woody Allen’s writing and Simpsons (back when it was good) both successfully do this (slip in references or punchlines that are deliberately cerebral).

        Why is that different? Because it’s not stand-up, or because they immediately undercut it with something much less cerebral?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          As I understand it, it is one thing to reference something else that might be niche but itself is funny and quite another thing to have the entirety of the hilarity be, “We understand what he’s referencing and no one else does. Look at how much smarter we are… hardy har har.”

          Actually, to get real meta, there is the episode of “The Simpsons” where Bart fakes his way into genius school and the teacher gives a question which makes all the kids laugh and that is because the solution works out to “Hardy har had.” The kids didn’t laugh because they solved an equation that no one else could; theoretically, everyone in the room could (Bart being the exception as he didn’t belong, but they didn’t know that yet). The kids laughed because “Hardy har har” as the answer to a math question is funny.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Smart humor is possible, but it has to be actually smart and actually funny. Woody Allen, at his best (which is to say, in the 70s), was an expert at this. The “smartness” wasn’t just pandering, it was actually part of the humor.

          The Simpsons are a different thing entirely. Once upon a time, at least, The Simpsons were hilarious with smart humor and fart jokes, often one after the other. This is a form of smart humor that actively avoids pretentiousness, and even mocks it. Lisa is a perfect example: she’s the smartest person in the room, which often causes her to think and behave pretentiously, and it’s in her most pretentious moments that she looks the most absurd.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            Monty Python at its best does the same thing. Dennis the peasant works best if you know both Arthurian legend and some political theory, but everyone can enjoy seeing the black knight’s limbs get hacked off.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Many of my favorite Python sketches are exploration of philosophical problems:

              The translation book that had a malicious translator.

              The cheese shop with the proprietor that had no cheese to sell.

              The book seller shop with the customer that wanted books that did not exist.

              And the great (though not unlimited) well of politeness that kept the sketch going.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The argument clinic, which is about levels and meta-levels of discussion.

                And then there’s the lumberjack sketch. which is about violating expectations as violently as possible.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              One of the things that made Monty Python so brilliant is that Dennis the peasant is friggin’ hilarious if you know Arthurian legend and some political theory, but Dennis the peasant is also friggin’ hilarious if all you know is that a peasant spouting political theory in a mud-pit to a medieval king on an imaginary horse is just plain absurd, particularly when he responds to mild violence at the hand of the king by saying something as pointless as, “Help, help, I’m being repressed!” And you don’t have to be all that smart or well-educated to recognize that absurdity.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Mocking the writers might have had something to do with the antipretentiousness of the Simpsons.

            Bored, in the writing room? Make fun of someone else there.
            Always good for a laugh.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Or to the Real Housewives of New Jersey, because that’s something regular people know about.Report

  5. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Stand up has lost its edge. The best sort of stand up comedian is the storyteller. Those people go on to write good movies and we don’t see them behind a microphone for long. I’m with Jaybird: physical comedy is flat-out funny where a wry, skim-milk joke about Men and Women just isn’t.

    I used to live just up Wells Street from Second City in Chicago. Zanies was just across North Avenue. The fare varied widely: you never knew if the comedians would be good or horrible. It’s a strange world, comedy, a cutthroat business. Sorta reminds me of the music business. All these people arrive on the scene with a dozen well-crafted jokes — they get some laffs — then what? More of the same, in an attempt to mine the same vein of ore? Or go back to the workshop and attempt to write something truly original?

    Too many comedians seem to end up in the same place, over and over again. Sure, the subject of men and women is a rich vein of ore — stupid things kids and pets do, too. But for my money, I want a good storyteller on stage, someone who can engage me, pull me into his world. And I don’t mean some lead-in to an absurdist punchline. Ron White tells stories, not jokes.

