Blog Image

Don't Shit Where You Eat! ™

Lineups: Creating Order From Chaos

Comedy Posted on Tue, October 30, 2018 10:04:59

[NOTE: In today’s blog I’ll be referring to rookies
often. I am a rookie with seven years
experience, which by Swedish standards makes me a veteran. I am writing rookie here to indicate rookie

I once had an argument with a newbie about setting the
lineup at shows. I’m very much a
traditionalist- put the least-experienced first. She was opposed to that- passionately, in
fact- believing this to be unfair, not just to the rookies but also the audience. At the time, I’d been running clubs for two
years and she was just starting out, so I figured I knew better, but she’s kind
of a big deal now and I’m not, so maybe I should’ve listened to her.

Nah, I’m sure I’m right.

I saw her point. Her
view was that, if an experienced comic goes first, the vibe in the room goes
higher than it would if a rookie went first.
The crowd would have more fun and the room would be warmer when the
rookie went on, which would make it more likely for the rookie to succeed. Everyone wins.

Here’s my take. First
of all, no one likes to go first. Okay,
there are times when someone just wants to get home or to another gig and is
more than happy to go first, but that’s not very common. Any comic that’s been in the game for a long
time has already gone through a period of going up first. It’s rarely a lot of fun.

Second of all, if a rookie is going up first to a cold room,
then the host did a shit job. Which,
admittedly, is all too common, but the last thing a host should do is throw a
rookie to the wolves without at least getting the crowd focused and ready. Even an amazing host like myself can bomb
sometimes, so, again, going up first stinks.

Third, and most importantly, you have to work harder when
the crowd isn’t so hot they laugh at your every word and gesture. This is where I say, putting rookies first is
the best thing for them and also the audience.
It’s a trial by fire: rookies have to get better or die, and this
process goes faster when they have to work themselves off the frontlines. They develop, and the more developed comics
in the community, the better experience we offer to audiences.

In any case, I have empathy, but not sympathy, for anyone
unhappy going first. I’ve gone first more
times than I can count and still do, from time to time. Sometimes by choice, especially at a club I
run, sometimes not by choice. It is what
it is, you just need to work with it.


At Power Comedy Club, managing the lineup is especially
tricky. Each show is two ”halves” followed
immediately by the Marathon of walk-in comics who get five minutes each and
introduce each other. We try to book no
more than five comics in advance, two of whom get ten minutes and the other
three getting seven minutes each. The
booked comics are on before the Marathon and they aren’t enough to fill out the
lineup, so we need to mix in a few of the twenty- on a slow night- comics who
come in off the street.

In theory, the order is determined on a first-come, first-serve
basis. Signing up for these walk-in, open
spots starts at 7 PM, but we’re there to set things up much earlier than
that. Didn’t take long for comics to
figure that out, so they began coming into the room ten minutes early. Then twenty.
Then forty. The night I walked
into the room at 5:30 PM and found comics waiting for me, I put my foot down
with my two partners and now we’re enforcing the stay-out-of-the-room-until-7-PM rule. I appreciate the enthusiam but
damn, give a brother a chance to eat dinner.

Our regulars accepted that without issue, however, and now
they wait patiently upstairs until we take the rope off the stairway at 7 PM and they move like a flash flood to the signup sheet. I keep saying I’ll just make a checklist of
all our regulars instead of a blank form, but I haven’t made good on that
threat yet. Anyway, I’m grateful for
their patience.

In practice, however, when they arrive is a factor, but not
the main factor that determines their places in the lineup. My partners and I decide who deserves spots
before the Marathon and how to balance the order so it’s not too many rookies
in a row. We haven’t always been so
particular and just did put comics on in the order they signed up, and this led
to a few brutal evenings with the crowd fleeing the room like rats deserting a
sinking ship.

Signup stays open the whole show, so when experienced comics
walk in at 10 PM and there’s twenty comics left to go, we usually stick them
somewhere into the lineup instead of at the bottom of the list. The danger here is pissing comics off, but people
seem to be pretty understanding. The
better the lineup, the more likely the audience is to stay longer. When we have a show that lasts more than
three, sometimes more than four hours- the record so far is 36 comics- no one
can expect a lot of people to stay to the end.
But, to date, we’ve always had at least one civilian, and usually more,
in the room, along with comics, by the end of the night.

