Is Trump’s Election Changing Stand Up Comedy?

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There’s an interesting article in the Rolling Stone on how the election of Donald Trump has somehow changed stand-up comedy.

The Trump voters—who during the campaign seemed quiet, almost a little embarrassed about admitting they were voting for Trump are now emboldened in post-election. They have no problem booing comedians, heckling them or threatening them now that their guy is going to be the president.

Some comedians, like Wanda Sykes, was booed when she called Trump an “orangutang,” and Amy Schumer had 200 people walk out of her show when she condescendingly questioned a Trump supporter after inviting her on the stage– I don’t know it was either that or the fact that the joke she used wasn’t hers… (did I say that out loud?)

It’s a bit of a quagmire considering that we’ve always been able to make fun of presidents and politicians, but this time it seems different. This was definitely the most hotly contested election in modern history.

Not to mention the republican candidate inciting violence against opposing voices by saying things like, “I wish somebody would punch them in the face.”

You would expect this kind of grandstanding and saber rattling from the North Korean president, Kim Jung Un, but not the future leader of the free world.

This kind of brazen talk, emboldened his supporters and gave them the green light to be aggressive so it’s no surprise that comedians are now more vulnerable than ever.

A comedian wants to stay edgy and current. Trump keeps making these missteps; either Tweeting about the Chinese or breaking 40 years of U.S. protocol and taking a phone call from the president of Taiwan… misspelling the word unprecedented (he spelled it “unpresidented”), a comedian might think that’s ripe for a joke.

But the political current might open a comedian up to heckles and some of them might get aggressive.

It seems some of these people think Trump’s election means they can openly use the “N-word, or grab a woman in the crotch” but if you dare call the president-elect something as obscene as “that guy from ‘The Apprentice’” and some heckler may likely yell “get off the stage!”

The Rolling Stone article implied that comedians need to change their game. I don’t necessarily agree. I think there has always been a way to talk about politics and religion.

One way is to not only make it funny, but make it funny with unassailable truths. Pick on both sides and understand (this is crucial), your audience.

George Carlin said, “While their mouths are open for laughter, insert some food for thought.”

All comedians and comedy writers should understand the simple M-A-P formula. The best ones already do. M-A-P simply means Material-Audience-Performer. The material should be right for the audience and right for the performer.

There’s a time to go hard and a time to tone down and there’s a time to realize when you’re a guest in someone else’s house.

I was working in Idaho—a pretty conservative state. The previous week, a comedian from L.A. was there doing anti-gun material. He was heckled and he said something like, “I come all the here from L.A. and you disrespect me?”

Are you kidding me? You are in their house. It is YOU who needs to respect them!

There wound up being a fight and the comedian got his ass kicked. I came to town the following week and mentioned the incident.

I said, “you see I think you can do anti-gun material, it just depends on how you say it.”

And a guy yelled out, “Yeah? Go ahead and try!”

I said, “You see, some comedians might look at that as some kind of rude outburst. I see it as us opening up a conversation. And why shouldn’t we? We both disagree on an issue thats important to both of us… my argument is that we spend more money regulating pornography, than we do regulating handguns and I don’t know about you, but I know of very few innocent victims who have been picked off by a misfired pecker.”

This got them laughing, because it was rather innocuous, but true. Now keep in mind, this was the same club that beat up the comedian the week before. But I’m not making it about I’m right—you’re wrong. I’m just making an observation.

See, I think my job as a comedian is to think of a heckler as my best friend. Most of the time hecklers heckle because they want to be included in the conversation. They also want to be heard.

During that time there was an incident where Federal agents had come to Idaho looking for a fringe militia group. It was a big deal in Idaho.

So I then said, “I mean, I’m not saying take away the guns. We need the guns here in Idaho, so we can hunt the Feds.”

This got them laughing.

And I said, “See. We can disagree on shit, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have a drink together laugh about. How boring would life be if we all agreed on everything? First of all there would be no makeup sex…”

As a personal aside, I think this election thing is like an NFL playoff game. The winners are basking in the glory of their teams win and they’re gloating. Eventually it will settle down.

That being said, there are going to be situations where hecklers are just being aggressive assholes. Like in the Rolling Stone article, comedian Feraz Ozel, who was raised Muslim was doing his set and someone yelled out, “Homeland Security is right outside!”

I suggested to one of my students (who might look like an intimidating terrorist to an ignorant audience member—despite the fact that his family is from India), that he prepare himself with heckle responses.

Prepare yourself. Which means sitting down and writing material to respond to potential heckles, starting with the one above, “Homeland Security is right outside.”

