Weekly Whack: The Decline of the Stand-Up Comedian
The Decline of the Stand-Up Comedian
April 13, 1997

I was never big on paintings, sculptures, operas, or classical music; but one art-form that I will always appreciate is that of stand-up comedy. Just the simple art behind standing in front of a group of people and making them laugh is something that has been taking for granted and is greatly unappreciated in this country. I for one do appreciate the art of stand-up comedy, and it is for this reason that I am upset over the fact that this art is quickly dying out. In the world of stand-up comedy recently there have been less Mona Lisa's and more Velvet Elvis', less Mozart's and more KC and the Sunshine Bands. So it is for this reason that I decided to dedicate this week's Whack to investigating and explaining the decline of the stand-up comedian.

I think the major problem with stand-up comedians today is that they are pretty much all the same. Ever see a stand-up comedian and get the feeling that you saw him before somewhere else? Well more times that not it was not the stand-up comedian that you saw before, it was the joke.

I grew up during a time when there was a stand-up comedian somewhere on cable twenty-four hours a day, and I watched pretty much all of them; so I consider myself an authority on the modern stand-up comedian. And in my opinion, the main problem with modern stand-up comedians is that they all use the same jokes and concepts, and recycle them over and over again. For example, nearly every stand-up comedian has a Sally Struthers joke. I mean what has this lady done to deserve such ridicule? I guarantee that you don't have to throw a cat very far in a room full of stand-up comedians before it hits someone who will get on stage and tell some joke alluding to Sally Struthers''s weight problem, and how she should just give some of her food to the starving kids she tries to help. I admit that this is a funny concept, and I laughed at these jokes the first few times I heard them, but now it's at the point that they're beating the dead horse so much that you could fill a bottle of Elmer's glue. In fact, I think from now on I will refer to these unoriginal comedians as horse knackers, since all they really do is beat on a dead horse. But another concept that has become common among these horse knackers nowadays, with whole 80's nostalgia boom, is how Shaggy from Scooby Doo was really a pot smoker. You'll see some guy up there saying how Shaggy used to light up in the van, and that's why he always acted so crazy. I mean these jokes are becoming so overused that either comedians must be getting together and sharing each other's material, or just that the jokes themselves are so inane that any yutz could think them up.

notice that nearly all unmarried stand-up comedians have a niece or nephew that they spend a lot of time and that they use as a basis for their jokes about kids and kid-related things? Well that's just one of the many cliches used in the world of stand-up comedy. In fact there are some many cliches and recurring jokes and concepts in the average stand-up act that I decided to write the basic skeleton of your typical banal stand-up routine. So here it is:

Let's give it up for our last comedian, he's a real funny guy, and a great friend of mine. Hey, my name is Feff. I had a strange flight coming here... I got pulled over by a state trooper driving here... I got lost coming here... I got fired from my job the other day... I broke up with my girlfriend last week... Ever notice that women always go to the bathroom in groups?... What's with those wacky Calvin Cline commercials?... Don't you think golf would be more exciting if fights broke out?... My mother-in-law has been staying at my house this past week... My brother used to torture me when I was a kid... I spend a lot of time with my three-year-old nephew... Whatever happened to children's television?... Don't you wish someone just beat the crap out of Barney?... Do you think Batman and Robin were gay?... It's neat having a president who smoked pot, because that means he's just like us... What's the deal with these crazy postal employees?... Here's my impression of James Earl Jones giving the call at a square dance... Adult diapers... The Flowbee... Old people... Medi-Alert... Infomercials... The Clapper... Talk shows... New Jersey... Soccer fans... AM radio... Hawaiians... Well I'm all out of time... You have been a great audience... Stay around for the next comedian, he's real funny, and a great friend of mine.

Unfortunately, this sort of unoriginal humor is not just a characteristic of stand-up comedy, but it is widespread on late night television as well. I mean how long was it before Letterman stopped making jokes about Joey Buttafouco? Just look at all the political humor that is rampant on late night talk shows such as Letterman, Leno, or Conan O'Brien. It's like ok, I understand that Bob Dole is old, you don't have to remind me every single day of the week. And I agree that Attorney General Janet Reno looks somewhat like a man, but is it worthy of that many jokes? Just because they got elected to a second term doesn't mean that we should have to keep hearing jokes about how President Clinton is fat, and how Al Gore is a statue. I'm surprised that I don't still hear any Dan Quayle jokes anymore. And don't get me started on Saturday Night Live. Aside from it's occasional flashes of brilliance, Saturday Night Live has to be the worst case scenario of unoriginal comedic writings. It's like every four years SNL writers get together and write some new sketches, and then recycle them over and over again. I could just picture an average brainstorming session prior to putting together a new episode of Saturday Night Live: "Ok let's open up with President Clinton giving a speech, we'll lampoon how he always talks about building a bridge. Then we'll have the cheerleaders at a high school jai lai tournament. On Weekend Update we'll have Norm make fun of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson; and we will close with Goat Boy interviewing the other guy from Wham."

Well I better wrap things up before this Whack becomes a bit trite, so to conclude for this week, I don't care if Shaggy smoked weed; Sally Struthers is doing a good deed, regardless of her weight problem; and Saturday Night Live needs less Goat Boys and more Mr. Peepers.

Now for this week's special feature, Feff's top ten favorite stand-up comedians who aren't unoriginal and banal:

10. Johnny Lampert
9. Stephen Wright
8. Chris Rock
7. Dick Gregory
6. Dennis Miller
5. Richard Pryor
4. Bill Maher
3. Jon Stewart
2. Lenny Bruce
1. George Carlin