I spent last weekend with Lady E at her company party. Why a company would throw its annual holiday party in the middle of January, I’ll never know, but all things considered, it was a fine night. Cash bar is lame, but the food wasn’t terrible, and they had a comic.
When she told me there would be a comic, I immediately became concerned because guys who take corporate gigs are usually affordable and are doubly screwed by having to keep the material PG-rated. Our guy was decent with his best joke coming at the expense of Grover Cleveland of all people, but it got me thinking about the experience of going to a comedy club. Far too many times you fall to the unfortunate fate of sitting next to some obnoxious idiot you’re ready to violently murder by the end of the show. Here are 10 such people broken down for your amusement.
(The following 10 pictures of comics don’t necessarily relate to each type of audience member. They’re just 10 of my favorite comics. Don’t read too much into it.)
1. The Heckler
Irritating Traits: Considers the show their platform to try out their burgeoning comedy career. Their burgeoning comedy career is actually just warmed over Don Rickles-style attack nonsense that falls flatter than day-old beer left in the sun. You’ve probably talked to a guy like this in the elevator and wanted to punch him in the face after he made some ill-conceived joke about his receptionist whom you’ve never met. If you’re seeing a subpar comic, this guy will ruin your night.
Sample Dialogue: “Hey pal, your jokes are lamer than that guy from Born on the 4th of July’s pecker!” (which, in addition to being clumsy to shout at someone, doesn’t even really make sense)
“Get the hook, pal! This ain’t Showtime at the Apollo!”
“Blah blah blah, get on with it, blackie!” (This is only funny if the comic is white.)
The Upside: If your comic is good, this guy will likely provide awesome fodder for the rest of the show. Hart and I saw Dave Attell once and his opening comic was bombing badly. Some lady behind us yelled, “Get the hook!” at him to which he replied, “Get the hook? Why, so I can jam it in your ass and drag your disease-ridden hooker carcass onstage for everyone to laugh at?” Broke the whole room up. The heckler galvanized his performance and he ended up killing. All you can hope for is that the heckler will either get carted off by security, shut the fuck up when the comic obliterates him, and is not too drunk. Which brings me to…
2. The Drunk
Irritating Traits: Will spend the entire set loudly ordering drinks for her and the rest of her crew. Will end up on some random tangent with one of her skank friends about where to go after the show. Will probably have to be admonished by the comic mid-set and advised to shut the hell up disrupting his flow. Might vomit. Will laugh at shit that ain’t funny. Will throw off everyone’s rhythm when enjoying a joke. Probably smells like a deathly mixture of Marlboro Lights and mixed drinks. Still won’t sleep with you.
Sample Dialogue: “I’d like two Bud Lights, a virgin strawberry daiquiri, and a 7&7 with eight maraschino cherries and sugar on the rim, blended if you can. What? I don’t have to shut up, you shut up! Stupid little comedy man.”
“Ohmigod that is SOOO funny! But he looks like my ex-boyfriend. Remember Rick? He was a jerkoff. Hey, you’re a jerkoff! You’re soooo not funny either. You shut up! Stupid asshole. God, Tiff, this place is filled with assholes tonight!”
The Upside: If you slip into stealth mode, maybe you can get this gaggle of shitheads to pay for one or more of your drinks when no one notices.
3. The Chatter
Irritating Traits: Won’t stop talking during the entire set. Will possibly provide superfluous (and most likely inaccurate) background on the comic while he’s in the middle of a killer story. Will almost certainly relate a similar story to the one being told onstage to whoever’s next to him that is 1/10 as funny and 100x more irrelevant and boring. Like that girl in high school who couldn’t close her yap while giving you a handjob, you’ll be unable to concentrate and want to give up on the whole excursion, but since you’ve invested a lot of money in the night already, you persevere in futility and hope they somehow find the will to stop talking and allow you to finish the night smiling and ready for bed. You won’t.
Sample Dialogue: “I saw this guy on Letterman and he told the same story two weeks ago. But this one’s different. I guess it’s because you can’t swear as much on Letterman and this is a comedy club… See, right there he said ‘shit’ instead of ‘crap’ like he did on the show… God, isn’t this fun though?”
“That reminds me of this one time I was at a urinal and this guy comes in and starts grunting like a caveman. I was like, ‘Whoa buddy, what are you doing over there. You’re not lifting weights, just let it flow.’ I didn’t really say that, but I thought it. Anyway, I think he had prostate problems, which has gotta suck, y’know (uproarious laughter from the crowd)… Wait, what did he say, I missed it.”