So far, we’ve only pissed off one guy, at least openly. He’d been at Power three or four times
before, signed up one night at 7 PM, brought some people to watch him. We like it when comics bring support, so we
put him on early in the Marathon and his people sat right in front of the
stage. Great! Except it didn’t take long to see his people
were terrible, seemed completely uninterested in the show and just sucked all
the energy out of the room.

Meanwhile, more experienced comics were arriving, texting in advance,
looking for spots. We started plugging
them into the lineup to turn the night around, because no one was having
fun. This led to the aforementioned guy
throwing a shit fit- but not on us, on one of the freshly arrived comics-
because he was getting bumped later and later and that’s not fair, he was there
at 7 PM! Said shit fit was happening in the
room while the show was going on. We
took him aside, tried to explain, he mocked us for having the show on a
Thursday. ”You should have it on Friday
or Saturday! If you did, I have eighty people who would come, just to see me!” Well, if those eighty suck as bad as the four
he had that night, I’m glad they can’t make it.

He never did make it on that night. After pacing angrily around the room and
getting roasted by a comic we put on before him, he and his crew gave up and
left without a word. But that’s Power
Comedy Club- all are welcome! He’s
welcome back anytime, I look forward to giving him the last spot of the night.

Hosting- A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Comedy Posted on Tue, October 23, 2018 08:24:35

I have a complicated relationship with hosting shows. On the one hand, I really enjoy doing
it. I’m good at it. In fact, I’m the best host in Stockholm,
according to myself and no one else, despite the sheer amount of times I tell
people I’m the best host in town. Some
people just won’t learn.

On the other hand, the best you can do as host is your job. ”It’s not your job to be funny,” I’ve said,
ad naseum, of hosting. A host needs to
be funny, obviously, but no one is ever there to see the host. The host isn’t the star of the show. Which isn’t to say that the host is
invisible; I’ve received plenty of compliments from comics and people from the
crowd after hosting a show. But the best
host will always be overshadowed by the best comic on the lineup.

A few friends of mine spoke recently on a comedy pod about
hosting vs. doing a set. ”It sucks to
bomb but it sucks almost as bad to have just an ok gig, and the best you’ll
ever have as host is an ok gig.” Very,
very true.

Again, not to say I’ve walked away from every hosting gig
feeling, meh. If the show goes well, I
feel good about it, especially when I feel like my hosting had a lot to do with
how well it went. But my strength as
host is also my weakness- I found a way to do it that works well and I stick to
the script each time, with very little variation. The best thing that can happen is that it
works, flawlessly, but that’s what is supposed to happen.

It’s like, when I’m thirsty I’ll drink a glass of water,
then I’m not thirsty anymore. The water
did its job. I’ve said, ”Damn, that was
good water!” now and then but it’s pretty rare.
To paraphrase Derek Smalls *, I’m the water that holds a show together.

This has been on my mind since last weekend. I hosted a show on Friday, it was a lot of
fun, hosted again on Saturday, it was amazing.
Got a lot of laughs and claps on the back and free drinks, job well

But one of the comics on the lineup got two corporate gigs
from people in the crowd. Good thing I
don’t get jealous of others! Wondering
what that sound is? Just my teeth

* If you don’t know who Derek Smalls is, you need to get on
that shit.

“When ambition ends, happiness begins.” *

Comedy Posted on Tue, October 16, 2018 07:40:54

* Thomas Merton

A few nights ago, I went to see Jon Stewart and Dave
Chappelle perform in Stockholm, at Globen.
Amazing show, sold out or damn near.
Even their opening act was fantastic, despite half the crowd not bothering
to be there, preferring to stay in the bar.
Hell, not everyone was there for Jon Stewart, either.

Being there, having a great time, it struck me how much I
would’ve loved to be even just the opening act that no one cares about and few
remember afterwards. Naturally, feeling
the love bestowed on Stewart and especially on Chappelle, I thought about how
amazing it must feel to be on that stage, to reach that level, to earn that
much adoration. What if that’s me

It won’t be and that’s ok. I have zero ambition.


A friend asked me yesterday what I want to be when I grow
up. We were talking about my job and her
University studies. I said, ”I want a
high paying job with no responsibilities,” which I don’t think is too much to
ask. I’m easy to please! All I really want to do is whatever I want to
do, whenever I want to do it. Sleep
late, play video games, tell jokes, stay out late, lather, rinse, repeat. As of this post I’m 43 ½ and this is the
extent of my ambition.

