Must try harder

Paul Read delivers a damning verdict on the state of stand-up

Over the past year I have travelled far and wide to a variety of venues to watch stand-up comedy. I have to say I am left with a kind of emptiness, something is missing. I am left with a feeling that I have seen it and heard it all before.

To be honest I am bored. I am not challenged or made to use a different thought pattern. I am not seeing much intelligent, thought-provoking, powerful comedy. If comedy could be compared to music then give me less pop and more jazz and blues.

Have the general public had enough of bad comedy? Why does a comedian think it is OK to walk out on stage and give a poor unfunny performance while wearing a T-shirt and jeans and have the nerve to berate the audience for not laughing at what he or she considers to be their funniest joke?

I work as a stand-up comedian and quick frankly it is embarrassing. Should someone have to work so hard at being funny, sitting down for days on end trying to come up with some funny material? Or should a comedian be a naturally talented, funny, witty person without having to try too hard? If it doesn’t come naturally, it is probably forced and that comes across on stage as not very funny.

Are we prepared to settle for light entertainment or do we want sophisticated comedy? With the dumbing down of TV and education, is the audience to settle for dumbed down comedy as well?

The jokes that are popping up again and again are about drinking, incest, genitalia etc etc. enjoyed alongside 6 pints of lager. The act runs around the stage waving their arms about, shouting, swearing and talking about sex, trying to shock us with childish behaviour. I see the mark of a good comic as one who stands still and if you do start running about, keep running, off the stage, and don’t come back!

The great raconteurs just stood still or sat on chairs and were fantastic wordsmiths. Some of the funniest people I’ve ever met with natural wit can be found at tea break on the building site. It’s no good talking to me about the mundane, everyday topics. If the audience have depth of experience and are intelligent, you have to give them more than this.

I have worked with comedians who are out-of-work actors using stand-up comedy as a way to earn a living between acting jobs. When did stand-up comedy become the minicabing of the entertainment industry? I have seen so-called comics get up on stage and rattle off the routine by rote with little interest and certainly no passion. It’s just a job!

Well it’s not good enough and the audience is being ripped off yet again. I believe a lot of stand-up comedians should be happy with their 15 minutes of fame then get off the stage instead of spending hours, days, years inflicting second rate, frankly unfunny dross on the general public and expecting them to pay for the privilege.

Apart from the very rare exceptions, even mainstream television appears to be the graveyard of comedy where comics go to die.

Petrol rising to £7 a gallon, beer £4 a pint plus the price of a ticket for the show, one has to ask the question are the general public getting value for money? From my experience I don’t think so.

On my nights out to these comedy shows I have to say that often the audience were a bit thin on the ground. Again if you are paying good money for a ticket and your travel perhaps you want a little more, I know I do.

As a stand-up comedian i believe the industry needs not just a kick up the backside it needs a bomb underneath it. I believe the paying public has had enough of being robbed while sitting through mediocre frankly unfunny performances and that goes for the open mic comic right through to the celebrity comic on TV.

It is time to lift our game, it is no laughing matter or is it?

  • Paul Reed's website is here.

Published: 24 May 2012

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