THE NEW WORLD OF FUNNY
A bold new underground of stand-up stars are changing how the game is played.
…Note; This is part of the preface to my new book which is a companion piece to the five part doc series we are working on at Standupworld.com ‘THE NEW WORLD OF FUNNY’…
When I first came back and wandered through the back roads of the stand-up world after an almost twenty year absence to begin working on ‘The Comedy Store’ documentary series, I was completely impressed with the new landscape of talent I witnessed. In fact I was fascinated. At the time back then, in 2016 or so, the podcast world and the lot of the newest stars from it were still sort of unknowns at street level. Joe Rogan himself often could bring up a blank stare when I mentioned names to my friends not in the business or not stand-up centric. Even more important, when I mentioned the new breed to the older group that I would interview, comics from my era of The Comedy Store and the class ahead of me, legends like Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jim Carrey, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Walker, Tom Dreessen, Tim Thomerson, etc, I would get some serious dubious glances.
Back then the Joe Rogan’s and the Chris Delia’s, Joey Diaz’s, Bert Kreischer’s, Tom Segura’s, Christina P’s., Brian Callen’s, Iliza’s, the Neal Brennan’s, Marc Maron’s, Whitney Cummings, the Theo Von’s and even Sebastian Maniscalco were all just lurking below the surface of awareness to mainstream America and the world. At the same moment that they could pack theatres and clubs and download hundreds of thousands of episodes of their work all over the world, most of them could walk down any street or eat in any diner and no one would have any ideal who they were. It became so interesting to watch this underworld of bustling, billowing, bloviating band of podcasters, YouTubers, Instagrammers, self programmers, and of course Netflix stars, build, nurture and entertain their large and energetic audiences.
A NEW ENERGY AND A NEW FREEDOM FUELED PASSION
These comics were finally their own bosses. In fact to me, they weren’t ‘comics’, they were ‘entrepreneurs’, ‘multifaceted performers’ ‘artists’, ‘business people.’ Joe Rogan and his buddy Brian Redban, Whitney Cummings, Tom Segura, Christina P. Mark Maron and his crowd, along with several of the New York comic/podcasters, and Paul F. Tompkins, truly changed the world of stand-up. They were flexing muscles that were never used before by stand-up comedians. Rappers maybe. Rock bands. Modern artists. Some independent filmmakers, but not at this level. Not with this complete creative control combined with an unparalleled technology borne tactile relationship with the fans.
‘ANYONE HERE TONIGHT?’
The best way I can put it is to equate how we used to come to the comedy clubs in my time in the late seventies and early eighties and routinely ask who was in the audience. ‘Anyone here tonight?’ was a regular question at ‘the store’ at that time because talent scouts from all of the networks would regularly drop in or there would be scheduled showcase nights and you wanted to know if someone important was there. Someone that could potentially change your life, or at the very least, move you ahead a few places in the line. Cast you in a sitcom or give you a sitcom deal to develop your own sitcom or at least to do a guest part on a sitcom.
One of the first things that became clear to me when I came back was the comics from this new era never asked that question. They didn’t care. They were their own network bosses. The most successful of them didn’t want a damn sitcom. It was too much time taken away from what they were doing.
Creating. Producing. Broadcasting. Marketing. Touring. Rinse and repeat. It’s grueling, didactic, sometimes monotonous work to make everything look spontaneous, but if you did it, and if you loved it and connected with an audience, it was not only incredibly rewarding, but damn profitable.
‘No thanks. Give your guest shot to someone else. I’ve got a world to create.’
THE NEWER NEW WORLD
Today, a good six years later, the stand-up scene is drastically different in the sense that it’s even more of a wild west of humor. Even further down the road of self-control and self marketing. Self expression taken to a new level. With the networks and streamers pumping out eleven hundred shows a year between them, the competition for eyeballs and ears should be an insurmountable challenge, but it isn’t. There are more comics headlining large concert halls than ever before. Comedy Clubs are packed, tours are sold out, and the views on the Youtube channels and the Instagram and Tik-Tok sites constantly seem to break new records.
