Listening to more diverse comedians encourages creativity and originality.
Let me start off by saying that I like John Mulaney too. He seems to do his best to write inclusive comedy that doesn’t punch down (excluding some SNL Stefon skits circa 2010), and that’s pretty exciting. Not all comedians, especially comedians who also happen to be straight white dudes, put enough effort into their set being kind to others. Also, he’s pretty funny, so there’s that. I can say the same thing for the McElroy brothers, whose content has blown up in popularity in the last three years or so, and it’s been cool to be along for the ride for that one.
Nonetheless, I don’t think I have it in me to hear one more repeated John Mulaney or Griffin McElroy joke. I get it, “horse in the hospital” and “cronch” and all that; it’s funny stuff, but only on the first go around, you know?
Mulaney and McElroy bits in particular seem to occupy these weird cultural niches where people think that their content is more obscure than it is, which, for whatever reason, makes some people believe that it’s then okay to just parrot it off the cuff. I don’t see that happen with “Parks & Rec” or some other popular comedy, so I think we should know repeating comedy for the sake of repeating comedy isn’t, you know, funny.
And that’s the real issue. Constant repetition of comedy most people our age already know isn’t funny, and it sucks the original set of its humor. This also applies pretty heavily to social media meme culture, especially when meme jokes are told in person. They may be easy to get a chuckle from, but it feels a little bit cheap and overly irony-baked. The funniest people I know rarely pull jokes off their Twitter feed; the shock of originality is what makes something funny, and there’s little to be found in the majority of meme culture.
This is a pretty common thing in everyday conversation: you tell a joke, and I know it’s stolen from Twitter. I’m not going to call you out on it unless we’re close, but I know you’ve done it. And why did you do it? Was it supposed to referential? It didn’t seem like it. So then it’s a case of content theft, which isn’t really cool either.
We’re all guilty of this, myself included, but it’s not really how jokes are supposed to work. As is, the constant conversational callbacks to certain famous sets and social media jokes creates a weird universal stockpile of comedy, which removes an incentive for comedic creativity. None of this is to say that I’m upset at people who constantly reference memes and Mulaney bits, or that I’m the funniest person around or anything. I just want to hear new jokes.
I could make this article a call to action thing about listening to more diverse comedians: “Listen to more funny black women,” or something like that (which you should still totally do — Wanda Sykes’s 2017 set is great). But I’d just like for more than three or four voices to rule our generation’s sense of humor, regardless of those comedians’ demographics.
And I know that finding comedians that jive with your sense of humor can be difficult, especially if you’re a minority who’s at risk of being the butt of a joke from a less socially-sensitive comedian. But, we’re in an age with more comedy available for us than ever, and word of mouth and recommendations on social media are effective ways to start branching out. It’s also decently easy to avoid overtly offensive comedians if you do a bit of research on them beforehand. And, if something doesn’t click, you can always just turn it off.
Comedy also doesn’t have to be stand up: there are plenty of diverse comedy novelists (Brian Limond comes to mind) and zine creators out there. Different comedic voices are all over — we just all need to put a little bit more effort into the search.