If you ask me to go camping with you, I’ll probably laugh in your face and then insult you until you leave. (And no, it has nothing to do with the time kids put toothpaste on my pillow at summer camp when I was 10…). So even though I’ve probably smoked acres of green, I’m going to have to side with Eva Gabor: “darling I love you but give me Park Avenue.”
Let’s face it – I’m a gay, black man with a cell phone addiction, a pollen allergy, and a proclivity to want fast food after 11pm. I don’t belong out in the middle of nowhere; I barely belong in the suburbs. If ever I were to find likeminded folk, it’s almost certainly in places that didn’t vote for 45.
But the more I travel the country as a comedian, I have come to not only appreciate the crowds in the middle of “red zones” but to thrive on them. I show up at some podunk town and inevitably someone will warn me that the locals are “a little conservative.” I’ll play a quick game of “find another black guy” and inevitably lose.
And then I step on stage and kill.
There’s a greater chance that the same jokes verbatim won’t hit as hard in front of a more liberal, “contemporary” crowd. (Don’t get me wrong – your boy is hilarious; but I’ve been at this long enough to spot trends and play armchair scientist in hypothesizing about them). I think I’ve finally figured out what the problem is.
It is so much harder to laugh with a stick up your ass.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain the rules of a comedy club, but for those with questions here you go:
If something is funny, laugh.
If something is funny but offensive, refer to rule 1.
If you are easily offended, you are not ready for the comedy club.
As a standup, I believe in being a line stepper. Comedy should challenge you and make you uncomfortable. I pick on all my own stereotypes, and everyone else’s too, because they deserve to be exploited. I can say “nigger” a whole lot and still be down with the struggle.
You know who else appreciates rampant use of the N-word? Conservative ass white people. And by the time they’ve committed to their two-drink minimum and realized that I just came to spread a little happiness, they are not afraid to cut loose.
I see the look in the faces of many well-meaning liberals when I make fun of my interest in the pedophile Catholic priest from my high school, or point out that there’s a difference between “retarded” and “retarded-adjacent” children. It’s a look of terror: can I laugh? Will the ACLU report me if I enjoy myself? This punchline tastes like mayonnaise if you add enough white guilt to it.
I won’t speak for every comedian, but I don’t talk about anything on stage that I haven’t either experienced personally in some form or have legitimate cultural/social capital to be able to exploit. I give my life and my essence every time I hit the stage. There is great personal risk in coming out on stage in front of strangers, let alone in turning my “other-ness” into a social weapon. Your entertainment is my exorcism. There should be no one more offended by my story than me.
When you come to a comedy show, check your white guilt, your Victorian propriety, and the stick that lives in your butt at the door. Have a couple of strong drinks and see the world through the eyes of a traveling life salesperson for a few minutes. The more we learn to laugh at each other’s differences, to not just live next to each other but really appreciate our diversity, the longer we can postpone the impending apocalypse.
And I’ll never apologize for any joke I tell because there had to have been a deliberate point behind it.
An incredibly likeable guy who says horrible things about everybody, Julian Michael is a stand-up comedian and the co-host of The Mayhem and Token Show on Dash Radio. A self-described “token minority,” Julian was on his way to being a Baptist minister before he discovered how funny and gay he is. Now he brings unfiltered laughter to audiences of all backgrounds, even though he fits in with none of them.