Stand-ups like Andrew Schultz, Yamaneika Saunders, Mark Normand, Dan Soder, Beth Stelling, Rachel Feinstein, Ari Shaffir, Ian Edwards, Jessica Kirson, Tony Hinchcliffe, Sam Tripoli, Steve Byrne, Nate Bargatze, Rich Vos and his wife Bonnie McFarland, Shane Gillis, Taylor Tomlinson, and so many more are bushwhacking through the backwoods of comedy, and the trails they’re carving out and leading each other along, similar but different trails than those that the Maron’s, Rogan’s, and Cumming’s of the class just ahead of them traversed, are even more exciting to watch and enjoy. Even more independent and fearless. Somehow differently daring, even more expressive, revelatory, and refreshing.
Shane Gillis is a new guy on my radar who’s typical of the stories we’ll chronicle in the new series and I’ll write about here in the book. I’m a big fan of his work but I also love his recent story for what it tells us about the new world. He’s not only a great comic, but also a stellar sketch comic. A master. Just google Gilly and Keeves. I don’t need to sell. You’re going to love their stuff. It makes SNL’s stuff look like something your dog left in the yard you won’t even pick up with gloves.
He was hired for his brilliance then a bunch of turd-ass liberal white shit-boxes found a bunch of old jokes he did and got a handful of Asians into a lather. Lorne Michaels who has the edge these days of a pocket eraser my Aunt Edna hides in her ass for comfort and for ‘just in case’, buckled under the pressure like a paper plate display at the country fair.
Poor old Lorne. Comedy-wise he can’t hear the dinner bell these days. The only one he hears is a dinner party with rich old celebs and politicians taking turns talking about how much they can change the world. P.S. watching SNL these days is like watching a pony die.
Anyway, Shane got shit-canned. Lorne needed to let him go. (‘Very sadly…) Even people as varied as Andrew Yang stepped up and said he shouldn’t. Guess who picked him up? The stewards of the new world. Rogan, The Skanks, Bert Kreisher, Whitney, Tim Dillon. Oh, and more important; The fans. It was the best thing that could happened. SNL is like an order of toast that’s been sitting on a counter since a week from Wednesday. Even if you put it in your mouth you’re going to end up spitting it into the sink.
Watch closely. Shane Gillis will be the next huge stand-up. ‘Louis C.K. if there were a lock on his zipper big.’ (Sorry Louis, but low hanging fruit is still fruit. Love you. Shrug.)
More on Shane later in the book…
SHANE GILLIS, MIKE BINDER, ANDREW YANG at COBB’S COMEDY CLUB
OLD GUY’S P.O.V.
I know this sounds like yesterdays news to a certain generation, but to spend a couple hours on Youtube and wade through the thick with this gang, to watch and listen to their work can be so much more entertaining than any night on any streaming service or network out there. Pick any one of these new comedy craftsman’s podcast and listen religiously for a month and I dare you to not want to do whatever is necessary to see them work live. These new self distributed specials are charged with something you don’t see on HBO MAX or NETFLIX. They smell like canvas. As if the words and the ideas have been worked out in a funky loft studio of each of these comics minds with no input from anyone but the audiences across the country they’ve diligently forged the work off of their laughing faces on. This is one hundred percent artistic expression. Comic abandon. Sold from stand-up, direct to audience, and it feels somehow completely different.
NOT JUST KIDS EITHER
These are not all Millennials or Gen X’s, and Pro-Noun babies either. Listen to Eddie Pepitone’s podcast. Go see his act. Same with Bobby Kelly! Wow. Paul Virzi. Joe Bartnick, and Felicia Michaels. Tom Segura and his wife, or Bonnie McFarland and her husband. These are all adults with real life sturm and drang they’re turning into day to day humor and light in a relatable and addictive fashion that’s funny and them some.
