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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

W. Kamau Bell with a Possible Oxymoron: "Comedy Clubs Are Places of Meanness"

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 8:00 AM

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Recently comics have been put -- or put themselves -- in the position where they have been asked to -- or have been strongly pushed to -- apologize for their jokes. Or their ... "jokes."

It seems like every day, another comedian of note has one of his or her jokes, riffs, or tweets boomerang back to smack them in the ass because of its coarse, unenlightened, and/or controversial nature.

As much as I am not in line with most of my stand-up brethren (and sistren) in saying that comics should never apologize, I would like to make one thing clear. There is a reason that these comics are saying coarse, unenlightened, and/or controversial things: Comedy clubs are the home of coarse, unenlightened, and/or controversial things.


Comedy clubs are the legendary Old West. They are demilitarized zones. They are Thunderdome minus Tina Turner. The rules of polite, cultured society are not only NOT encouraged; they are silently rebuked and/or heckled. Comedy clubs are the home of rape jokes, retard jokes, racist jokes, sexist jokes, pedophile jokes, Holocaust jokes, ageist jokes, babies suck jokes, and the ever-popular fuck that guy jokes. (That's where you name any person --- the more famous and beloved the better --- and then you say, "Fuck that guy.")

Fuuu ... [Sorry, couldn't. -- Eds] - ADAM DAVIS
  • Adam Davis
  • Fuuu ... [Sorry, couldn't. -- Eds]

I'm not saying this is a good thing. I'm just saying this is THE thing. Take it from someone who spends a lot of time in comedy clubs. This is part of the reason the alt-comedy movement began in the first place: to escape those harsh parameters. But that doesn't necessarily mean that alt comics steer clear of that kind of trouble.

Going to a Bobby Slayton show and getting mad that he has jokes that are sexist, racist, and/or homophobic (sometimes concurrently) is like being a classical music fan and going to the Grand Ole Opry and complaining that the fiddle players are doing it wrong.

So if you're smart, do your homework BEFORE you cross the threshold of the comedy club. Instead getting mad at comedians for saying objectionable things, get mad at the audiences who fill the comedy clubs that birthed these comedians in the first place.

It's like Confucius says: "Don't hate the player. Hate the game."

Kamau's Komedy Korner is a weekly blog column about San Francisco comedy by W. Kamau Bell. Check back next Wednesday for more.

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W. Kamau Bell

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