Punchline Magazine analysis: Celebs need to stop doing stand-up comedy

By | April 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm | 11 comments | News, Opinion | Tags:

Ron Artest: Comedian?

Ron Artest: Comedian?

Yesterday, Los Angeles Lakers forward very briefly announced that he’s delving into the world of live comedy.

Whether he’s jealous of Shaquille O’Neal’s comedy tour or teammate Lamar Odom’s new reality series with wife Khole Kardashian is unclear, but Ron Artest and his Ultimate Comedy Tour already have dates in LA at the Brea Improv and at Carolines on Broadway in New York this summer. Line-ups have not been announced, but assuredly, Ron, perhaps taking a cue from Charlie Sheen’s disaster in Detroit, will only assume hosting duties and have actual comedians perform for the majority of his show.

Before the announcement, Artest’s closest connection comedy is that he was the subject of a joke that ended up on Daniel Tosh’s first album, True Stories I Made Up.

Still, Ron Artest and His Ultimate Comedy Tour confirms an increasingly disturbing trend in promoting live comedy around the country: TV personalities who are not comedians are going on comedy tours. In the last year, Steve-O from Jackass, Larry King, NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip (not to mention constant attempts from John Mayer rapper Positive K to do comedy) and now Ron Artest have announced live tours in which they attempted/will attempt to translate their idiosyncrasies from TV to the stage.

Unfortunately, many people will gladly pay for this as opposed to paying cover and two-drink minimum to see someone whose entire career has been in the business of making people laugh on stage. Brilliant comedians just starting to break into the national consciousness like Kyle Kinane or Pete Holmes through a few TV appearances of their own on Conan or Comedy Central have to work hard in building their brand, proving that they’re funny time and again. Artest, King, and Steve-O get the luxury of just stamping their name on a comedy tour and it just working out for them because they say and do crazy non-sensical things on TV on a regular basis.

The deeper issue at hand here is that comedy, specifically stand-up comedy, is an art form and whenever a famous name steps into its arena, the art aspect quickly fades away from the majority of people’s mind, making it seem like stand-up comedy is something that anyone can do given that have enough resources (fame, money, etc.). Even one small time booker running a bar show has fallen victim to this trend as he said that he’d put up someone from Top Chef even if they’ve never done comedy before because people might show up for that.

As effortless as it may look, stand-up comedy, as well as any form of live comedy is incredibly hard and something that many people train over several years for in order to be good enough to make it into a viable career and perhaps with shows like John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show and more like it will change people’s minds.

About the Author

Jake Kroeger

Jake Kroeger has dedicated his life, for better or probably worse, to comedy. Starting and continually running the Comedy Bureau, a voice for LA comedy, by himself, he also writes and performs stand-up comedy in LA and watches more live comedy than is probably humanly tolerable. He's been a daily contributor to Punchline Magazine, now Laughspin.com because he loves and believes in comedy so much. Said of Kroeger, "...without his dangerously insane, unhealthy work ethic, certain comics would not have any press at all."

  • Cece

    This is why comedy clubs and stages are falling quicker than a hookers panties on dollar day! Really guys, are you not getting enough attention and money that you have to come in a rob hard working comedians of that time and that stage? Please!!!! Well all I can say is Ron Artest, you are coming into our house, and remember what happened the last time you went into someone else’s house and acted a fool????? Yeah, this time it might not make sport center! Stay off our stages!!!!

  • autoprt

    last i checked in america he does have the freedom to give it a shot and the stage isn’t reserved for “comedians” only.
    let the public decide as in the case of charlie sheen people aren’t as stupid as everyone in the business thinks they are and its going to go either way, either he’ll be a hit or get booed off the stage. this way its a matter of choice.
    you can’t be mad at a person who has notoriety for wanting to try other things outside of the box.