It’s just very difficult, at this point in my life, to
believe I’ll ever have a job that I really care about. Don’t get me wrong, I take work seriously and
put in my best effort, but I’m not invested on a personal level. If I do well I keep my job, keep making
money, hopefully get a raise, but paying bills is what it’s all about. I’m a husband and a father, I can’t lead a
life with zero responsibilities, as appealing as that may sound.

Other than my family, of course, what I care about is
comedy. As I’ve said on stage, ”I think
about comedy more than I think about sex… and I think about sex A LOT,” which
is accurate. Having a job affords me the
chance to put as much into standup as I can, since that’s where my passion
lies. I make a bit of cash telling
jokes, which is nice, and I would love to make more, though it’s hard to
imagine it being my full-time job. The
only thing keeping me from calling it a hobby is how all-encompassing it is.

As passionate as I am about comedy, about standup in
particular, I have no ambition there, either. Keep performing, keep running clubs. Maybe someday do an hour-long show on my own,
which at this point I absolutely could do if I put my mind to it. But I haven’t yet because, well, see above.


I’ve been performing for nearly seven years now, which isn’t
long at all anywhere else, but in Stockholm makes me an old man on stage more
than being 43 ½. Over the years I’ve
seen many of my peers surpass me, moving upwards in and sometimes onwards from
standup- touring, high-profile clubs, radio, TV, etc. Some were already veterans- at least by
Swedish standards- when I started, some started around the same time as me,
still more started after I did, sometimes long after.

It goes without saying that, in each and every case, I am
funnier and more talented than them.
Kidding. I’m competitive and I
could grumble that luck and/or better social skills had more to do with their
success than talent for a few of them, but I can’t claim to match their
drive. If you’ve got goals in mind, you’re
more likely to do what it takes to reach them.
Ask me where I see myself in five years and I say, ”Here.”


I’ve known comics who, after three to five years in standup,
felt they’d reached a plateau, a level they just wouldn’t get past. Felt they’d never get into radio or TV or
movies no matter how much more effort they put into standup, so quit. Why bother?

I’ve come to realize that I am firmly on that plateau and I’ve
likely been here longer than I know, and that’s ok. I never understood before how anyone could
quit, especially talented people, but I get it now. It has to be frustrating to know you’ll never
get what you want while watching your peers move on to bigger and better
things. It’s fertile ground for jealousy
and bitterness, not a fun place to be. I
know a few comics who did become jealous and bitter and stuck with it anyway; I
honestly understand the ones who quit better than the angry, spiteful ones still doing

Myself, I’ll keep doing it out of love. I may have reached the highest level I’ll
ever reach and I don’t put that all on my lack of ambition. This may be all my talent is worth. Maybe it’s because entertaining the audience
isn’t as important to me as entertaining myself, or because I’m not very
social, or I’m unlucky, or all those reasons or none of them. Doesn’t matter to me.

It may be a plateau but the view is amazing.

Writing About Writing About Women

Comedy Posted on Wed, October 10, 2018 03:23:30

”Excuse me… hi! Great show
tonight, thanks! But I have to ask you… where are the women?!”

”That’s a good question- where
ARE the women?”

On three separate occasions after
hosting shows with all-male lineups, three very different women walked up to me
and said virtually the same thing. In Sweden, it takes a special kind of person
– or at least a drunk one – to have the courage to walk up to me, a stranger,
and ask anything. I can only imagine how many women there wondered the same
thing, but didn’t ask.

It’s a tough subject. There are
many more men than women in the comedy scene, lineups are consistently
dominated by men, sometimes are exclusively men. Where are the women, indeed?

I have no answers but I have
theories, I have examples, I have stories that show there’s plenty of blame to
go around. I often talk about this situation because it’s something I hope to
help improve, and, most importantly, I want to see more women performing
because there’s only so many dick jokes I can bear.

Here’s the problem though: I
can’t write about it.