The Upside: If you pour a drink down this guy’s pants forcing him to get up and take care of it, you’ll likely become a folk hero to everyone else around you. Plus, you give Mr. Chatty Cathy another story with which to annoy a whole new crowd at the next comedy extravaganza.
4. The Distinctive Laugher
Irritating Traits: Laughing like Hillary Clinton, Paul Shaffer, Kendra Wilkinson , Urkel, that dummy who travels with Jeff Dunham in that Hertz commercial, or anyone else who laughs like a fucking annoying jackal at every goddamn joke to the point you’ve completely checked out of the show and tensely brace like an insomniac waiting for the next incessant drip from the leaky faucet in the middle of the night for the next time this rube loudly and boorishly guffaws. Sitting next to someone with an annoying laugh during a comedy show and trying still to enjoy the show is like trying to pitch a no-hitter with your catcher prompting you to check the scoreboard every five seconds. You’re so out of your game, you’ve forgotten why you’re even there in the first place.
Sample Dialogue: “Hahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa! Ohhhhhh! “
“HAR, HAR, HAR!” (no one actually laughs like this, but it’s hard to capture annoying laughs with only text)
The Upside: You know when they think a particular joke ain’t funny. When the distinctive laugher doesn’t laugh, usually everyone else does bringing the set a whole new level of enjoyment from everyone who doesn’t laugh like a goddamn stalling mo-ped.
5. The Critic (a.k.a. The Frustrated Comic)
Irritating Traits: Will break down the set in the most negative terms telling anyone who’ll listen where the comic went wrong, how they could have improved, the ways they’d tell the jokes differently were they up there (and crafting their own material for once), which jokes were ripped off, which ones are clichés, who the comic compares to negatively (i.e. Carrot Top or Paul Reiser), and how the headliner should still be an opening act honing his or her material. The air of pomposity will be suffocating. The nerd frustration will reach critical levels. In short, it’s like reading the worst AV Club article you can imagine, or virtually anything on Salon.com.
Sample Dialogue: “You see, he should have paused a beat longer there to allow the joke to sink in longer. Instead he just plowed ahead with a new topic and didn’t allow the audience to transition properly and disrupted the flow.”
“Ugghhh, why does every comic in his late-20s have to be a Dane Cook clone? I hate my generation.”
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up everybody. That joke was funny… when I heard George Carlin tell it 35 years ago.”
The Upside: You can sleep comfortably in your bed at night knowing that no matter how much of a conceited ass you can be, you’ve got nothing on snobby comedian critic sitting next to you.
6. The Comedy Expert
Irritating Traits: The opposite of the critic. Instead of laughing, he’ll instead explain why the jokes are funny and how well the set is rhetorically and artistically structured. Even though this will undoubtedly annoy the piss out of you, take some solace in knowing that this person is actually enjoying the set even though he’s analyzing it more than Freud watching a San Francisco screening of Top Gun. If there’s one thing on this list I’m most guilty of above all the others, it’s definitely this one. Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of time laughing, but if I’m really enjoying myself, I’m scrutinizing the shit out of the set and trying to appreciate it on another, more artistic level. I know I’ve bugged Lady E more than a few times with this, but I hope she realizes she’s only hearing about 5% of what I’m actually thinking.
Sample Dialogue: “One of the reasons Birbiglia’s jokes are so good is his use of misdirection in the form of the dramatic structure. If you think of each joke as its own narrative experience, he uses the false climax frequently without the audience realizing it and gets the appropriate laugh for the joke. Then he takes the joke to another level by ascending to the real climax and gets a bigger, even more unexpected laugh which is not only fun for the audience, but speaks to Birbiglia’s remarkable ability to craft an unpredictable joke, which, as we all know, is insanely hard to do.” – spoken by me to Lady E after watching Mike Birbiglia’s half hour stand-up comedy special one night two years ago. Yes, I realize I should be shot for that level of pretension. I know, I know.
The Upside: Hey, if you like comedy theory and history, you can always hang out with me… er, this guy… and learn some stuff.