    I’m not a comedian. I’m Lenny Bruce. That sums it up for me. The comedian doesn’t tell jokes. He’s a storyteller.Report

  6. Avatar Glyph says:

    Cosby was a genius, Carlin I can take or leave (but I get what people liked about him), CK, Chappelle and Rock are all pretty great (CK is largely in the delivery for me; he only has a handful of jokes that would work if anybody else told them) but I am a pretty big fan of the sort of skewed humor that is focused on the viewpoint of one weird individual, then paints a world with that. Think Steven Wright/Mitch Hedberg/even Emo Philips (should I be ashamed?)Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Also, I am pretty disappointed that Galifianakis seems to be going the movie star route; his stand-up was pretty interesting.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      One of the stupider Hedberg jokes that I love entirely too much goes like this:

      “I can’t wait for this set to be over… because I have a roll of Life Savers in my pocket… and pineapple is next.” Told with his typical delivery (I’m sure those who are familiar can imagine.)

      I love it because I sometimes structure entirely too much of my day around indulging in a tiny pleasure. Or thinking about indulging in a tiny pleasure.

      Case in point: My roommate and I after college used to take turns cooking dinner. He made a fantastic shrimp pasta. Well, fantastic for two 22-year-old dudes living in a basement together. On the nights I knew he was cooking it, I’d usually email him at work around 10AM with little more than, “I CAN’T WAIT TO GET HOME AND EAT SHRIMP PASTA!”

      He would do the same for me when I did quesadilla night.

      I miss times being that simple…Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I was lucky enough to see Hedberg as an opener without any prior familiarity with him. Instant fan, snapped up everything I could find (which wasn’t much). He died a couple years after. It’s too bad he couldn’t hold it together, I really appreciated the fundamental gentleness/sweetness of his act.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Since this is on the main page (thanks for pointing that out Jay… ugh, I’m starting to dislike the new layout), I’m of two minds on Chappelle. On the one hand, some of his standup is friggin’ hilarious (the bit about being in a limo in the projects in the middle of the night!), but some of his standup, and a lot of his show (though the Prince skit with Charlie Murphy is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen) are just, well… counterproductive is the nicest word I can think of. With racial humor there’s laughing at difference because, hey, we’re all different and we all do things that are funny, but it doesn’t imply real condescension because of the difference, and then there’s laughing at people because we feel superior. I’ve always felt that a lot of Chappelle’s humor, particularly on the show, looked like an invitation to laugh at how silly black people are, and I find that disturbing. I think he did too after a while, which is why he turned down 50 mil to continue to do it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The fact that when I post stuff I always post it in the wrong place for the first six hours or so probably doesn’t help either.

        (Stupid people with tablets. Ruining it for everybody.)Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        As far as why he quit the show, my understanding is that you are correct – he worried he was giving ammunition to the “wrong” sort of laughter. I’m not entirely sure he wasn’t equally making fun of white people (remember his “whiteface” “Chuck Taylor” character?); I also worry that this is sort of an inevitable consequence of our “only someone who belongs to a group should ever make fun of that group, and they shouldn’t make fun of other groups” mentality.

        That is, if we limit the comedy only to “insiders” making fun of their own “group”, then sooner or later it starts to look like only their group is doing goofy things.

        Comedians should be equal-opportunity offenders.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Coincidentally, I was flipping through the channels this weekend when I happened upon Chappelle playing Taylor in the skit about reparations. Taylor goes to their Wall Street correspondent who, from the floor of the stock exchange, talks about all of the companies whose stocks have jumped in just a few hours since reparations were finally awarded to black people: Kentucky fried chicken, Sprint (2 million delinquent bills finally paid), Cadillac, etc. Basically a bunch of stereotypes about black people, with the white correspondent emphasizing “these people” when he says it. Chuck Taylor ends with, “The crime rate has fallen to 0%… how could that be, did the Mexicans get money too?… I shouldn’t have said that.” As I was watching it, I couldn’t figure out whether he was making fun of white people and the way they see black people, or really making fun of black people, with a moderately humorous representation of white people (in that “white” voice that so many non-white comedians use) to make it OK to just make fun of black people for a mostly white audience. I admit I laughed at the Sprint part, but the rest of it just left me… not uncomfortable, but puzzled, I think.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            “I shouldn’t have said that” was something that character said more than once, IIRC…the implication to me being that he had voiced some internal thought or feeling or suspicion or cliche that might have *some* small basis in reality (even if there are statistical or supplementary reasons as to why), and yet he felt white liberal guilt for even voicing it.