Not that I haven’t tried! On my
blog, when I wrote the story of the time I asked, like an idiot, a woman to not
be ”a typical female comic”, I sent the link to a friend and she asked me, ”Ok…
why are you writing about this?” As I was writing a long entry on today’s
topic, that question kept popping into my head, so I threw it out and wrote
this instead. I might as well write about what it’s like to be a black man in

I’m a white guy, the world is my
oyster. If I write that the problem is due solely to club owners not doing
enough to address the problem, that would be ok. But if I suggest things women
could do themselves to improve the situation, I’d come across as an asshole. Or
worse, that I’m mansplaining to female comics how they can fix things. Sigh.
Just writing that probably makes me an asshole.

I mean, I am an asshole, but I
don’t want to be an asshole about this. I want more women on stage! The crowd
wants diversity as well. As one of the women who approached me said, ”It’s not
that I didn’t think the men weren’t funny, I just would’ve liked one person I
could’ve related to.” Shows need different voices, different perspectives.

I’m happy to say that I’ve
encouraged a lot of rookies over the years. I’m not the most experienced comic
around, I just love standup, I appreciate talent, and I like to motivate comics
I think have potential. At the same time, I’ve encouraged only a few men,
because it rarely feels necessary. I’ve seen awful male comics keep at it,
never improving, with absolutely zero self-awareness. I myself may be one of
them. I won’t say that women need encouragement and men don’t, but I will say
that a lot of men could use some discouragement.

“New material!!”

Comedy Posted on Wed, October 03, 2018 04:13:03

About midway into the Team Amerika tour, my comics-in-arms
began mimicking my act. ”He’s so
gooooood!” they’d say to me, referring to a line in a bit I call Bad Wife. Since we were on tour, performing for people
who’d paid to see us, I had put together my best twenty-minute set and was
doing the same thing over and over again.

Hearing that from the other comics made me very
self-conscious when I said the line on stage later. Especially since I could often see them out
of the corner of my eye, offstage, lip-syncing the line and giggling to each


Offstage, and unfortunately onstage more often than I like,
I mumble. I’m from the East Coast of the
US, we’re known for a high rate of speech.
I’ve had to slow down when talking to people from the Midwest so they
could understand me. Obviously, living
in Sweden forces me to slow down even more, and I’ve been here for so long
that, for the most part, speaking slower is second-nature. But I can slip into old habits when I’m
nervous, or excited, or drunk; sometimes I’m all three at once.

As a performer I have to be clear onstage, even more so
performing in English in Sweden. The
overall level of English comprehension here is embarassingly high, which is the
only reason I’m able to get away with it so often. Still, not only should I not mumble, I have
to be careful which words I say. Even if
the average Swede speaks English much better than I’ll ever speak Swedish, that
doesn’t mean they’re going to get complex or unusual words, at least not
quickly enough for a joke to land.

When I write, I find the best wording and the best way to
deliver the bit, then I find the best way to put all those bits together into a
long set. I think of it like watching a
band in concert: the songs might be a bit different live, but essentially the
same as on the album. When I’m just
doing a few minutes at an open-mic level club, I’ll try new things, or bring
back jokes I haven’t done in years, but when I’m performing for a paying
audience, I want to give them the best set I can.

The upside is that I’ve been fortunate to increase the
number of paid gigs each year. Mostly
hosting, but also the occasional headline spot or gigs like the aforementioned
tour. The downside is that I’ve become very
tired of the sound of my own voice.


This became painfully obvious to me a few months ago, when I
performed at the Lund Comedy Festival for the third year in row. I’m proud of that, of course; not everyone
gets a chance to be part of the festival once, let alone three times. The first two years I was there as part of
Team Amerika, this year with Cash Comedy Club, sharing the stage with four
other comics. We agreed to have ten
minutes each, so I put together the best ten minute set I could.

I was well aware, long before I stepped onto that stage,
that my set included one thing – one thing – that I hadn’t said onstage both
the years prior. On stage, as I was
wrapping up my planned material, I checked the clock and saw I had done just
over eight minutes. I was satifsfied
that I’d done well, but I had to make a quick call: do I end my set now, or
should I end with Personal Question (one of my favorite bits), even if it means
being onstage for eleven or more minutes in total? It would’ve been fine for me to have a longer
set than the others, since we eventually ended the show with time to spare, but
I chose to end without doing the extra bit.
Partly out of respect for the others, but mostly because I didn’t see the
sense in ending my set exactly how I’d ended my set the first two years.

