Once upon a time, I amassed a giant collection of my opinions and links to articles supporting them (I know, some links are outdated, broken, or somehow link to the wrong things because they moved the source… sorry.). Today, I ranted on Twitter, and I have more than several 140 character or less statements so…
- How you look is not what defines you as a nerd, or a geek.
- Comedy attempting to appeal to “nerds” shouldn’t use old stereotyping contexts and reformatted racist, sexist, sizeist, jokes.
- Comedy written for thinking and studied people will suffice as “nerd” humor.
- Also, there is no such thing as “too old” for a thing, instead of picking on what other people find fun & joyful, find your own indulgences.
- The more I hear about how girls don’t play video games & only fat/”ugly” people are nerdy, the more I think the speaker is lazy & selfish.
- I want to support stuff I love, even if sometimes they say dumb things, but boy is it hard sometimes.
- Nerds, fats, uglies, we are everywhere, and we are in your audience. Hard to pay you for the pleasure of being called stupid and a loser.
- Disclaimer: Sure, insult/rude comedy is a thing people enjoy, but w/ such skill & cleverness for other types, I want to see variety honored.
The Comedy criticism…
(Yes, I know I have been down this road before…)
If you are a comic trying to break out some nerdy jokes on stage, and you stick with comic books and video games… here’s what not to do:
Who likes video games? OMG, a GIRL raised her HAND. Ladies only like boring stuff like The Sims and Social Gaming, LOL. What game does this unicorn of a lady gamer play? Mario Cart? Uh, I guess… because ladies are bad drivers! Right? MOVING ON to jokes about REAL GAMES LIKE WAR STUFF.
You will have just insulted the audience, and yourself (particularly uncomfortable when you’re in a city built by computers and video game tech). I bet you are actually more intelligent and more funny than that. Understand, I’m not saying you’re a bad person for doing this, I generally doubt you are. You’re probably working really hard, and screwing up tremendous amounts of courage to go up on stage and do your thing, you’re also probably more perceptive and thoughtful than the average bear. What I do not understand is why you set yourself up that way. If you jump right to a stereotype B.S. kind of thing, you have shown your weakness. I actually would prefer you to stumble for a little bit, bomb a little, but come back around to something that would better reflect on your ability to communicate your funny thoughts – I am patient, I respect the process, I can wait for the good stuff. (P.S. The good stuff could look like this, or like this, or like this, or even like this.)
Who the heck am I to be running my mouth, anyway? This isn’t what I do for a living, what do I know? Sure. I get that. But you are what I consume for living, I am a customer, I can’t do this, so that is why I TRY TO PAY YOU for it. If I’ve come to a show you are at, it is because you courted me as a customer. I have popped up as your target audience. I assume you want people to pay to see shows, so you can be paid for your very hard work, or maybe you just want people to listen, so you put free stuff on the web to share your thoughts.
So let me tell you about this particular customer that I am.
I am a tough cookie. I am very serious. I live at a fairly high level of stress. I am unemployed due to disability, surviving is my daily struggle. When I was working, I would spend money I earned to support what creative people created with their hard work. Now, I rely on the kindness of those who love me and want me to be able to go out and enjoy life, or I have to pinch pennies from a nonexistent budget because I love you, and need you*. I can’t get out very much, so in the past, not doing laundry for 2 weeks so I could afford a show seemed a reasonable plan to get some kind of relief from the kind of stir crazy I get when my body keeps me trapped at home for stretches of time. I value what you do so much that I make sacrifices to be able to support it, because you support me.
*Did I say I love you, and I need you? Yes, I did. I’ve talked before about why I make fan art. I am deeply passionate about art. Comedy is an art. I respect this on the entire scale between Carrot Top and George Carlin, between infantile silliness and deeply intellectual truth telling. Creative people keep my brain alive and firing. I cannot and will not abide by the reality/tabloid/fluff TV mind numbing experience. I want to FEEL, I want to THINK. My “reality” TV is Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters. My cotton candy viewing is The Big Bang Theory and Chuck. If I’ve made fan art that relates to you in any way, it is because you made something that excited me, and filled me with so much, it came spilling right back out. I can’t really find the words to tell you how or why you are awesome, but maybe I can SHOW you.
