Thanks to social media, everybody thinks they’re a comedian nowadays.
Newsflash: They’re not.
Let’s break this down: what makes a comedian? Making people laugh is usually the go-to answer. But anyone can make people laugh. My dog can make people laugh, but being startled by his own farts should not be an act. Instead, a comedian goes after that laugh all the time. It’s a bit like an addiction. They understand beats, they understand character, and they understand that the success of a show works two ways – the comedian has to put him or herself out there and make the audience laugh, and the audience has to be open to the experience of enjoying themselves and laughing.
Now, look at social media.
There’s a f***-ton of noise happening in social media.
Mind you, social media is a great platform for comedians. Especially Twitter, with that one-two punchline in 140 characters. But the most important people to a comedian is that audience that is willing to be open and laugh.
The biggest problem I find is most social media users immediately assume comedy immediately equivocates to insults or crude humor. Which is simply not true. Yes, those things can be funny, but the reason they are funny is because they are commenting on something that either we know to be true or we are afraid to say out loud. If you do not comment upon something or add to the conversation in a manner that is naturally funny and/or poignant, you just sound like an asshole. Read the room, dude! You have to know your audience and read the room. And I don’t know about you, but you can’t really get a good tell from Sandra_Mom_1342’s avatar. All I know is that she loves baking and is proud of her honor roll student, so she may not have appreciated my joke about her “hot buns.” (Just so you know, there is no Sandra_Mom_1342, I’ve never tweeted her because she doesn’t exist. I googled it, she’s not real, I don’t want to be sued for libel.)
Also, sometimes those jokes are just akin to bullying.
The perfect analogy for this situation is akin to somebody sitting in their home, talking to the wall about whatever is trending, and then the Kool-Aid Man bursts in as a reply or retweet with a rude, not-at-all-thought-out joke or “liberal tears” meme on the nice conversation you were having with your wall. And sometimes the Kool-Aid Man isn’t even the real Kool-Aid Man, but a college frat guy from Indiana with an “K” scribbled on a shirt with a permanent marker. And then when you acknowledge what he just did, he just spray paints something horribly offensive on your wall and then he high-fives his other Kool-Aid Man friend, and now you have a crumbling house structure and you have to call a general contractor…
Does that sound confusing? It’s because I’m not great with analogies. At least I tried.
Look, I’m not begrudging people for making jokes. There need to be more jokes. But what I find unfortunate is that most of these people trying to be comedic would never set foot on a stage or in an improv class where you can learn about listening and reacting honestly and, more importantly, collaboration. It can be a very selfish experience to just slap your accounts with multiple jokes, and with a platform as public as social media, there is already a fight to get your joke out there first. It doesn’t matter if you’re a comic or not. Rather than boosting each other up and “yes, anding,” we’re finding ourselves in a whirlpool where the intended audience no longer knows who is the troll anymore. (Hint: It might include anyone with a Pepe the Frog avatar.)
Sometimes I just want to say to those people, “You don’t have to be funny to be acknowledged or get attention or retweets. It’s OK to not be a comedian. Just like it’s OK for me to not be a teacher for no other reason but security, DAD!”
See, joke. I’m a comedian.
KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.