Here's a hot take for you... hot takes are dead | Eryn Tett thinks 'edgy' comic risk stagnating in a pool of lukewarm repetition © Kayt Webster Brown

Here's a hot take for you... hot takes are dead

Eryn Tett thinks 'edgy' comic risk stagnating in a pool of lukewarm repetition

Hot take: Hot takes are dead

Wow. A hot take on hot takes? Hot take.

I’ve now written ‘hot takes’ so many times I had to google if it’s actually a thing and not a nonsense phrase I've just made up. It is. We can move on. 

I’d say, (hot take), as a category of people, comedians have always kind of been the original vehicles of hot takes. Purposefully forming controversial, mostly provocative statements on current affairs which would shock the audience, but also make them think. They’d pick up their microphones and speak truth to power, make it funny, open minds and make waves. It was the mainstream vs niche ideas. Battling it out for punk and progress. Counter-culture moving our society onwards and upwards. 

But times have changed. We live in a world of internet and information. There’s no real ‘mainstream’ anymore. Everything just sort of co-exists in a general...‘mush.’ Sure, there’s cool underground scenes and sub-cultures of avant-garde art, but they just aren’t threatening the status quo in quite in the same way as they used to. So they’re drowning in the oversaturated-market quicksand, hoping to crack the algorithm to garner enough followers to make a living. Punk. 

And when I say world of internet and information I mean: a world where literally everyone can publish their hot takes. We all have our own tabloids. You don’t need to write for a newspaper, make a movie, or get booked for ten minutes of stage time with your well construed thoughts. Which - sidetrack - in its own way is kind of cool because, yeah, fuck the system deciding who gets a voice. Now we all do. But also... oh my god, now we all do. All of our thoughts are up for public viewing – forever.

A Twitter profile, an Instagram story or if you’re willing to crawl back into the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Facebook, you’ll find a status or two with some spicy hot takes. And they come with zero nuance. In fact, the less nuanced the opinion, the more traction it’ll get. Creating more RAGE. The most energetic emotion. Best for spreading information quicker and wider than ever. And now we’re in a screaming abyss of people intentionally misunderstanding each other for likes. 

Why’d the screaming suddenly get louder? Oh, don’t mind me, that’s just my little screech adding to it. Now I don’t want to be cynical but – hot take! –  hot takes may have slightly skewed away from ‘a highly provocative means of opening minds’ and skewed slightly towards ‘an entirely cynical means of garnering views, followers and haters’. All of which lead to visibility and status.

And it’s hard to pretend it’s not. I mean, that’s all this article is for, right? All the people who agree with me, or even better, all the people who adamantly disagree with me and take to their personal tabloid to call me a ‘hypocritical ugly slut-whore’ (I mean, I am after all a woman on the internet I’m not going to escape the gendered insults, let’s be realistic) will help me climb the status ladder even faster. At least then the question will be ‘who’s the hypocritical ugly slut-whore?’ And the answer will be ‘Eryn.’ Suddenly everyone knows my name. 

On this occasion I happen to vaguely agree with what I’m saying and expect to do so for at least the next few days. But that’s obviously not a necessity. In fact, the more detached from what you’re posting, the easier I imagine it is to take on the hate. And in the end, hate is a useful fuel for fame and recognition if it doesn't destroy you. 

So what’s a comedian’s place in this mess? If everyone is publishing every single one of their thoughts, can you really get on stage and say something new and interesting or even shocking? Or have we all heard it all before? If we have, is it okay to just repeat it? Maybe we don’t always need to be new and interesting. When I’ve been at gigs people do seem to enjoy the ‘echo.’

They like the  familiar rhythm and the buzz from almost (almost being the key word here) crossing the line. It’s seems Naughty and daring, but in reality it's all just incredibly safe. Either way, art isn’t just about the now, it’s also about the future. I feel like to have any progress in any art form, we need to find originality-a new angle. It’s kind of essential. Otherwise we just stagnate in a pool of lukewarm repetition. Hot take. 

Comedians used to speak truth to power, but it feels a bit more like we’re speaking ‘hot takes’ to a group of seven open mic-ers and two accidental punters who regret entering the room. I’m just not so sure we’re making the same waves we once were. We’ve lost the shock factor. The effect is diluted. But if our hot takes aren’t setting fires, burning down the foundations of our beliefs and behaviours then what’s the point? Maybe hot takes aren’t the hot takes you think they are anymore (hot take). Instead they’re just contributing to a static ‘sameness’ in the sea of screaming mush. 

Look, this whole thing is just a tentatively formed personal opinion, that could collapse in a heartbeat from any kind of well-constructed response from someone who has thought about this harder than I have. But you know what, imma go out and say it. To me, hot takes are old fashioned and are a bit lame. Progress in comedy is about pushing the genre. And we can’t do that by shocking people anymore.

 It’s like when we watch horror movies from the 1960s and wonder how anyone ever got scared. We need to move on from hand puppets and fake blood. So, you really want to be edgy and punk? Hot take – ditch the hot takes. 

For me the future is about embracing diversity, originality and taking genuine risk. Be off-beat, dive into the genuinely uncomfortable. Drop the two-dimensional faux outrage and open minds by sharing your weird feelings and true perspective. Invite the world to play around together in silliness and absurdity. In a world that’s trying so hard to divide us, this is the biggest fuck you. 

Eryn Tett Finds Her Audience is on at the Just The Tonic at The  Tron at 5pm from August 4 to 28

Published: 6 Jul 2022

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