  • Daryl Wright

    Mr. Kroeger,
    I am a comedian and I have to say that we as comedians have no one to blame for this but ourselves. We have devalued and diluted our own art to the point that these celebrities think that they can actually really do stand up. In reality, who is to say that they will not be as funny as, and probably talk about the same thing as the average comic that a person will see on Comedy Central tonight doing neutered standup.
    Honestly when we had comedians like Pryor, Carlin, Kinison, and the like these guys would have been “fans” of comedy and not “participants”. Because we have diluted our own art for the lore of internet views and “the wacky friend parts” on film, we have left the backdoor open for people to feel that they can do what we do.

    I can honestly say this. I am happy that these guys are doing this for two selfish reasons. 1. Comedians will have to actually be funnier because all the short cuts are being taken by these celebrities trying to doing comedy. The industry realizes we can get a famous person to be “young, energetic and jokeless” The days of trying to corner a demographic are overwith. Stars have these demos covered so we have to be funnier than these guys.
    Which leads to point 2. I realize that after watching whatever it is that these guys do, the interest may be peeked to see another show with a comedian they do not know. That is when we are supposed to show what out art really is.

  • http://www.audlaq.weebly.com Audra

    Yea, because famous stand-up comedians never try to pursue other creative interests like acting or singing or running for senate or lesbianism. They only remain stand-up comedians forever. Instead of being bitter about it, you should ride the wave of publicity he’s giving the profession and try to get one of the slots on the show he is simply hosting.

  • http://suecentral.blogspot.com Sue London

    Will this even draw the same people that would go to “real” live comedy? And I think that most people only need a minute or two of exposure to someone making a feeble attempt at stand-up to realize that the good stuff is a magical mix of talent and hard work.

    On the other hand, I’m curious about why it seems so hard to keep a good comedy club going. Our (relative small) city Charlottesville has had a few over the years but they never last long. We have to go to Richmond or Washington, DC except for a few big names (George Carlin, Jon Steward, Lewis Black, Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood) who have come through our larger venues.

  • http://suecentral.blogspot.com Sue London

    Dangit, Jon STEWART. Rassenfrassen…

  • Taylor

    I can see why this would be annoying but really it doesn’t matter. If someone or a show isn’t funny people won’t go. Charlie sheen got boo’d off stage. Stand up is cutthroat and no matter who you are if you’re not funny you’re gone. Unlike other forms of entertainment where people seem to not only put up with but enjoy crap like sitcoms and film, audiences have no patience for bad live comedy. Sure if you’re a big name you can book a show or two but it’s not going to last. And really all it does is show how hard it is and highlight comedians who have talent.

    I say bring on more celebrity comedians so we can watch from the wings as they go down in flames.

    - fart joke

  • http://youtube.com/Lawsoncomedy Lawson

    It’s annoying to know that someone is going to get a head start because they’re already famous, but honestly, if they’re not funny, they won;t last. And if they are, then they made the right choice and so be it.

  • Alf LaMont

    Daryl,

    You are so wrong. Your romanticized vision of the “Old Boy’s Club” and how the art form has been diluted by proliferation of material and artists both online and in the mainstream is a self serving elitist mentality that did an enormous disservice to Stand-up Comedy during the lean years (The 90′s).

    I agree that that as the art form and the process have gone mainstream, these half-assed attempts are having a positive effect on comedy overall. By watching The Situation or Charlie Sheen bomb, audiences are made more aware of just how difficult it really is to do stand up.

    Pinning the “Participant/Fan” as the cause for people trying to make a cynical buck, is ludicrous. There will always be sycophants and the star struck, but the new breed of comedy fans and aficionados are far too savvy to let talent go unnoticed and unappreciated.

    Saying that “the days of trying to corner demographics are over” is as ridiculous as saying “The Internet is over”. Niches and specialization have saved comedy. Comics can find their fans and wield them to their advantage (Paul Tompkins, Michael Ian Black, Marc Maron). The democratization of comedy through its proliferation online and into MSM insures more than ever that the cream will rise to the top.

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