One thing I respect George Carlin and Louis CK for is how
they masturbated in front of other people – kidding – is how they developed a
new hour of material every year. As I
said, on the open mic level I’m constantly changing things up and trying new
material, yet my core, go-to bits haven’t changed and I haven’t added any new
ones in a long time. It’s
frustrating. I know it’s because I’m lazy
– I host often and I found a way to do it that I’m happy with, so each time
it’s almost a brainless routine for me.
Muscle memory. I’m not
challenging myself enough. I can live
with not having a new hour for Lund, but not having a new goddamn ten minutes?


”Much of your pain is self-chosen,” said Khalil Gibran, and,
boy, is he right about that here. I know
a lot of comics who haven’t changed a word of their acts in years and seem
pretty content. This will sound like a
passive aggressive swipe, but I mean it sincerely when I say I envy them. They want to do well, found a way to succeed,
and enjoy getting laughs. It’s enough
for them! It is, after all, supposed to
be our job to entertain the crowd, so if it’s not broke, why fix it?

Unfortunately, it’s not enough for me. Making the crowd laugh maybe isn’t enough of
a priority for me, I’m more concerned with making myself happy. To be fair, I’m not doing the crowd any
favors if I’m bored on stage – they’re smart enough to recognize it, and react
poorly, if my heart’s not in it.

With all this in mind, I headlined a show last night and
started with eight minutes I’d never said before on stage, hadn’t even rehearsed
(except in my own head). The crowd didn’t
pay for the show, but I got paid for it, so it feels irresponsible to me to
gamble like that, to invite a bigger potential for bombing. I performed for twenty-five minutes, so everything
else I said was tried and true, but at least I chose bits that I haven’t done a
million times before, and not recently either.

It was reasonably successful. I didn’t slaughter but I didn’t bomb, either. We all had fun. Maybe the crowd would’ve had more fun if I’d
done a safer set, but I would’ve been unhappy.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask the crowd to meet me halfway.

Am I a Nice Guy?

Comedy Posted on Tue, September 25, 2018 04:40:29

”I don’t think Ryan likes me very much, but I don’t know
what I did wrong,” said a rookie to one of my partners. My partner told him not to worry, I’m just

I wrote long ago how people could get the wrong impression
of me based on how I am onstage. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that
people can get the wrong impression of me offstage as well. Or maybe they’re right and I’m wrong, which
is a scary thought.

In that last entry, I told the story of the coworker who
told me, ”You are SUCH an asshole! And
the worst part is, you think you’re a nice guy!” I’m not going to keep repeating the same
thing over and over, it’s just, I’m not great at making good first impressions. Apparently, I’m not good at making second or
hundredth good impressions either, since people I’ve met many times over still
haven’t figured out what an amazing, generous, caring and social individual I

In other words, I’ve realized that I’m the one with a


Recently, a comic posted something like this on FB, ”This
week I was at Power and had a bad gig, then I was at Big Ben and had a good
gig. Guess that makes me an average
comic.” I commented ”BANNED”- as a joke-
and when I met him later I told him, ”Don’t EVER mention Power in the same post
with another club ever again!” Again, as
a joke, but I could tell from his face that he didn’t know I was joking. He looked like a dog that just got screamed
at by his master. ”Did YOU make this

(And yes, I’ve also covered before the issue of jokes not
being understood as jokes, so I’m not getting into that here again either.)

At least I was aware of this time, immediately, and told him
it was a joke. It was based on another
club owner I know who means it when he tells people not to mention his club in
the same breath as another, for any reason, at any time. I need to stop assuming everyone knows what I
mean all the time.


”I ran into [a regular at Power] today, he works down the
street from here,” I recently said to one of my fellow club owners. ”Oh, he has a job now?” he replied. ”That’s great! He’s been out of work for a long time, I know
he wasn’t feeling good about that.”

This is someone I’ve seen almost every week for months and I
had no idea. I don’t know anything about
his personal life, we don’t have conversations.
The only thing I know about him is his material, which by this point I
could do myself on stage.

We have a lot of regulars at Power, which makes me extremely
happy. We wanted to have a place where
everyone had an opportunity and I love seeing the same faces week after
week. When Power opened, it was the only
stage available to most of them, but we’ve seen them since get new
opportunities elsewhere, chances they likely would not have had if they hadn’t
been at Power week after week, month after month. I’m proud of them and proud of us! ..and I barely know any of them.

