What is the future of stand-up comedy? Is it zoom shows? Is it live shows and 2m in between every audience member? Or is it this: Joke2Go?
Last week, I put a stage outside our comedy club Mad Monkey Room at Helmholtzkiez, Prenzlauer Berg Berlin. I told unsolicited jokes to people passing by. It was pure joy.
The neighbors could choose from my joke menu. Heckling was also an option, which one woman made use of. She said „I don’t have time to hear a joke“ so I went, well just pretend you just heard one and didn’t like it and yell booo. She did and it was the loveliest heckle I ever had. It was a fun and easygoing way to do publicity for the comedyclub, get some stand-up spirit back and have heartfelt, real human contact.
But. As a Hobby-Germanologist it is striking how the German speaking pedestrians are the most reluctant to receive free comedy. „It’s free, it’s fun, it’s artsy. She’s not gonna get us with her fun. Lets walk by fast, cuz evil lurks everywhere“ is the vibe I got from some people.
My past performances all happened at festivals. People already had a „festival mind“ and were prepared for fun things to happen. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a festival mind always? Then again, I know I am too negative myself. I was walking home in the warm sun and felt light drops on me. Probably someone watering their balcony plants. Yet my FIRST thought was OMG someone is spraying me with ACID. When is live comedy coming back so I can say that onstage?
I illustrated the year in review, or as we say it in German: Jahresrückblick. Do you recognize yourself in any of them? I wished I was all of them but I have a chance next year. Last year’s failed Jahresrückblick becomes next year’s resolution. Have a good one everybody!
It’s almost funny: Comedians write comedy but all they read is hate. Though it’s a problem theoretically easy to solve: Don’t write hate comments. Don’t read hate comments. But the problem with online hate for comedians lies deeper, beyond the comedian’s ego.
This week, I performed at a comedy show that is streamed online on youtube. From previous experiences the comments are brutal, so I’ve heard. Especially, and this shouldn’t be a surprise, for female comedians. But: more comments, more clicks. Right before I went onstage, one colleague read to me out loud the mean comments people wrote during his performance just minutes before. I wondered why he did that.
Because I don’t care if someone presses thumbs down on my videos. I don’t care if some dude leaves an expert comment like „unfunny cunt“. If you don’t like me, you’re probably not my target audience. Case closed. For me.
What I do care about is that hate online propagates hate in real life. It radicalizes, moves boundaries of what’s considered acceptable, away from empathy to apathy. Simply put, words matter. They change how we think and thoughts change how we behave.
People who write hate comments live among us like normal people. They don’t wear an asshole badge on their forehead. We sit on the same bus, work together, we might have matched on Tinder. Somewhere some guy, who insults me online, might go on a date. If she’s lucky, he shows his hate as bluntly as online. Worst case, he slowly dribbles his misogyny on a women, who might not have a hard-boiled fuck off attitude like me. I cannot protect these women and that makes me sick. My only hope: if you meet someone who lets your asshole radar ping: run, block, repeat! You’re better off alone.
Comedians often say they’re dead inside. In fact, I still feel something: pity – for those who tragically think their poisonous opinion online matters. Who waste their time hating instead of looking for something they love. Or have you ever seen jazz enthusiasts heckle a rap concert? I want to hug them, give them the attention they so badly need. Face to face. I want to show them love, listen to them, talk to them about what they find funny. What scares them, what do they feel threatened by? I want to look them into their eyes while we talk about hate. Marina Abramovic style. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for all of them.
So I can only say: Do not indulge in hate, but dare to show love.
Should I take this job*? A common question among creatives. Whether it’s an internship, a long-term project or a one-night gig, here’s my advice if you need help to decide.
A creative job can have three key factors: fun, experience, money. Your job should at least have two factors. Three is perfect, one is not enough.
If you take a job, that is fun and gets you money, boom, you’re a lucky one. Do it! But after a while of enjoyment and spending that cash, can you find a task you can even learn from, devote yourself, generate something productive and gain in depth experience?
Blessed are those, whose job gives them experience (or exposure) and money. Congratulations, in a world of eternal interns, you are being paid to learn! Take that money and experience, hang in there, and eventually run to a job that will also bring you joy.
I used to be a dj. From the start it was fun, instructive and lucrative. Eventually, I was booked so much, that I didn’t learn anything more, which was fine. It was a professional comfort, I worked hard for. At some point I djed so much, I lost the initial spark of joy. So I stopped djing and looked for another task. Saying no to a job you don’t like anymore is deliberating.
If you get a job, that is fun and instructional, great. Just keep an eye on that bank account while you gather your experience cuz you can’t buy a sandwich with just that. And once you got enough expertise let people pay you for your skill. Do not underprize yourself once you are at a certain level. Do not support companies that make you work like a dog and pay you like a puppy intern. If you don’t know what to charge, the internet delivers lots of comparable wage charts.
It’s a running joke in Germany that Berlin Comedians don’t make money. We do have many unpaid shows. But we also have the most innovative comedy scene in Germany. And that’s interrelated. By having so many for-free-shows a creative potential could develop – a petri dish independent from money interests. We’ll start charging soon so come watch us now while we’re still affordable ha!
I get it, sometimes you just gotta pay a bill. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a money job, set fun and experience aside and save up for the future. In general, there is nothing wrong with just choosing one of the key factors – for a while. But getting no money for your art ever is not idealism, it’s exploitation. Loosing yourself in not having fun results in misery. And not getting experience becomes chronic boredom. Those are the three negative factors on the other side of that job coin, the opportunity costs of your creative lifetime. Remember why your are creative in the first place and what you initially wanted to achieve. Then do just that.
Do you have any comments on that? Is this helpful or common sense duh?
*(This is strictly for creative freelancers and artists, who sometimes have a hard time deciding what job to take. Of course, this is no in depth economic analysis, just common sense: often it’s the clarity and simplicity of a problem that helps us decide. We struggle, but we’re also in a privileged position being able to apply our talents. I know there are many hard working people out there, who face different job difficulties. I know there are many people, who would have wanted a creative career but didn’t have parents to support that tenth unpaid internship. So this really is just for creative freelancers and if it helps you as well, that makes me happy. Let me know, if you agree or disagree or if you have another advice to share.)