I am a tough cookie. I spend my time filling my head with art, news, and trying to learn things about the world around me. I have a tremendous amount of down time (not “free” time, no, living like this is not a gift, thanks) in which to explore many topics that most people do not have the time to do (I have a terrible, furious, activist brain!). I have the time to listen to many hours of what you do, and talk of who you are. I spend a lot of time trying to understand what you do, why you do, how you do. I want to respect you, I want to know the rules of what you expect from your customers. I wish everyone could invest in that, so they would have a greater respect for the medium, and attach actual value to it. The result of this is that I have very high expectations of you, and that I can be very forgiving that you simply have not had the time to invest in the things I have.
So as a customer, what I hope for is this:
Don’t demand laughs. Poor form. If you do, you better have thee most hilarious, well-crafted, set-complimenting way to do that. If you simply call attention to the lack of laughter, you make this customer too nervous to laugh. It puts me back in my own head, and I don’t know how to respond anymore – Are you being rude? Am I being rude? Is listening intently so I can hear you over the drunk assholes a bad thing? Am I making you nervous? Should I be faking it? What if I find your jokes offensive and hurtful, won’t laughing encourage you to keep saying terrible things? OH SHIT what did you just say? I missed the joke! AHH!
When you DO have time, invest in learning new things that relate to the things you say on stage. Instead of relying on popular stereotypes, find the way that builds everyone up with humor. I can let stupid or insulting jokes go by, until you’ve become willfully ignorant. Then I won’t even give you a polite laugh, I will be left with the assumption that you mean to shame me for… uh… paying money (that maybe came from halving my sparse transportation budget for 2 months) so you can keep working.
Let’s just stop being shitty to each other in general, yeah?
Do you make a lot of fat jokes? Don’t just rely on the the vapid TV and sponsored “news” (am I implying American news has been bought? No, I’m SAYING it.) B.S. Ask yourself what is funny about your fat joke, why is it really funny? Is it true? Does it highlight some reality people don’t think of? Is it insulting someone just for the sake of building some people up by tearing others down? Look at science, look at research, look beyond hyped interpretations of stuff talked about in the media to see if they’re just too stupid to understand where that data came from and what it ACTUALLY says.
“Ah, yeah. Look, I’m not trying to pretend it didn’t exist. I just stopped performing it. And some people like that song. And some people are upset by it. And people can listen to it if they want. You’re not putting people in a room and then trapping them there while you abuse them.” – Tim Minchin in response to why he doesn’t perform his fat shaming song anymore.
Watch the “Fast Food” episode of Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit”. While I may not agree with all of their conclusions, consider even the single point made that “experts” you see in the media say children born today will have the shortest life expectancy, they’re going to die young because OMG FAT – except science says no, actually, they’ll probably live longer than any generation in U.S. History. Penn’s outrage is hilarious and well placed. You don’t have to keep victimizing victims for the sake of “comedy”.
You may also want to consider Todd Glass’ recent interview with Marc Maron. When he talks about every little homophobic comment informing how he developed as a person… yeah. That’s true, you know. You may think “it’s just a joke” and that it is harmless, but it is not. You may be a better person than your joke, but sometimes the things you communicate do not work as you think they do.
“The problem with sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, etc., remarks and “jokes” is not that they’re offensive, but that by relying for their meaning on harmful cultural narratives about privileged and marginalized groups they reinforce those narratives, and the stronger those narratives are, the stronger the implicit biases with which people are indoctrinated are. That’s real harm, not just “offense.”” – Scott Madin
I’m not freaked out and crying, I’m not hysterical, I’m not over-reacting, I’m not trying to entitle myself by demanding you do for me only what makes me happy. I’m trying to communicate my frustration as a customer. I deeply feel that the people I’m seeing on stage, or listening to in podcasts are smart enough to do better, I believe that they are clever. I believe that they CAN elevate discourse and still be a damn RIOT. I don’t give time, money or attention to those creating things specifically to be outside of the demographics I am in. I do not begrudge an insult/shock comic from making their living, and seeking out frat boys aged 21-25. They found a niche, they exploit it, they earn and feed their families. For all of the people I DO adore, I just want them not to be contributing to the shit I have to go through every day. I want them not to be a part of frat boys pointing and laughing at me while repeating “jokes”, I want them not to add to transphobia that keeps people from finding safe places to live and work, I want them to keep breaking barriers of thought that help people laugh at things like bigotry, willful ignorance, and just how weird life can be, I want them to keep finding the most creative insights and connections between all things, I want them to keep delighting me with things I was previously unaware of. I want to give you the attention and appreciation you so deserve for the work you do.
I am a tough cookie, and I love you.