After the show each week, there’s usually a gang of comics
hanging out until the bar closes, and sometimes beyond. I love that too! It’s been a long time since I was in club
where comics liked to hang, I really miss that, and I’m proud that we
established a fun place! …and I never hang out.

I keep saying that I will and haven’t yet. Mostly it’s the fact that I live so far away,
my options for getting home are limited, and needing to wake up at 6 AM to come
back into the city the day after. As it
is, I’m lucky to be home by 1 AM after Power, and by the time the show is over
– a show that has run past midnight on more than one occasion – I’m pretty
burned out and don’t feel social.

Not feeling social, I think that’s my biggest problem. I don’t feel social most of the time. There are clubs I go to – and I should note
here that I rarely go to clubs if I’m not on the lineup – where I never feel
social. I show up, I don’t talk to
anyone, I play Candy Crush if no one’s looking, I do my set and leave. I’m uncomfortable the entire time I’m there,
because I feel like I should be talking to someone, but don’t know what to say.

(For God’s sake, I’ve covered being socially retarded before
too. This blog is getting repetitive.)

ANYWAY. What I’m
trying to say is, if I am giving people the impression that I’m a cold prick,
it would be a good idea to stop acting like a cold prick.

How Do You Want to Use Your Time?

Comedy Posted on Tue, September 18, 2018 04:40:05

I’ve been running comedy clubs for several years now- note
that I wrote ”clubs” and not ”a club”; they weren’t all winners- and I’ve had
the chance to meet a lot of rookies. My
ego being what it is, I really enjoy passing along all of the wisdom I’ve gained
in my nearly eight years as a standup.

(Yes, nearly eight years and still rocking the open-mic
circuit, plus two failed clubs in five venues do not make me a guru, but
rookies don’t know that.)

When I give my sermons on the mound, I tend to repeat the
same things again and again.
Appropriate, since I repeat the same material over and over on stage,
and repeat the same stories off stage again and again. A friend of mine lost patience with the
latter, so I can be halfway into a story and hear her say, ”Make it better,”
which is my cue to add something new to
the story she’s heard five-plus times before.
To be fair, I’ve interrupted her when she’s telling me a story I’ve
heard before, and her additions aren’t nearly as creative as mine.

I also ramble on stage and off, as you can see from this

Anyway, one thing I’ve said to 367 rookies over the years
is, ”You’ve got this little bit of time- 3 minutes, 5 minutes, maybe even 15
minutes- on stage, and in that little bit of time you can talk about literally
anything. You can say what you want, how
you want, you can be yourself or a character or happy or angry or sad… the
possibilities are nearly endless. So how
do you want to spend that time?”

If you have a penis and done less than fifty gigs, it’s
extremely likely that you want to talk about anal.

It’s easy to become spoiled in Stockholm. There are a lot of opportunities for stage
time and very little expected from comics in return, beyond showing up. Stage time isn’t as valuable to us as it
should be and I am no saint, either. I recently caught myself thinking, ”I am just here for a paycheck,” just before a gig when
I wasn’t feeling well, was emotionally drained, and not at all excited to
perform. I reminded myself that there
are a dozen comics that would give up a testicle/ovary for the same shot I was
so clearly taking for granted.

I think it’s important to stop now and then and just think,
ok, I’ve got this little bit of time… am I taking advantage of it? The things I want to say, are they worth
it? Who do I want to be? Just what the hell do I want?

Maybe you just enjoy making people laugh and you found the
perfect ten minutes and you never get tired of the sound of your own voice, so
you never try anything new. Great! You’re still putting that time to good use.

Maybe you just really want to let the crowd know that anal
is a pain in the ass, amirite? Get
it? If that’s how you want to spend that
time, great!

Actually, no. Enough
with the anal. You will find more gold
in an actual asshole than in that subject.

Political Correctness and its Gift To Comedy

Comedy Posted on Thu, September 13, 2018 10:49:11

I’ve mentioned this earlier in my blog- I had a joke I used
to close with in Sweden, where I told women that the reason they can’t find
nice guys is because they turned all nice guys into assholes. The actual target of the joke are the men who
actually believe all women want assholes ”and not nice guys like them,” but
that may have been too subtle; I know I came across as bashing women. Despite that- or maybe because of that- the
joke was always successful in Sweden.