This is world class entertainment. This isn’t garage level low bandwidth production value either. We’re light years away from the days of public access. This group, and the class that invented the world mentioned above have all built out amazing studios and platform for themselves. They produce an amazing amount of content at a level of quality that’s mind-boggling. Go into Andrew Shultz’s world sometime. He’s built himself a several million dollar studio. Lit perfectly with extraordinary sound and graphics. It’s truly impressive. The fucking guy has a clothing line. (Who is he, Jessica Alba?)
Dive into Sam Morrill’s pond. Swim around for two hours. He’s as good of a comic and entertainer as I’ve ever seen. Lanky, sexy, goofy, rude, and bombastic. He’s a killer.
Watch Joe Lists recent special he put out himself on YouTube, filmed at The Comedy Cellar, with the big, jokey JOE LIST sign behind him. It’s a near perfect set of stand-up.
Jessica Kirson? Listen to her podcast Disgusting Hawk for two weeks and then tell me you don’t need to go see her live. (By the way, if you haven’t you’re missing out.)
There’s so many of them. I’m not even scratching the surface here in this opening statement. Trust me, I’ve left out some head-slapping omissions. How could I not? The field is so damn rich.
Felicia Michaels – The Comedy Store
THE MAINSTREAM CROWD
Howie Mandel, David Spade, Dana Carvey, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, Jeremy Piven, Conan O’Brian, not mention the amazing raw and open comic wound that is the hilarious Bobby Lee. (Someone that beautifully straddles both the terrain of the mainstream world and the underground swamplands.) All of these household names have all journeyed into the underworld with the new denizens, all set up shop, rolled up their sleeves and dug in for the hard work of staking their claim in this rare and fresh world. There are no shortcuts either for these big shots. There’s only so much work that can be delegated to assistants, editors, producers and partners. Most of the heavy lifting comes from the heart and the grind, and the only ones that succeed learn that fast, shrug, and head up the hill.
New comics or TV hot-shots all find out in time how hard it is. Yes, it’s rewarding as hell, yes, it makes them better in every way. Better comics, better business folks, better interviewers and maybe even better people somehow. Still, there’s a reason so many acts start down this road and then give it up. It’s seriously not for those allergic to labor. You can’t podcast from a Lazy Boy.
IN THE BOAT TOGETHER
And finally for this section of the preface, let me say the most interesting and watchable aspect for me, is the camaraderie this group has with each other. We had it in the early days when I was at The Comedy Store to an extent and it was great. Before a bad labor dispute and comics blowing up, making it big and others not and the walls all that erected. These stand-ups have a bond that seems stronger. There’s less competition. They almost seem to need each other more. As guests on each other’s podcasts, and as confidants, and fellow travelers. Watching the shows it’s sometimes like one guest star from another show after another. All telling insider comedy and various takes on a crazy world. Is it frat boy funny to a fault sometimes? Yeah. As a guy thirty-eight years sober it’s hard to take sometimes with Rogan and Shutlz and all these guys smoking pot and drinking and being high as hell, so I can see how an ‘other’ looking in would find it oft putting sometimes.
I try to look past what I don’t relate to and look to what I do. I also just want to laugh. I love to laugh. I like seeing people support each other. Comics together, talking shit. I can’t stand these types of podcast where it’s one self involved comic rambling on his couch for an hour, or two people never, hardly ever any guests. Not so subtly telling you why he or they are better than everyone else. Or one loud mouth with a sole simpering sidekick tearing everyone who doesn’t have a mic apart. I don’t get those types. It’s old fashioned radio, that sort of dog shit. It may be popular but it won’t have legs.
I don’t get those types. I like the jocularity. I like the positivity found in Rogan’s support of his friends and theirs in him. I love to hear Dan Soder and The Legion of Skanks guys, Big Jay ,and Louis J. Gomez tear it up. I love Jessica Kirson and all of her pals shitting on the world in a funny ass way. I can always feel the affection she has for her friends, and even for the world in her own loony way.
This whole world is something I have a lot of affection for. It’s so never ending. So varied. So diverse, and not in a P.C. political, let’s pander way. It’s a brand new continent of entertainment, and the one and only rule is, just be funny.
The New World of Funny.
Okay, and here’s a quick laugh to send you off with; CLICK BELOW
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