3 Theories I Am Developing About Comedy Based on the Nerdist Podcast: Sketchfest 2013

SFSketchfest2013_Nerdist_007
The Nerdist Podcast’s Chris Hardwick, Matt Mira and Jonah Ray interview Pete Holmes © 2013 Photo by Jakub Mosur

On Saturday night I went to my THIRD Sketchfest event, the Nerdist podcast live at the Marines Memorial Theater. To be honest, I have never listened to the Nerdist and really only wanted to go because I have a long-standing Singled Out-related crush on Chris Hardwick, the instigator of the podcast. I was surprised and intrigued in a couple ways. First: Chris Hardwick is pretty filthy in an impressively non-misogynistic way, which I liked and wasn’t expecting. Second: the show also features two other guys, also non-misogynistic Matt Mira, from the now-cancelled Attack of the Show, and trying-really-hard-to-not-be-misogynistic Jonah Ray, from those “Bing It On” Bing commercials. Needless to say there was a lot of heckling related to being in “Google’s back yard.” On Saturday, they were joined by guest Pete Holmes from this E-Trade commercial. I’m still on the fence about his misogyny level. Third: they started the show, which I assumed would be a podcast-style round-table, with three individual stand-up acts, which is really what started me thinking about the whole EXISTENCE OF STAND-UP COMEDY. Since Saturday I have developed a few theories about this subject which I will share with you now:

1. Stand-up is performance art that is 98% about getting an automatic physical reaction (laughter) from the audience.

The difference between the Nerdist and my all-time favorite podcast of all time, Uhh Yeah Dude, is the goal of the creators. All the guys on the Nerdist, and their guests, are comedians who want one thing and one thing only: to make you laugh. And they do a really good job of it! Old men’s anatomy is funny! Your father performing sex acts on your girlfriend is funny! “My sleep number is 9/11″ (Pete Holmes said that one) is really, really funny! But do any of those things mean anything? Uhh Yeah Dude is also funny. So funny that sometimes while listening I laugh so hard I can’t breath. But because the two guys in it aren’t comedians per se, they aren’t just going for laughs. Their goal is talk about the ridiculousness of the world we currently live in. Which is tragic, but also inherently funny. The Nerdist and Uhh Yeah Dude are both made up of straight white guys trying to find their place in a world that no longer just accepts straight white guys as the dominators of everything, but Uhh Yeah Dude does it with subtly and heart while the Nerdist plays it for laughs.

2. You can’t be in stand-up unless you have some serious ego-related issues.

Okay, this could be the same for any performing art, but comedy takes it to the next level. There you are, standing on a stage, as YOURSELF (or a weirder, dirtier, crazier version of yourself, but with YOUR NAME anyway), all alone, with the one goal of getting the audience to like you. Why would you want to do that? Because you are compelled to make great art and change the world? Or because deep down you hate yourself and think no one will ever love you and so you need to get on stage every night and hear the laughter of strangers to stop yourself from putting your head in the oven? I don’t necessarily mean that in a judgmental way. Every single person wants more love and maybe stand-up comedians are just taking the most direct route. Still, it can be rough. Just ask Jonah Ray’s sour face when Chris Hardwick and Pete Holmes totally dominated the podcast section of the show talking about Alf. Jonah had to make someone offstage bring him a drink and then take cheap-shots at Matt Mira’s belly just to get the people (us) to give him that life-sustaining approval he so needed again.

3. There probably aren’t going to be as many women as there are men in stand-up comedy for a long, long time.

As far as I can tell, comedy is a white straight boys’ club. Yes, I know that I have attended mainly male events thus far at Sketchfest (Garfunkel & Oates is on the list for next week though!) but even at NightLife the comedians were predominantly male. I like boys, I really do (see: Chris Hardwick, above, and my dad), but I wish there were more girls on stage. I would never say that women DON’T have the crazy ego issues men do. I mean, struggling with identity and ego are human problems and it doesn’t really help anyone to just say one group of us is more mentally healthy than another group (unless that group is sociopaths or something and then it is just factual accurate, probably). But it’s possible that women are generally trained to express their insecurities in different ways than by being funny. Maybe that’s why we have so many female strippers?

Anyway, none of this is to say I didn’t really enjoy myself at the show. I did! And Sketchfest isn’t even over! I have it on good authority that the rest of the shows will be equally thought-provoking and entertaining (go to the shows I just linked to, trust me). So stay tuned for next week when my theories get sharper and I actually see a female comedy show!

  • Michael

    I think u should listen to the podcast because this episode you are referring to is fairly atypical. Although i agree with some of youur points above i think the review of nerdist is slightly unfair and why the intense mysoginy view all the time, kinda feels like you are beating the reader over the head with that point mysoginy is bad (of course it is) i dont think most would disagree and those who do arent worth caribg about so maybe just mention it once and dont harp so hard on that one view of things.

    Specifically you should listen to the carla santa maria and zach braff or yvette brown episodes to get a good picture of the general themes. Its about comedy to some extent but mostly about getting to know the guest and talking about personal stories or beliefs.

  • calasich

    Just curious, is the purpose of the culture blog (and subculture focuses like comedy) to actually convey the pulse of a particular scene or events to the general public in a meaningful, exploratory way? Or is it meant more to put the audience (effectively, an outsider to the subculture in question) in the shoes of the blogger (also an outsider) and have them ruminate from a more superficial/outsider level/transport them into a first-timer experience?

    Someone sent me a link to this and I was expecting more of the former, but this content feels more like the latter. Would be great to get an idea of where the author hopes to go with this beat in the future.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lizzy.acker Lizzy Acker

      Hi! Our goal is to critically examine different aspects of shared cultural experiences. There are different ways we will go about it and with different levels of success of course. Thanks for reading!

Author

Lizzy Acker

Lizzy Acker’s work has been published in Nano Fiction, Fanzine, Joyland, Eleven Eleven and elsewhere. She has read with Bang Out, RADAR, Quiet Lightening and others. Her first book, Monster Party, was released in December of 2010 by Small Desk Press.

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