Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hey Pauly Shore and Michael Richards

You're not Andy Kaufman. For those who don't know, Pauly Shore got punched by a "heckler."

Guess what? It's fake. Who pretended to confront hecklers? Andy Kaufman. But Pauly's not the only Kaufman biter: Michael Richards, a friend of Kaufman's, was obviously trying to antagonize the audience Kaufman style. Kaufman, like the Beatles, were revolutionary artists that spawned the awful genres of art-comedy and art-rock respectively. Pioneers open the gates for opportunistic hacks. Psychedelia begets art rock, punk rock gives birth to mall punk and yes, one day, all comedy shows will become festering sores all over the cityscape full of talentless "performance artists." Andy Kaufman was the first of his kind and the last. So for the few earnest artists left who want to prevent their seemingly inevitable descent into Kaufmania, here's a list of do's and don'ts so you can be a respectable comedian not a washed-up hack relying on confrontational (read: desperate) gimmicks.

Do: Have a character. Richard Pryor and Peter Sellers had characters.

Don't: Act as if the character is not really a character. Even Sacha Baron Cohen puts his name in the credits. Please don't answer your phone as "Manifred Chesterton, Peoria's #1 Evangelical Pet Psychic."

Do: Innovative crowd work. I agree, sometimes stand-up feels like the least funny thing in the universe and you need to resort to non sequiturs and anti-humor to cleanse the palette.

Don't: Yell at the audience or, perhaps worse, pretend to fight the audience. This isn't the seventies, when most people predicted we would be talking into radio wristwatches. We have cell phone cameras and Google caches. Believe me, the audience will know if it's a prank.

Performance art, as long as it's funny. Just remember: everything is art, but not everything is funny.

Suddenly "take an interest" in "performance art" eight years after your last hit show or film. We have enough trouble imagining you in a different Hollywood role, why would we possibly think you are the second coming of Vito Acconci?

Be yourself.

Be Andy Kaufman. Or Tony Clifton. Or Pauly Shore. Or Michael Richards. Or Vito Acconci.

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