How would you respond to that?

I might respond by saying something like, “Yeah? You know what’s inside, Jethro? The Constitution.”

Or I might follow it with something like, “Trump said he was draining the swamp… he should of told us he was sending the scum to comedy clubs.”

Using the roast joke method to write material can give you some responses that you can keep in your arsenal. They should be smart and they should be tight.

Try to stick to the facts. Use Trump quotes or facts about Trump. Innuendo and opinion will just leave you open to more attacks.

I also think it is going to be crucial to comedians and club owners to remove patrons who are unruly. An outburst here and there is just the nature of the beast, but a patron spouting hate or getting aggressive should be dealt with promptly. And here’s why…

If a club deals with unruly patrons by removing them promptly, it has the short term impact on making the show enjoyable for everyone. But it has a long-term positive impact of making people feel like a comedy club is a safe place for entertainment.

Club owners must consider that for every 10-20 people in attendance there are 2-3 people who have never been to a comedy club. And if they don’t feel safe because the unruly patron was not dealt with, then they will most likely never come back again.

That’s not only bad for comedy, it’s bad for business.

But as a comedian, I think the point is that when you’re in a room that is going to lean conservative, then you’ve got to skew your material so you can still make your point, but you make your point while people are laughing. It’s not selling out. It’s making an adjustment (like you might doing network TV or a corporate), because you’re a professional.

Like George Carlin said, while their mouths are open for laughter, insert some food for thought.

I don’t have all the answers, I would love to hear your thoughts on this new world we work in!

How Barack Obama Got Me Laid

 

by Jerry Corley fournder of  The Stand Up Comedy Clinic

 

A good friend recently asked me to contribute some writing about the Obama Generation to an online magazine, (www.Kougarmagazine.com). I’m a stand-up comedian and not much of a writer in that fashion, but I wanted to help him out by doing my best to come up with something. I scoured my brain, sat down and prepared to write. My preparation usually includes drinking six cups of coffee and making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So into my sixth cup and after wiping some stray Jiff off my lips, I thought to myself: who is the Obama Generation? My words flowed thusly:

 

After one of the most watched presidential elections of all time, Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th , and first black president of the United States. It’s incredible, it’s electrical it’s, a lie! Well, not entirely a lie, but it is only a half-truth. Because, as many tend to forget, he’s half-white! That’s right: Half-white! Barack Obama’s father was a black man from Kenya and his mother was a white woman from Kansas.

 

When I found this out, the first question that came to my mind was: How did that happen? People from Kansas don’t really travel much—the horses tend to get tired. But I know for a fact that they don’t travel much, because when I was in Kansas, I met a girl after a show and she bragged that she once went “all the way to Wichita.” We were in Haysville—about 20 miles South of Wichita. I wanted to be polite, so I acted impressed and truly involved—let’s not kid one another, I wanted to get laid. I mean, she was hot!—well, in a Haysville, Kansas sort of way… “Wow, ” I said, “That’s quite a trek. All the way to Wichita? You must be exhausted…I hope the wagon seat had a cushion!..blah, blah blah…” –And yes, I wore a condom.

 

But when I asked her what she thought about Barack Hussein Obama she replied, “You mean that guy from Iraq?”  When I politely corrected her—we were still in foreplay mode—she said that she didn’t think that a black man had a shot at being the president of the United States. I said, “do you think he would have a shot if he was half-white?” And, in a defensive tone, (uncannily similar to the tone used by Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder when he said, “What do you mean ‘those people?'”)—she said, “What do you mean: ‘half-white?’

 

I proceeded to tell her that Barack Obama’s mother was from Kansas. She stopped me dead in my tracks and said, “You mean this Kansas?”  It was a long, arduous process trying to reach this girl. But I think I had a breakthrough. She started asking more questions about Barack Obama and I gave her answers. She needed answers. Her father—a lifetime republican—was recently laid-off and her brother was on his fifth tour in Iraq. She believed in climate change and thought Sarah Palin was “embarrassing.” She said, with true Simon Cowell indignance, “I mean, everyone knows that you can’t see Russia from Alaska…look at any map…it’s right near Hawaii and everyone knows Russia’s nowhere near Hawaii, otherwise no one would go on vacation there.” Yes, she said this. It may have been her attempt at a joke, but I didn’t read it that way. But it did confirm the suspicion: I was desperate.

