Monday, June 28, 2010

The Great Unifier.

Look. Dicks are funny.

I would argue they’re hilarious and comically vital, but leave it to some dickhead out there to quip gee you really like dicks huh and all of the sudden it’s back to therapy for this guy.  So I’ll just leave it at dicks are funny.    

Spend a few nights at any old open mic and count the number of dick jokes you hear. You’ll be floored. The jokes don’t even require the word dick in them to be considered dick jokes; all sex jokes are in essence, dick jokes.  Lesbian comics doing lesbian sex jokes are doing dick jokes too, it’s just they’re talking lack of dicks. They may not use dicks to get off, but they use dicks to get laughs.

Of course, ole’ Gregory Richard (Dick) Quinn, loves a good ole’ dick joke for what ails ya.  Here is my set from the video in the post “For the Remarkably Wise and Handsome,” (which since being rejected for their contest, I would like to heretofore rename “For the Remarkably Fucking Stupid and I’ve heard Anti-Semitic):

  1. Cell phone porn joke:  Dick Joke.  (About choking yourself while touching your dick.)
  2. Derek Jeter joke: Dick Joke. (About how thoughtful Derek Jeter is while sucking a dick.)
  3. Blood Donation Joke:  Dick joke (About how you can’t give blood if you’re a guy and you like dick.)
  4. Sex Toy Joke: Dick Joke. (About how girls give other girls a personal fake dick.)
  5. Vegetarians Joke: Hey! Not really a Dick Joke! (Although I do make a connection between vegetarians and homosexuals, which is a type of man who likes dick.)

I had a total of 1 joke that wasn’t wholly a dick joke and I threw in a subtle dick reference. It’s like I couldn’t stop myself!   (OK, maybe I’m going back to therapy after all.)

So you can imagine when I was booked to produce a show for the Americorps Alums Pre-Conference party last night and then informed I would need to keep the set PG, I was terrified. NO DICK JOKES?! That’s like watching a baseball game with no bats; it’s like booking the Rolling Stones to perform and asking them not to play any songs with references to drugs or gay sex. 

They asked me to do 15 minutes. If I eliminate all references to sex, dicks, vaginas, porn, breasts, etc, I’m left with maybe 2 and half minutes of material. Clearly I needed to do some writing. I also needed to find three other comics.

This part was easy.  I had my ideal lineup in mind almost immediately, and it went exactly as planned. The show last night at Connolly’s Pub went: Emma Willman, Doug Smith, Julia Bond, and me, and when you throw in the complimentary mozzarella sticks and pizza bagels, I dare say you couldn’t find a better comedy show in New York.

And, for the most part (Emma’s accidental string of f-bombs aside) we did a clean set! And it was still funny! I had not previously known this to be possible. 

For me, getting to this point was difficult.  I had been trying more and more clean material lately, and it’s been a precarious process. Dick jokes are a fallback, a fail safe, they are what we in the comedy business call Hack Jokes. Less creative comics use penis references in their jokes when they aren’t confident enough that their material can work without them. Because we know people are going to laugh when you talk about  your genitals. There is still enough unease in the public mention of sex and reproductive organs to elicit uncomfortable laughter from people. They laugh because they still feel like they’re partaking in something naughty or reproachable. (And in our world, that’s kind of amazing.)

To be sure, there are comics who work sex jokes or blue material into their set in a unique and decidedly not-hacky way, but talking about choking yourself while masturbating to porn on your cell phone is pretty much the textbook definition of hack, blue material.  

In preparation for last night’s show, I spent two weeks at mics working PG material. I riffed on every subject I could think of that made no reference to a dick or what a person may choose to do with a dick. I wrote bits about Hamlet, Dunkin Donuts, baseball, Poison Control, R.L. Stine, my dad, the New Jersey Nets, the WNBA and all sorts of untrue stories about my relationship with Amy and an imaginary pet dog. Some of these worked; some bombed. So it goes, as they say. 

A few of these jokes made it to my set last night. I imagined the jokes that made the cut felt a sort of pride for making it to the big show and constantly ridiculed the failed bits as “strictly open mic material.”  Last night’s show was for Americorps, an organization I know very well, so I was able to throw in a horde of Americorps-related jokes that I (correctly) imagined the audience would just eat up.


I stood in the audience last night waiting for the show to begin, engaging in my typical pre-show ritual of pacing and near-vomiting.  As the other comics went on I felt almost as nervous for them as myself, because if they bombed, I'd look like an idiot for thinking they were funny. Fortunately, they were great.

  1. I met Emma in Boston last summer in a comedy class and we became instant friends. I think she is great. She has a delivery like she’s been doing it for years and works harder to make it in comedy then anyone I know. I speak highly enough of her that one day Amy remarked: “I’m really glad Emma is a lesbian or otherwise I would be really jealous.”  Emma did, however, let a few of the f-bombs fly, but everyone laughed and the booker said that it was totally fine. (It’s seems hypocritical anyway to say “Hey, have some free beer everyone! But don’t expect any swear words!”)

  1. Doug I had only seen a few times before at open mics.  When I brought Doug on stage last night, I told the crowd that when I heard I needed to book other comics, Doug was the first one that came to mind. And I meant it.  I remember being scared for a moment; I had only seen him 2 or 3 times and it had been a while. What if I had a skewed memory? But I didn’t. He went on second and killed, and I remembered why I wanted him specifically. Because my favorite joke of his – one of the better jokes I’ve heard since moving here – is totally devoid of a dick reference.

  1.  Julia has become what I call my comedy sponsor. When an alcoholic fears relapse he gets a sponsor to call at all hours of the night and remind him that no drink tastes as good as being sober feels. That’s what Julia is for me. When she’s not performing, she’s starting all-woman comedy shows and performing with actually-good improv troupes. And when I feel like I want to quit, Julia tells me to stop being a whiny little bitch and keep going. She’s also a great comic, because let’s face it; being a good friend alone wouldn’t have made me choose her as the penultimate performer.

  1. Then there was me. I went on in the end and  - despite a few tiny references to a certain phallic body part - delivered a predominantly clean set. And people laughed. And afterwards they bought me drinks and asked me to get everyone together for a picture, and offered me lines of coke and their daughter’s virginity. (Please note: I have begun to lie about a few of these.) I am much more prone to self-loathing than gloating, but I think I did pretty good.

No one is asking me for PG material anymore. I’m free to go R baby, watch out Derek Jeter! 

Will I?

Not as much as before, because I feel good when clean jokes work. But I’ll still go dirty some of the time. I have to. Dicks are too funny to abandon them completely, and truth be told? Everyone loves them. Perhaps only in a comedy sense, they are the great unifier.   

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