            But regarding your point in the “layers” – part of why I think Chappelle is a genius is that it’s not always immediately clear exactly what he is getting at. I think we have a need to always know clearly exactly who the “target” of any joke is – but I am not sure there always is one (or maybe not only a single target).Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I’m of the impression that that sketch was an attempt at a political discussion. Sort of a “so let’s have reparations… what happens?”

            His tentative conclusion, as far as I can tell, is that people won’t be helped in the way that we would hope… but, at the same time, it would address the crime problem.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              That makes sense. The Wall Street correspondent says at one point, if I remember correctly, that “These people can’t give the money back to us fast enough,” or something like that. That definitely makes a political point that’s worth thinking about. I dunno if the KFC and Cadillac parts do, though. Those feel like pandering to the mostly white audience. “We’re going to get serious here for a moment, but don’t worry, heh… we still think black people are silly, with their fried chicken and their not paying their bills and their love of music.”Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                If I recall, the tension you refer to it’s why he stopped doing the show. He got the sense that people were laughing at the wrong things.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                This is a dynamic with black comedians that is unfortunate, but because of the racial dynamics in this country, inescapable. How can you make jokes about your world without playing right into prejudice? Are people laughing because it’s funny, or because it confirms their feeling of superiority? And often the latter is a more direct route to fame and fortune, which can make it a very tempting one to take.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                By making jokes about the incredibly mundane, of course.
                Field Negro (who is a lawyer not a comedian) had a post about “what black middle-class folks talk about when white folks aren’t around.”
                It’d make a decent skit.

                … or, just make an entire skit about being “on display”…
                [start scene: white folks at an all-white bbq, looking stiff and bored. One guy suggests peeking over the fence at the black guy’s bbq next door (if wanted, insert “racist” reason, if not, done simply because bored) ]
                [second panel: black folks doing just about what the white folks are doing.]
                [third panel: white guy pratfalling, white folks heading indoors]
                [fourth panel: black folks turning on the rap music]
                [fifth panel: pan back to show white folks’ kids peering down at the black folks with binoculars]
                [sixth panel: pipsqueak black kid saying “they finally went away.” second kid, “Now we can relax” Papa says, “you kids can do whatchu wanna, I’m going to SLEEP!”]Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                This is actually similar to why I had issues with Stuff White People Like. It seemed to serve one of two purposes for most people: either laughing at a particular subset of white culture from the outside -OR- chuckling at yourself from within a subset of white culture.

                Few white people I knew were actually willing to be reflective about what many of the things said about that particular subset of white culture. No one said, “Oooo… I do that… and I never thought of it that way… Hmmm… Maybe I should do that differently/stop doing that.” Yet because people were laughing, they presented themselves as being self-reflective and self-criticial in a way that they weren’t.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I only sporadically read SWPL. That which I read was mostly innocuous, if sometimes irritating. Black People Love Us, though, ought to be sufficiently cutting that if it’s at all familiar to you, some serious introspection is warranted.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                BPLU just got bookmarked, that thing is hilarious.

                The “letters” page is great too, because it encapsulates a lot of the issues we are discussing (several people asking if the site’s writers are white, or black, because they can’t tell if they should be offended or not).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Obviously not a libertarian, or he’d have trusted them more.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Sigh. Other people seem to have gotten the hang of virtual keyboards, why can’t I? Thanks for the heads up. Corrected.Report

      • Avatar bstr says:

        We could mention how really awful it is for plain folk to talk comedy to death, but we all are smart enough to recognize that when it happens. More importantly I have a Chapelle question. This is a question for your opinion, unless you truly know the correct answer. In the skit Dave is sitting in the back seat of a limo, he wants to speak to the baby. He makes the time honored symbolic movement of rolling down a window. He stops. He looks at the audience, looks at his hand, poised to roll down the window. He looks back to the audience smiles, and says “Old limo.” Question: was that remark planned, or ab lib. bstrReport

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Heh… I just watched the bit on Youtube. I’m not sure whether it was ad lib, or whether in the development of that joke he’d ad libbed it, and then realized it worked, so he used it every time he told it.

