While I appreciate the need for any comedian to speedily feel comfortable with the audience they’re in front of, there’s a type of stand up routine I loathe.
If you’ve seen more than a couple of comedians live, you’ll probably recognise the setup: the comic comes out onto the stage, takes a quick look around the room, says some quick opening remarks, and then asks a member of the audience “Hey, you, where you from? What’s your job? Is that your girlfriend?”
And he mocks the place the audience member calls home. And/or the job. And/or the girlfriend. Not one joke, but several – he gets the audience to laugh at – not along with, but at – the poor shmuck who was unfortunate enough to reply.
And – and here’s what gets me – if the man or woman being picked on doesn’t laugh right along with it… it’s somehow their fault.
And now they’re part of the act.
It’s cruel, nasty humour of the cheapest kind.
And what’s more, if the comedian has pulled the audience into his act when he wants them there, I’m not sure he has any moral authority to complain at hecklers when the audience pushes themselves into his act when they want to be there.
I’ve seen comics go from audience member to audience member making one quick gag, and then moving on. That’s not what I’m talking about – it’s when there’s one, or maybe two, people in the audience that the comedian is picking on. Continually. Going back to refer to them during the act, or especially the compère.
And picking on them.
Because that’s what it is – picking on someone who can’t (either because of the situation, or simply because they’re too scared to) give back as good as they get.
And if they do respond… well, I’ve never seen it end prettily.
I enjoy stand up comedy, but I pay to see the comedian make me laugh. Picking on people doesn’t make me laugh, and given the number of comics who say that they were picked on at school, you’d think they’d know better.