What if Arnold Schwarzenegger Attended a Web Conference in Atlanta?
Topic: Arguably funny stuff
Danny Rouhier has decided to get rid of his Arnold Schwarzenegger joke. Danny, I support your decision. I hope my fellow comedians will join me in recognizing the tough decision that Danny had to make; it's extremely difficult to ditch a joke that works (and that joke does work). But he's doing the right thing based on principal.
I think that most non-comics don't realize how much duplication, repetition, and outright stealing there is in comedy. Hack comics are parasites; they ruin good comics' bits and build their reputations on lame, derivative, or blatantly stolen material. They often get away with it, too, because most audience members don't go to four shows a week or have a memory filled with old Richard Prior bits and Stand-up Stand-up episodes, as most comics do. So when the average audience member hears the "I said 'it's not the pants that make you look fat, it's the fat that makes you look fat'" joke, they're hearing it for the first time.
Anything hack usually starts out as a good bit. There's a reason why these jokes get used so much; there's always something inherently funny about them. For example, when Cheech and Chong started talking about the weird things people do when they're high, it was new, interesting, and funny. That was 1978. Twenty-eight years later, I've heard every possible iteration of the "…then I did this goofy thing because I was high…" premise at least seventy times. Thus, hack comics have razed the crops and salted the earth on that topic.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger impression is one of the things hacks have ruined. Pretty much any impression you see on Saturday Night Live becomes a hack premise overnight; have you ever seen anyone do an impression of George H. W. Bush who wasn't actually doing an impression of Dana Carvey doing an impression of George H. W. Bush? It's a thousand times easier to do an impression once you've seen someone else do that impression.
Danny is unlucky that one of his strengths is a strength so easily bastardized by crappy comics. But this is a reality of comedy: sometimes you have to give up duplicative bits. It happens to everyone. You don't have to be a thief to be duplicative; comics come up with similar jokes with surprising regularity. Personally, I've had about 20 jokes ruined by Onion articles, and had one joke (the occasionally-used "misuse of touché" joke) ruined by a Macintosh add. My "gay friend" joke might be too close to a Mike Birbiglia joke that I've never heard before; I still need to get a ruling on that one. Those jokes are gone. It sucks, but they're gone and I have to accept it. It's just part of being a comic.
My point is this: if you're a new comic and you have a hack joke, it's best to give it up. This is especially true if you're a comic (like Danny) who is capable of writing other, better material. It will hurt, partly because you'll have one less reliable joke in your set and partly because you'll lose comedy contests to people doing ripped-off Brian Regan bits, but good comedians will respect you for it.
I am at a conference in Atlanta this week. In honor of Danny, I am writing my account of that trip in his writing style.
I will soon return to DC from Atlanta, which will be a cause for much mirth on my part. I have much to share.
When traveling to Atlanta, the following things will happen to you:
1. The Federal Government of America will hook you up with a new laptop immediately before you go…tightness. This laptop will have a wireless card that allows you to access the internet.com from almost anywhere, allowing you to post this blog in the middle of your conference. As long as GPO employee Jon Mumma reads this blog, this is technically a government function.
2. As is the tradition at these conferences, you will experience hotel problems. You will be booked into a hotel one mile away from the conference center in spite of the fact that there are several hotels right by the conference center. This hotel will be chosen in spite of the fact that it has a sh*tty workout room and intermittent air conditioning (intermittent air conditioning + Atlanta = sweaty, unhappy dude at a conference). There will be arrangements for a shuttle between the hotel and the conference center, but this shuttle will be only a myth (P.S. it will rain like a b-oytch three of the four days you are there).
3. Upon getting off the subway (the Atlantans have named it MARTA), you will ask a random dude for directions to your hotel. The random dude will be very friendly…extremely friendly…incredibly friendly. He will walk with you outside of the station until you can see your hotel. You will be very grateful. The man will then ask you if you'd like to have a drink, at which point you will suddenly add everything up in your head. You will politely decline, at which point the man will leave, grateful that you didn't try to beat him to death with a stick. You will decide that this encounter is, on the balance, a compliment, though you will only wear t-shirts with pictures of monster trucks and metal bands for the next few days in an attempt to avoid coming off gay.
4. Atlanta will remind you of Baltimore in that there are very few places to eat downtown. The only thing near your hotel will be a Hooters. You will realize that Hooters are all built with enormous windows so that you can see the afore-mentioned Hooters inside from the street. You will think that maybe eating at a Hooters could be the linchpin of the not-coming-off-gay initiative, but ultimately decide that you don't feel like explaining that credit card charge to your wife. Upon making that decision, a random passerby will read your thoughts and make the "wha-CHII" whip-crack sound.
5. You will realize that being a Hooters girl must be extremely depressing, as your job is essentially to flirt with random dudes for tips. You will then realize that Hooters girls probably make about three times what you make. This will make you wonder whether Hooters could be sued for discrimination if they refused to hire a dude. At this point, you will realize that your current train of thought is inconsistent with your not-coming-off-gay initiative and move on.
6. Upon arriving, you will receive a conference packet that includes a brochure entitled "50 Fun Things to do in Atlanta." Thing number 1 is masturbate. Things 2 through 20 are board games. Thing number 30 is a tour called "The Gone With the Wind Experience," which you will think sounds interesting. At this point, you will realize that your not-coming-off-gay initiative has bounded violently off the rails.
7. The hotel maids and fast food employees in Atlanta will be native English speakers. All of these people are counted as "fully employed" by economics statistics, thus once again demonstrating the shortcomings of those statistics. You will realize that this situation indicates that the economy in Atlanta leaves something to be desired.
8. You will see the Georgia Dome from the outside for the first time and immediately christen it the Ugliest Structure Built in the Last Twenty Years. It was built in the 1990s, and yet it is pink and teel. The facing on the outside looks like the corrugated metal that you use for the roof of a garden shed, only pink. Altogether, the entire building looks like a cross between my grandparents' living room, a circus tent, and an above ground pool.
Posted by jeffmaurer1980
at 12:31 PM EDT