Andy Kindler on What Makes a Comic
Twitter, Vine and YouTube have made people a lot of money. Comics take advantage of these digital platforms for their work and, for many, careers in comedy have been launched. However, “A 300,000 Twitter following isn’t going to make you a good stand-up,” says Andy Kindler. The comic, who regularly plays himself on IFC’s “Maron,” insists on the necessity for performance in comedy.
With the advent of social media, Twitter especially, comics can spread their written material far and wide. They frequently get immediate results, and some of the lucky ones are offered jobs based on their writing.
This is vastly different from being vetted in comedy clubs by live audiences and comedy peers. “You may have a funny Twitter feed, but that doesn’t mean you have an hour’s worth of material you can perform,” says Kindler. “The fact that you could be famous fast is appealing, and sometimes ambition outsteps where [new comics] are at artistically.”
It’s not the technology but the instant gratification it offers. At times this may give a person too much confidence in their comedy abilities. Can someone suffer from too much confidence? Definitely—and it ruins the performance.
Comics who perform receive instant and often stinging feedback from audiences, booking agents and club owners. “I don’t believe in a hierarchy in comedy. I was treated really badly by the people who were the powers that be. I hate that part. The first day you do comedy you should be respected. But,” he says, “that doesn’t mean you have to be hilarious the first time. The more you do it the more you can repeat it successfully.” Standup is hard and, as Kindler notes, can really only be perfected through constant performance.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that technology is negatively affecting comedy. But Kindler makes a valid point that some people erroneously call themselves stand-ups. Comedy writing is important—but standup isn’t just about the writing. It’s a performance, and either people are going to laugh or they aren’t. Comics have to be prepared for that. “What I definitely love about comedy is that it is egalitarian.” Unfortunately, Kindler notices, “a lot of people are narcissists. There’s no desire to become better through a trial by fire in a comedy club.”
A master at self-deprecating comedy himself, Kindler says, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. I love doing comedy because of the self-deprecation.” That’s where the crux of the matter is. It’s not the technology but the instant gratification it offers. At times this may give a person too much confidence in their comedy abilities. Can someone suffer from too much confidence? Definitely—and it ruins the performance.
Kindler does not suffer fools and is known for his harsh critiques of the comedy world in his annual State of the Industry address at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal. He describes his audience as “people who are aware of the bullshit of society.” He’s often the focus of his own jokes and engages the audience in authentic personal ways. He says, “I want people to realize that standup isn’t just a presentational thing, but you’re entering a person’s mind.” Kindler headlines the Sexpot Comedy Show at The Oriental (4335 West Forty Fourth Street) on Friday, May 30, in Denver.
Genevieve Mueller is a writer and comedian. She performs all over the country and runs three monthly shows in Albuquerque: Comedians Power Hour, Proof and Process at La Tortuga Gallery and the Bad Penguin Comedy Show at ArtBar. More at genevievemuellercomedy.com or on Twitter: @fromthefloorup.