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Comedy in Vancouver: Critical Observation and Self Analysis

September 24, 2018

What did other comics do that was effective? What was ineffective? What were examples of punching up and punching down? What was the format of the open mic? What techniques do I want to implement after being in that environment?

 

Going to comedy twice at Charqui’s in Vancouver was a really interesting supplement to the course and being able to see many different styles of comic performers from a variety of levels was very eye opening. I found it very inspiring to see performances that were not fully polished and seeing other people at the beginning of their standup careers. It helped to feel confident about my own material since watching professional comics can be discouraging and seemingly unattainable. I took notes on the different performers and have included some jokes that stood out to me for various reasons.

 

  1. Performer talking about his bad tattoos: if you aren’t allowed to smoke or drink you shouldn’t be able to permanently declare your love for slipknot.”

 

This joke hit the crowd really well and I found myself laughing even though I have little knowledge of slipknot. This joke illuminated the inconsistencies in the laws in a funny and thought provoking way with a self deprecating aspect that laid a platform for the comic. Most of his set consisted of his tattoos though, and I had to think he’s done that many times before since his own bad tattoos are an obvious source of material. It seems that to continue to build off of this platform in the future for the same crowd you would have to get much more creative. (CLO xx)

 

2. One of the other comics was referring to people who spoil movies and referred to them as “spoiler Nazis.” This language really bothered me. Part of it has to do with me being especially sensitive to Nazi references because of my jewish background, but it felt like a very distasteful way of phrasing it. Calling people that spoil movies Nazis is equating the destruction of your personal comfort to the loss of 6 billion lives which is putting the butt of the joke in the wrong place. It seemed to undermine the point he was making by putting that anti-semitic reference in there. (CLO xx)

 

3. A very new comic named Noam performed, who had autism and talked a lot about it. He told us about going into the bathroom in high school and someone had scribbled on the mirror, “Noam, you have autism.” And he responded with “ok, come on like I didn’t already know, thank you for telling me this for the first time.” The way he talked about this was really clever and he used humor to connect with the audience. This was a great illustration of how humor can be used as a tool to break down barriers and focus on our similarities.

 

4. Another comic made a joke saying, “yeah I’m body positive. Body meaning HIV.” This joke was a clever method of deceit that he used to transition into talking about his life with HIV. Again, I thought that this was an example as comedy being a space to discuss topics that are more personal and often times make people uncomfortable. It seems when used in this way can provide a voice and a space for people to share. However, I often thought about Nanette and the point Hannah brings up about when she makes self deprecating jokes it just perpetuates her position at the bottom of the ladder. (CLO xx)

 

5. The joke that I thought about the most was by one of the headliners who was talking about her necklace that her boyfriend bought her made of her birthstone, atheist. Most people in the audience assumed she made a freudian slip but understood what they thought she meant. Later in the set she was talking about religion and mentioned that she has friends that are religious but she has always been an amethyst. The comic continued on as if nothing had happened but the audience caught the switch she did. I thought this wordplay was especially funny and effective because it allowed the audience to make the joke and draw a conclusion themselves instead of it being handed over to them. I appreciated the innocent wordplay and how much of a reaction it got even when the other sets surrounding it were mostly comprised of raunchy sex humor. (CLO xx)

 

I was also particularly interested in the role the host played during the open mic. He was asian and made a lot of self deprecating asian jokes. I found he did a good job of knowing when to punch up and punch down, creating a really nice space. If a performer who was really experienced just finished and had a really successful set playing high status, he would often take a jab at them and banter would ensue. However, if a new comic performed and struggled, he would find a way to put them above him in his follow up remark. He did a really good job coming up with jokes on the spot and had a really natural energy, however most of his content was about him being an asian and got slightly old. Overall, this dynamic really illuminated the importance of the host in creating a successful atmosphere. (CLO xx)

 

I also learned a lot of etiquette about the open mic style, such as signing up. Even though sign ups started at 7, whoever had been their first got preference and people waited in line based on how soon they got there. It seemed that the most popular slots were 5-15, and they would fill up first. Then until the open mic started comics would scribble notes in their notebooks, or practice beforehand. Throughout the night, headliners would show up and get inserted into the setlist, which we didn’t realize made the show go on much longer and pushed us back significantly.

 

Overall, I have realized that most of the things that make people laugh are the raunchy sexual humor, especially coming from a woman. However it has given me hope that I witnessed some innocent wordplay jokes go over really well and I want to try to not get lazy with my material and strive to incorporate these elements of humor that feel more true to myself. I also want to make sure to position myself closer to the beginning as the dynamic is much improved. I have also noted the importance of performance, especially toward the end of the night and how much the audience feeds off the energy of the performers. The performers with high energy were much more successful in getting laughs out of the audience and I want to work on this for my own style.

 

(CLO 1,2,3,4,5)

 

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