 

I ordered a “Maker’s Neat” not because I usually drink whiskey straight but because it impressed her—let’s not kid ourselves, if you want to get naked with a hot chick, you need to impress—and continued talking to her about Barack, (those of us who know him well, just use his first name—those who know him really well, just call him “B” like “Whassup ‘B’?”—who am I kidding? I’m a white, bald, 40-something-comedian from Chatsworth!) I told my new special Kansas friend about ‘B’s’ background: working in community organizations, serving the neighborhood and moving his way into national politics as a bright, first term senator who gave a kick-ass speech at the Democratic Convention when John Kerry was running for president. And she said to me something that was four-year-old-simple, yet extremely profound. She said, “How do you know when a speech is ‘kick-ass?'”
 

For a moment, I was stumped. How do you know when a speech is ‘kick-ass?’ I flashed with heat. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I completely blushed…partly from the panic of being stumped and partly because, just then she adjusted her loose-fitting top and caught me glancing at an inadvertently exposed nipple…we both laughed at our mutual embarrassment and then it hit me…not the answer to what makes a speech kick-ass, but a fist the size of a hockey glove! Evidently her meth-addicted, ex-boyfriend had been watching this whole time and decided he had enough. He raced up and punched me square in the forehead! Not a difficult task, because if you saw the size of my forehead you’d know he had a huge target…

 

“Honey…are you okay…Baby, are you alright?” …I heard when I came to. The bartender gave her ice in a baggie and she put it to my forehead as I re-seated myself at the bar. I told her I didn’t really feel anything…another reason for drinking whiskey straight…She explained to me that her jealous ex-boyfriend punched me in the head and the bouncers are taking him out to the cops right now…this was good for two reasons: 1. He was going to spend the night in jail, and 2. Sympathy…this increases my chances of getting laid.

 

The bartender gave me another ‘Maker’s Neat’ and after about four seconds of applied ice the girl actually returned to the conversation she said, “So how do you know when a speech is kick-ass?” It was either the Maker’s talking or the punch in the forehead, but I just started talking, I said, “Human beings react to emotional impulses that are genuine.”  She started to give me that far-away glance that people sometimes give when you bring up the subject of algebra. So I said, “You ever watch a scene in a movie where real emotion is taking place and you find yourself crying?”

            “Yes”

            “Is it because something is being put in the popcorn or in the seats we’re sitting in?…No. It’s because genuine human emotion is occurring on that screen and as humans with souls, we have no choice but to respond.”

            “So, ” she said.

            “Well, when Barack Obama speaks, he not only speaks eloquently with beautiful metaphors and smooth structure, but he speaks with genuine human emotion. When he speaks my eyes water, I feel, because he means what he says. For the first time in my life, a politician’s words have touched my soul…to me that means truth. And after the last eight years, don’t you think the people of this country deserve some truth?”

 

She looked directly at me with what seemed like a minute-long, intense stare like she was just flooded with emotion, and then her eyes—a compelling blend of gray and Egyptian green—started to water…

 

On January 23rd, I received an email from my new Kansas friend:

 

Jerry,

 

It’s been awhile. I just felt the need to drop the funny man a line and say hi :-). A lot has happened since we talked last. My brother came home from Iraq for good (hopefully). He has all his fingers and toes, thank God! My Dad is still looking for work. It’s tough in Kansas, not a lot of jobs here!

 

I got a call from my boyfriend, (well ex-boyfriend now) we got back together after I met you, but then broke up again. He was in jail and wanted me to bail him out. I told him ‘no.’ He stole a car and stuff.

 

I had a great time with you. You made an impression on me. You really did. In Novemember I voted for the first time ever and my Dad would probably kill me if he found out, but I voted for Barack Obama! 🙂 

 

I listened to his speeches and at first I didn’t get it, but then all of the sudden I started getting tingles on my arms just like that night we talked after comedy night. And the next thing you know I was looking for a tissue…because you weren’t there to give me a cocktail napkin! LOL.

 

Here’s the big news: I can’t believe I’m actually saying this: I went to the inauguration! My friend, (he’s male, don’t get mad) wrote to our congressman and we were chosen with some other people to get tickets. Ha Ha! Now I can say I went all the way to Washington D.C. LOL.

 

Write me back!

 

Tisha

 

 

So I guess the answer to the question: “Who is the Obama Generation” can possibly be answered this way: anyone with a heart and a need to feel like they belong, like they matter, like they are included. Could be anyone, black or white; gay or straight; male or female. Even someone you originally mistook as just some gullible hot chick in a small town in Kansas…Thanks ‘B’…thanks for serving, thanks for being truthful and thanks for getting me laid!

 

JC