          Damn that bit is funny, though. First time I’ve seen it in years.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Having recently listened to/watched some different behind-the-scenes-with-comics pieces, it is worth noting that most lower rung comedy clubs are the minor leagues. And not just because the talent isn’t top notch, but because it is where the eventual great comics hone their craft. No one jumps right to headlining shows that sell out basketball arenas. They start in the clubs. They learn timing, how to read the audience, delivery, pacing, etc. I never thought of comedy as a skill that needs to be practiced and honed, but that is exactly what it is. So much like an eventual Hall of Fame baseball player might put up middling stats in the minors because he is working on developing things rather than just overpowering inferior opponents -OR- because he is playing at a level he is not quite ready for but needs to take his lumps, such is often the case in the comedy clubs.

    Of course, some comedians are just shitty or derivative and don’t know all that and never will and will stay in the clubs.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah, from what I understand, the MC is the FNG. Still wet behind the ears, he’s given the crappiest job in the club: going before a cold audience and turning them into a warm audience.

      I noticed that he quite regularly exhorted the audience to clap again. Clap for the waitstaff. You’re a great audience, clap for yourselves. We’re having fun, clap for fun.

      And he has to talk for 15 minutes (not 14, 15) to get the audience loose and limber and now please put your hands together for our first act of the night.

      There’s probably some psychological thing about clapping stoking the “we’re having fun” center of the brain.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      My understanding is that even seasoned comedians will use comedy clubs to hone jokes, so that when you see them you may be hearing a joke in its fifth version, but it won’t become funny until its 20th. I remember Chris Rock talking about a joke that killed in one of his specials but that, until he finally got it right — and right isn’t just the wording, but the timing, the tone, etc. — was just offensive. He also said that he and other comedians feel like this is becoming more difficult to do now that people at every club are video taping their sets with their phones, and often posting the videos online. If you’re telling a joke that will ultimately be funny but is now just offensive, the internet outrage machine is going to let you have it, making it less likely that you’ll develop jokes that way.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        The worst part for established comedians?
        Folks will laugh even when you aren’t funny.

        You get the feeling folks like Robin Williams
        halfway have to show up with a wig and a
        beard to get decent feedback.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I heard this as well, with regards to YouTube and such. I also wonder if that ultimately thwarts development. Before the internet, you had to really work your way up through the club scene. Nowadays, people can put a funny bit on YouTube, get 10M views, and assume they’re genius and just keep doing the same thing, with little success. Instead of getting better, they flame out and we miss out on their potential. Just a theory.

        I don’t remember if it was during “Funny Guys” (an outstanding HBO special where Seinfeld, Gervais, CK, and Rock just sat around and talked the craft… I saw it once on HBO and never again… don’t know what they did with it… but watch it if you can find it) or on a podcast, but apparently what set Rock apart was that he never stopped working. Where some of those guys got into being quasi-famous and living the club scene and all that, he just kept working, kept hustling. He was in clubs every night working. That is why he hit it big faster than some of the guys he came up with (e.g., CK).Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      What’s real fun is going to clubs where 2/3rds of the audience is comedians.
      … and they teach classes on comedy.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        They call those “bringers.” Each comedian must bring five friends so the club can make money. I’ve been “brought” several times back when one of my former law partners was trying his hand at stand-up. It’s really hit or miss. Some of the material is very funny, some of it is thought-provoking, some of it is the “comedian” venting or projecting personal issues, some of it leaves you feeling sad for the guy who just tried something the first time and it totally flopped and there’s nothing but the hum of the air conditioner. “Come on, man, do a dick joke. Everyone laughs at dick jokes.”Report

  8. Avatar Anne says:

    Eddie Izzard!! love him not only is he a great comedian he can really act as well. Saw him on Broadway in “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg” he is quite talented. I like his stream of consciousness style.Report

  9. Avatar Kim says:

    I won’t forget the entire 10 minute long monologue about one comedian’s middle toe being too longReport

  10. Avatar Kim says:

    Not getting alcohol is defeating the purpose of the 2 drink minimum.
    The purpose is to make the comedy tolerable.Report