Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Wacky midget and currently one of the top 5 funniest living people, Patton Oswalt was on NPR on monday being interviewed. Most of the chat was standard promotional stuff for his new CD but he also addressed a subject that I had just brought up last weekend in conversation about the current state of standup comedy.
He was talking about when he first started out and, thanks mostly to Johnny Carson, 99% of comics did standup in the hope that they wouldn't have to do standup much longer. Every comic had 5 minutes of clean material that they could perform on Carson in hopes they would get invited over to the desk and then the sitcoms and movies would just roll in from there. Then they could finally be rid of the 'burden' of having to please people face to face.
With the success of comics like Ray Romano and Kevin James, and the creation of shows like Last Comic Standing , this attitude seems to have returned in a big way. None of the comics on 'LCS' want to continue doing standup, that's the whole point of the show. Everyone on it is a 'successful' standup comedian who is now demanding a lucrative tv deal so they can finally quit this job they obviously hate so much. The only trouble is, as a result of them hating their job, they're usually not very funny and won't get a tv deal. It's a vicious cycle.
Thankfully, there's still a few comics that love what they do; Dave Attell, Louis CK and Patton to name a few. Despite relative success on tv, all three of these guys continue to perform all the time. It's people like them that stop comedy from eroding back into the awful 'Night at the Improv' days of the mid-80s. We're dangerously close to returning to the heady days of ventriloquists and impressionists cracking us up with yet another 'dead on' Jack Nicholson...