In Dublin and London, where standup has been around longer,
the joke didn’t fly. I was just yet another
dude doing yet another women-bashing joke.
In Berlin I was literally booed off the stage.


One of my fellow comics in Stockholm has a rape joke he’s performed a hundred times. I’ve seen crowds react with applause, I’ve seen women laughing so hard that tears poured from their eyes. He’s always gotten away with it because there’s a certain charm to him and no one has ever seemed to mind he’d done a joke about rape.

Recently, though, I heard him deliver it onstage to just chuckles… followed by a few, loud, boos. He stopped his act, looked toward the booing, and asked, ”Why are you booing?”

”Because we’re women,” came the reply.


Comics like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have made it
clear- they’re done with performing at colleges. The kids are too sensitive, anything and
everything can be offensive, no one has a sense of humor anymore.

I’ve heard a lot of people, not only comics, say that
political correctness has gone too far.
That political correctness is the death of comedy.

I think it’s the best thing to happen to comedy since cable


I fell in love with comedy when it exploded on TV in the
80s. Most of it was clean- basic cable
was still censored- but I heard plenty of rough stuff as well. A comic like Sam Kinison would have a hard
time becoming a big star in today’s environment, at least with that material. Watching his specials now, some things hold
up but not everything has aged well.

Probably the one comic who felt the birth of the PC movement
most is Andrew ”Dice” Clay. He’s said
that, after seeing male comic after male comic go on stage, bashing themselves
as complete losers, he was inspired to go in the opposite direction and create
a character, a super-confident Real Man.
For a long time, he was a huge success.

Then came the backlash and the beginning of PC culture. ”It used to be,” he once said, in character, ”you
could say to a chick, ’Hey, nice pair of tits.’ Now it’s ’harrassment’. It’s like you can’t be a nice guy anymore.” Well, at least he still performs in casinos.


Music festivals are popular in Sweden. Unfortunately, sexual assault at those
festivals is also popular. In response
to this, there was a festival arranged with only women allowed to attend. Naturally, men’s rights activists and others
lost their minds, but the festival was a success. In fact, according to headlines after it was
over, ”Zero Crimes [of any kind] Reported at Women-Only Festival.”

As soon as I read that, I thought of adding, ”It was
reported by Anita’s friends, however, that she looked realy fat in her new
outfit but none of them reported this to her.”
Made me chuckle. Topical
humor! I could say it on stage this
week! But, nah, not good enough. I like the idea of the joke- based on the
cliché that women talk about each other behind their backs- but I thought, do I
want to make a joke at the expense of this event? Is it worth it? I decided it wasn’t.

It’s been said that when someone yells, ”Too soon!” they
actually mean, ”Not funny enough!” It
used to be that just saying something shocking, a pitch dark joke or graphic
talk about sex, was good enough for the stage.
Doesn’t fly anymore, people are used to it. If you’re going to do a potentially offensive
joke- and what jokes aren’t these days?- then it has to be really funny.

I’ve blogged before about the bit I did that included the
N-word. I still believe in the bit, I
think the subject of the joke is important, but using the N-word was too
much. The bit wasn’t good enough to deserve
that. So I thought more about it and
created a bit I love much more. There
aren’t many comics in this country that can get a crowd to scream, ”WHITE

That’s why I think political correctness is good for comedy-
it encourages us to think a little more, work a little harder, make better
choices. If the joke is good enough, it
doesn’t matter how sensitive the topic is.
My favorite jokes are the ones that make people think to themselves, ”I
know I shouldn’t be laughing at this but I am anyway.”

Which reminds me of the men’s rights activists’ rallying
cry, ”If you thought the guy was handsome, you wouldn’t say he was harassing
you!” Which is like saying, ”You wouldn’t
call it rape if you’d actually wanted and consented to it!” (By the way, women accuse attractive men of
sexual harassment and assault on a regular basis.)

In any case, there are plenty of rules in standup and no
rules in standup. No one is forced to
bother being politically correct, no one is forced to think about doing
anything or be smarter or whatever. We
all still do just what we want to do. But
don’t be surprised when you get booed off stage and/or an angry blog written
about you.*

*I’ve earned both

« PreviousNext »