Wednesday, November 05, 2008
How I Feel About Stand-Up Post-Obama
As revelers from the street party last night celebrating Obama's victory filled the theater watching The Big O give his historic address on the screen, I asked myself: how on God's green globe can I follow this speech? Yes, at the open mike, Obama was opening for me.
I told jokes; jokes about Islamophobia against Obama which did OK, but, buffeted with hooting and hollering from the streets, seemed like a brief, awkward lull bringing history to a grinding halt.
Tim Warner, an amazing comedian, admitted during his set that he could not do his routine and spent seven minutes talking about how happy he was. Who wouldn't - no one was a stranger in the village last night. Hugs abounded like lichens on a mountainside.
More than once, it was said that the election hysteria was like 9/11 in that everyone felt patriotic and connected. One more similarity: a palpable sense that the death of irony was encroaching.
Since at least 2005, the downtown alternative comedy scene was virtually devoid of any polemical, anti-Bush material. Liberal rants seemed hackneyed and pious. But there was enough irony and silliness to make McSweeney's read like n+1. After the teeming masses of hopeful, joyful and euphoric youths blocked every intersection west of Long Island, jokes and non-sequiturs seem lame. (Even Gawker recently experienced a snark shortage).
That is to say nothing of the politically incorrect mike jockeys that play at clubs in the West Village and Times Square. Now is not the time to say "I love Obama, but..." or "If I vote for Obama, black people will have nothing to complain about."
This latter, sweaty, hoary type of comedy will probably see its stocks plummet, but the zany zingers will probably resurface as the much-needed panacea to an Obama hangover. But do not be surprised to see more comedians doing what is described on message board A Special Thing as "lecture comedy." The comedy of Hicks, Carlin and Pryor, where there is as much applause as laughter; as much oratory as oral sex jokes; as much silliness as sincerity.