Why does 103.1 want us to masturbate to standup comedy?
The ultimate aim of good satire is to parody an unintentionally funny event as accurately as possible, while spicing it up with a little exaggeration and sarcasm. But sometimes the comedy gods throw you something so ridiculous, so shockingly unreal, that all you have to do is xerox it and say: Look how fucking weird this is! Such is the case with a certain promotional clip from Denver's Comedy 103.1 radio station. With a morning shock-jock cadence and thumping club music, the clip instructs listeners: "When you're on your computer, googling some hooters, we provide the soundtrack to your personal jack shack."
There's no double entendre here, no secret wink. The station is out-and-out suggesting that we masturbate to standup monologues. The idea of a media outlet doing this is both surreal and hilarious -- even though that probably wasn't 103.1's intention.
See also: - David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman and literature as standup comedy - Sports nerds score with comedians -- even if I don't get the joke - David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman and literature as standup comedy
There are a lot of things that I love: dogs, CSPAN, my grandmother, cleaning the lint-trap of my dryer. But I have to confess, none of these things make me horny. I also have what some would consider an unorthodox ritual of smoking marijuana, turning on the radio and listening to rural Pentecostal preachers sermonize about Obama being the Anti-Christ who will order the seas to boil and the four horseman of the apocalypse to descend from a cracked sky and bring supernatural torment upon humanity.
And I would sooner masturbate to that than I would standup comedy.
Don't get me wrong, I actually love Comedy 103.1 and listen to it all the time. Aside from the fact that it never play clips of any local standups -- yet inexplicably considers Bill Engvall worthy of hourly rotation -- it's a fantastic concept, and fulfills a utility for standup junkies like myself. But unlike that character in the Divinyls song, when I think about Larry The Cable Guy I do not touch myself.
The idea of this is so fucking hysterical that every time I hear the promotional clip come on the radio, I search for some kind of layered, ironic humor buried in the subtext. But there isn't any. And when it's over and I hear the comedy clips again, all I can picture is some sad bastard on his computer, googling some hooters, with Louis C.K. as the soundtrack to his personal jack shack:
I wake up into depths of hell. I get up and I eat chicken wings, things that nobody should eat at 10 a.m. Really hot wings, and I eat them all. And I'm like "Oouuggh," so then I eat some ice cream to cool them off. And then I feel worse, so I jack off -- and then I pass out again. But first I turn my phone off in case my kids call, because I can't face anybody. And then I wake up with three kinds of shame-glaze covering my body.
Louis C.K.... hilarious .
While the poor sod who's ritualistically tugging himself to standup comedy in his home (or worse, while stuck in traffic in his car, where most people listen to the radio) could probably relate to the kind of sad lifestyle that C.K. is describing, it probably does little to rev up his crotch-motor.
I see these kinds of inconsistencies in the standup industry all the time. Look at pretty much any head shot of a comedian, and you'll see a warm, confident, senior-portrait-style face staring back at you. Comics are sold to the public based on how sexy they are, which is strange considering that once they get on stage, many will just turn their monologues into therapy sessions peppered with one-liners. It doesn't matter if they're male, female or transgender, the most consistent topics in standup comedy are: I'm not getting laid, I hate myself, my wife left me, my body sucks, I'm going to die alone, and last night I dreamed about scalping Kim Kardashian and using her hair as a noose to hang myself on my former high-school basketball court while singing the Ace of Bass song "I Saw the Sign."
This wasn't the case thirty years ago. Throughout the '80s comedy boom, characters like Eddie Murphy, Andrew "Dice" Clay and Tim Allen were all about the I'm-a-wonderful-man's-man-and-don't-you-want-to-fuck-me? persona. Thankfully, this trend is good and gone, but while the culture of comedians has evolved, the industry itself has remained locked in the era when it was at its most lucrative.
This weekend I'll be doing a panel at the UMS on the subject of comedy criticism, debating local standups Ben Roy and Jodee Champion on the new trend of writers offering intellectual analysis of the comedy industry. At some point during the panel, I'm certain that same question I get asked all the time will inevitably surface: Why has there never been a Lester Bangs or Hunter Thompson of standup-comedy journalism?
The answer can be found in the hooters/jack shack clip on 103.1. While standup comedy has grown into a creative sophistication that could match the work of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese or musicians like Lou Reed, the difference is that those industries had equally evolved visionaries running the business and marketing end of things. The music revolution of the 1960s and the cinematic sea-change of the 1970s couldn't have had the historical impact they did without other people understanding the product, and knowing how to sell it the public.
The public doesn't respect standup comedy, because many of those running the machine don't really get it themselves. A lot of them still feel that standup is all frat-boy humor about being wasted and delivering a donkey punch (please do not google that). Or perhaps I'm the one who doesn't understand standup comedy, and every time I hear Bill Cosby talk about serving chocolate cake to his kids for breakfast, or George Carlin explain how he likes to stand in the closet to better smell his own farts, I should've been sticking my hand down my pants.
For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.