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Monday, August 9, 2010

Comedy's newest whipping boy

Why the constant drama, comedy?

It seems stand-up comedy needs a whipping boy. One day it's Dane Cook, another day it's Carlos Mencia. Today (the last few weeks, anyway) it's Kyle Cease. It started with Doug Stanhope's post lambasting comedy classes in general and Cease's Stand-up Boot Camp in particular.

I have no horse in this race since I have no strong opinion on comedy classes. I tend to think you can't teach funny, but having never been to a comedy class, I don't know if that's what they're trying to do. You can't teach someone to be a good painter or jazz musician, but you can give him the tools if he has a modicum of innate talent to begin with. (And please substitute 'her' and 'she' where applicable.)

Hearing comics railing about the issue is funny. But not in a ha-ha way. It sounds, from an outsider's perspective, a bit like they want us all to know they're truly special and what they do can't possibly be taught. So don't even bother. Yes, I know, they're not really saying that, but that's part of it. They're also saying any information you can get in a class, you can get for free from your fellow comics so a class is nothing but a cash grab. So be it. But isn't any kind of class a cash grab? You can pay thousands of dollars to hear a famous screenwriter give a seminar, and lots of people do. Will any of them go on to become famous screenwriters? Maybe a tiny percentage of them, but they'd probably excel without the class, too.

People attend classes and seminars for whatever reason. Some just need a kick-start. Some use it for networking. Who knows? Who cares!

But this Boot Camp costs three thousand bucks, they scream! It's a rip-off! Hey, caveat emptor, baby. If someone's willing to pay it, it's obviously worth it to them.

Who none of the critics are slamming is Louie Anderson. I don't understand that. Why does he get a free pass? Apparently he's well respected for his years in the business even though in my opinion he has never been funny. And I can't see what 30-year advice he can give that would be relevant to today's comedy wannabes. Then again, as I say, I haven't attended the boot camp so I can't be sure.

Another free pass is given to Eddie Brill, who does these kinds of classes all over the place. Maybe the particulars are different. I did sit in on one of Eddie's classes once and it looked great. Comics would perform for each other and critique each other's act, which I think is useful. But Eddie's words of advice held more sway. Now, Eddie is a peach of a guy who everyone loves. Plus he is the gatekeeper to the Holy Grail that is the Late Show with David Letterman and comedians would no doubt be wary of biting that opportunity in the butt.

If it isn't completely obvious, let me state that I don't think Eddie Brill should be slagged for his classes, just as I don't think Kyle Cease should be. I just think comics should be consistent and honest. If it's classes they don't like, you can't pick and choose. And, not that it's relevant, but Doug Stanhope is another peach of a guy (seriously!) and one of my favourite comics on Earth.

I heard Kyle on the Comedy and Everything Else podcast. He was way more serious than he was the two times on What's So Funny? but he had a bigger point to make. He was defending himself. He found himself a pariah in the only community he's been a part of for 20 years. Still, I thought he wasn't as serious as some are saying. He made lots of jokes but in a completely dry way. I had no problem with Jimmy Dore's interviewing technique, either. Some thought he was confrontational and constantly interrupting, but I thought he was respectful and interrupted no more than he does on any other episode (which, granted, is a lot but that's part of his charm).

As I mentioned, Kyle was on our program twice. The second one is lost but one remains and you can hear it on iTunes. Or right here, if you'd rather. It's a completely different Kyle Cease than you'll hear on Comedy and Everything Else. He's animated and constantly joking. Then again, it was in 2005 and he wasn't yet the outcast he's become.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I became aware of the Carlos Mencia controversy when he appeared in an episode of South Park and had his head chopped off by Kanye West for stealing jokes. Not sure the teaching comedy thing will rise to the same level of attention though. As for Louie Anderson, he's still alive?!