7. The Agreer
Irritating Traits: While I don’t wish to stereotype, this type of comedy gadfly seems to occur in black women 95% of the time. Will half-laugh, half-testify to the truth of the comedian’s material during every set-up. The comedian will say something like, “You ever notice when you got your dick stuck in the ice cube trays?” and the agreer will chime in with, “Yeah! Yeah! That’s always crazy!” Will never let a comedian finish a joke without letting them know, “Man, that’s so true!” Will irrevocably remind you of Homer Simpson watching stand-up saying, “It’s funny because it’s true!” Is a 1st cousin to the chatter, but only seems to have a one-way dialogue with the comic himself, and, by extension, with the entire audience.
Sample Dialogue: “Man, I tell you what, my wife is crazy.”
“Shit, my wife’s crazy too! That’s right, brotha! Bitches is crazy!”
“…and so the octopus says, ‘If I can get its pajamas off, I’m gonna fuck it.”
“Octopus fucking a set of bagpipes! I know what that’s about, man!” (The agreer will agree with anything no matter how patently absurd, ridiculous, or impossible.)
The Upside: If you happen to be dating a garrulous agreer, you’re probably in for some kinky sex later in the night. Seriously, if they somehow know what the dick in the ice cube tray is all about, there’s probably not a lot they won’t do. So, enjoy kinktown, you sick bastard.
8. The Sour Puss
Irritating Traits: Doesn’t seem to enjoy the show in the least. Sits with arms folded and a dour expression the entire time too cool for the entire room. Might make snide comments “quietly” for those in the immediate vicinity to hear. Has no discernable sense of humor. Is probably wearing an absurdly expensive jacket.
Sample Dialogue: “God, this show is stupid.”
(groaning) “Uggghhh, can we get outta here please?”
“This is the last time I let you pick our date night.”
“I’m a frowny face lame-o with a tiny penis who never got the laughs in algebra class despite my material being hi-lay-ree-ous. I’m dying inside.” (possibly said internally)
The Upside: This lousy killjoy will provide you and your friends plenty of fodder with which to mock them heartily on the ride home from the club.
9. The Nanny (a.k.a The Political Corrector & The Nervous Nelly)
Irritating Traits: If the comedian makes a semi-offensive assertion about say, gay marriage, the Nanny will feel the need to correct the comic and kill the fun right out of the room. Despite being at a comedy club where presumably everyone will get skewered at one point or another, the Nanny feels the need to champion one specific cause and fail to keep things in perspective. Will remind you of your liberal/white/straight guilt whenever possible. Cannot escape their own self-righteous little world for the sake of some innocent jokes about people not around to defend themselves. Might ask you to support their cause/sign up for their website at the end of the show. Could turn into the comedy club experience of getting bothered on the mall by those Greenpeace assholes in the ugly yellow coat.
Sample Dialogue: “Um, excuse me, it’s not okay to refer to differently abled people as ‘retarded.’”
“You shouldn’t make jokes about George W. Bush anymore. He did some really good humanitarian things in Africa.”
“Stop laughing! Prop 8 is a serious social issue and shouldn’t be laughed at! How would you feel if you couldn’t marry who you wanted to!”
The Upside: Since you listened to fucking Pollyanna McSierra Club all night, you can feel free to ignore all political commentary for up to one month if you so choose. This is part of the agreement when you buy comedy club tickets: “If a politically correct underwear stain sucks the enjoyment out of a quality joke about Puerto Ricans, cross-dressers, global warming, or… anything, really… feel free to ignore all hamfisted political commentary for up to one month. Sorry about that.” Seriously, check it out. It’s on the back of your ticket.
10. The Opening Comic
Irritating Traits: Performed earlier in the evening and has ostensibly heard every joke ever conceived and stopped laughing at them since before you even started watching stand-up comedy. This is the worst one on the list to sit next to by far. The misery you experience is directly proportional to the length of the opening comic’s career, multiplied by the number of their contemporaries who have, in their eyes, unfairly ascended faster than them, multiplied again by volume of bottom shelf gin consumed in the last three hours. This audience member will, depending on the level of the various factors listed above, exhibit all the annoying traits of the previous nine entrants on this list.
Sample Dialogue: Too varied and wide-reaching to even attempt to list here, but basically boils down to, “I’m sad about being a failure.”
The Upside: None. If you end up sitting next to a frustrated opening comic, either pick up your shit and go somewhere else, or, failing that, call police. You want no part of this bastard.
You’re now well-prepared for your next night at the club. So support your local comedy club, get ready for healthy dose of overpriced alcohol, and above all else, try to enjoy yourself. It’s a comedy club for God’s sake! Maybe try laughing for a change. But please try to keep it under control if you’re afflicted with #4.
Until next time…
29 Jan 2009 E Dagger