Brandon Wetherbee is the host of the You, Me, Them, Everybody talk show. See him Saturday, April 16 at The Looking Glass Lounge as part of the 202 Comedy Festival.
Why doesn’t stand up comedy get the same type of coverage as other art forms? Why is it still acceptable to use a stock photo of a microphone on a microphone stand?
The inaugural 202 Comedy Festival kicked off last night with three shows at three venues featuring a total of 27 performers. DCist wrote a nice, short preview of the fest. A stock photo of a microphone on a microphone stand was used for the art.
This is not a screed about disrespect for comedy as an art form nor an excuse to bash anyone or any publication that writes about funny people. I’m glad that DCist wrote a preview. The Washington Post and Express do a really good job covering all levels, from stadiums to bars, of stand up. I wrote about comedy for the Washington City Paper and Huffington Post for years before coming to Brightest Young Things. BYT shines a light on at least one funny person every week in our Funny Human of the Week series. This is a column asking a question I can’t answer: Why doesn’t stand up warrant the same respect (no pun intended) as any other art form?
Is it because photographs of stand up performances are boring? There aren’t many way to make an individual standing in front of a brick wall/black curtain/signs of bar specials very interesting. Hell, this site used an original photograph of a microphone on a microphone stand for the First Look of Drafthouse Comedy. (We did it because we were showcasing a new club, not a festival or performer.)
Is it because audience members lump one bad experience with all stand up? I’ve witnessed dozens of horribly executed open mics and showcases that seemingly popped up out of nowhere in an otherwise quiet bar. Friends of mine that aren’t connected to the comedy scene have told me about going to a bar and a show happened and the show was bad and that’s what they think of whenever they hear about stand up.
Is it because stand up is the one art form that attracts an ignorant audience? Have you ever considered going to a concert or play or film without any knowledge of what you were about to see? I don’t think that happens at 9:30 Club but it happens every weekend at the DC Improv.
Is it because stand ups perform most every night so any one show isn’t much different than the last? Jamel Johnson is currently the best stand up in Washington, D.C. You could have seen him open for Louis C.K. last weekend or last night at Amsterdam Lounge. You can see him tonight at Bier Baron and Friday at The Wonderland Ballroom and again at Bier Baron (he’s got 2 shows) and Saturday at Black Cat. If Johnson performed less often would he warrant more coverage?
Is it because stand up is damn near impossible to review? The Chicago Tribune posed a similar question last week, “Why are stand-up comedians so afraid of review?” I can answer that question. No one wants to read about a joke. And it’s difficult to review without telling the joke.
Is it because the art for most shows isn’t good?
Is music is more valuable?
It would be understandable to dismiss these questions if the audience wasn’t there. But there is an audience, maybe one as healthy as the stand up boom in the 80s. The DC Improv has been the standard bearer since 1992. The Arlington Drafthouse has opened a second venue in D.C. proper to offer more shows in the city (if DC Improv is 9:30 Club, Drafthouse Comedy is trying to be Black Cat). Sean Joyce has build a small but solid mini empire at places like Bier Baron and Big Hunt (read a November 2015 Washington Post profile for more). BYT produces the longest running and biggest comedy fest in D.C., going for four nights in 1,200 seat theaters. This June the Kennedy Center is presenting the first District of Comedy Festival. Stand up is doing incredibly well in Washington, D.C.
As a talk show host, I have an unique perspective of the state of stand up. I’m not exactly a stand up but I share stages with them. And I’ve produced shows. And I write about comedy. And I write about music and theater and film. And I can not answer these questions.
Why is the standard different? Why is it acceptable to use a stock image of a microphone on a stand to represent an art form?