Question: Where do you weigh a whale? Answer: At a whale weigh station.
OK, I may not land on a stand-up stage anytime soon, but somebody reading this will get a giggle out of it. We could all use a bit more laughter in our lives — it is 2020 after all. So today’s Daily Dose tackles the classics, the canceled and the new breed of talent tickling our funny bones. Go on, have a laugh!
Comedy has changed. For the longest time, at least since Lenny Bruce, the stand-up stage was an arena where nothing was off-limits and anything could be said under the guise of “Hey, it’s comedy!” But courtesy of today’s social awakening, cancel culture and the #MeToo movement, comedy started sorting itself out. Ask Kathy Griffin who, after posing for a photo with a fake severed Trump head, lost almost every deal she had. Or Eddie Murphy, who felt the need to apologize recently for jokes he made on classics like Raw and Delirious years ago. Kevin Hart? Lost a gig as host of the Oscars because of years-old homophobic tweets. To the ire of the Bill Burrs and Dave Chappelles of the world, some jokes today simply don’t fly, and that’s a good thing. Welcome to the new age of comedy.
Problematic jokes will still fly as comedians like Chappelle and Burr continue to push boundaries, but there are comedians who have found a way to tiptoe all around them and survive/thrive. Desus and Mero, two comedians from the Bronx who went from funny guys on Twitter to landing their own talk show on Showtime, often self-correct in real time, sounding off a problematic alarm when they catch themselves saying something that is probably offensive on their podcast, Bodega Boys. While it’s funny, it also shows how we’re all human in our journey to be better.
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Social apps have also democratized the ability to have an audience and a stage. You have a smartphone? You’re a comedian! One platform where comedic influencers have been on the rise is TikTok, the fastest-growing social media network of all time, powered by Generation Z. TikTok has fostered a multitude of comedic talent, such as Bomanizer, whose reality television spoofs on the boredom of stay-at-home orders have garnered him 1.3 million followers and more than 23 million likes on the platform. Or Drea German, who has gained more than 5 million followers for simply doing things around the house like pranking her brother.
Twitter’s limit of 2 minutes and 20 seconds has not deterred aspiring stand-ups from posting their content on this low-risk training ground for quickly getting your funny on. And there’s always the chance of going viral, which is great for exposure. A good example is Khadi Don, who puts on skits, provides cultural commentary and sings parody songs for her 760,000-plus followers. The same goes for Druski2Funny. He went from posting clips on Twitter to appearing in videos with rappers like Drake. Even veteran comedians have been using the platform. Alabama native Roy Wood Jr. turned to the platform recently and has been a smash hit with videos showcasing his trials and tribulations as a dad during lockdown.
This platform gives viewers a window into comedians’ off-stage lives. For example, Desi Banks, who has 5.4 million Instagram followers, captures the life and times of the everyday Black experience, probably like a Richard Pryor or Redd Foxx might have. Whether it’s riding the bus, attending school, playing football or going to the neighborhood candy lady, he is spot-on every time.
Comedians are also establishingindependence unlike ever before. Comedian and podcaster Andrew Schulz has 1.4 million subscribers on his YouTube channel and co-hosts The Brilliant Idiots with superstar radio personality Charlamagne Tha God. Schulz is having a heck of a career given everything that is going on — but that was not always the case. The 36-year-old struggled to break through in comedy at a time when you needed Comedy Central or a Netflix special to become a hit. So he shot a special himself (4:4:1 in 2017), cut it down from an hour to 15 minutes and put it up on YouTube. That hit has now been watched more than 2 million times. By taking matters into his own hands, Schulz broke the mold for comedians, ultimately forgoing the need for a major production studio.
Meet the brains behind Barack Obama's foreign policy. Carlos dives deep into international politics with former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who has surprising things to say about China, Russia and President Trump’s forgotten scandals. What does she think Trump got absolutely right? Tune in to find out.
He’s an actor, writer and producer, and one of the most booked comedians you will find, but he’s probably most recognizable as TSA agent Rod Williams in the Oscar-winning instant classic Get Out (2017). The West Side Chicago native has been everywhere it seems — from a lead role in Uncle Drew to guest-starring alongside Issa Rae in HBO’s Insecure as Quentin — but it didn’t happen overnight. He’s climbed the comedic ranks, performing in Chicago’s comedy clubs to a cameo role in Barbershop 2. But it was when his first hourlong stand-up special, RELevent, premiered on Comedy Central in 2015 that he really came into his own. The show, which was executive-produced by Kevin Hart, was named one of the year’s 10 Best Stand-Up Specials by Vulture.
Franklin is a veteran of the comedic ranks and a gem you might, without a little digging, have missed. She is in HBO’s Crashing and the hit movie Trainwreck, and has made appearances in Louie, Comedy Central’s Chappelle Show and many more. And that doesn’t even include her writing credits. Even so, she hasn’t lost step with the open mic and an empty stage. In fact, she’s great because she’s so dynamic.
What’s the “Karen syndrome”? It’s the phenomenon of white women relentlessly heckling comedians, says Rodriguez, who is more than happy to dish it back and take on big targets like Taylor Swift. From a gritty background that included a period of homelessness, Rodgriguez has emerged as a comic star with a style that’s both insulting and uniting at the same time. Check out her recent visit to The Carlos Watson Show.
Gina Yashere is a Londoner born to Nigerian parents whose path to stand-up comedy began with work as an elevator engineer. She’s since gone to perform on Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week and The Lenny Henry Show and was named one of the top 15 rising talents by TheHollywood Reporter. She is also known in the U.S. for being the only British comedian to appear on the iconic Def Comedy Jam. You might also know her from her gig as the British correspondent on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.
“Famously Black” is how Arnold describes herself, from her time on sitcoms like Martin and Everybody Hates Chris. It’s been a rocky road to fame, though, for the comedian who started cracking wise to avoid spankings. And today? She’s showing up to interviews like this one on The Carlos Watson Show pants-less.
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While some are devising creative ways for their audience to tune in, others are still taking their shows on the road. Just as we’ve seen musicians perform in drive-in theaters, comedians are starting to do the same — with theater owners eager to welcome acts that are helping revive a business that was otherwise kaput. One comedian giving it a try is Hannibal Buress. He launched a drive-in theater tour called “Let’s See How This Goes” in mid-September. Masks are required and contactless ticketing ensures that social distancing protocol is followed. The model could prove to be what the future of comedy looks like on the road.
3. More Black Representation
Comedy of the future is going to look a lot more Black. One silver lining to recent racial tensions has been pressure placed on companies to shatter their own glass ceilings — and the same is taking place in the comedic space. We’ve seen it with the call to use Black actors to voice animated characters of color; more recently it’s informing how shows are funded. Warner Bros. TV just struck a deal with Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle — creators of Sherman’s Showcase and South Side— to create, develop and produce projects ranging from animation to superhero series. As the future of comedy evolves, expect to see Black comedians getting more of the attention they always deserved.