Forced Audience Participation and the Cheapening of Stand-Up Comedy


It’s being called the ‘slap seen around the world’. The incident is, of course, the recent fracas at the 2022 Academy Awards featuring Will Smith marching up on stage and slapping Chris Rock after the latter made a joke that offended both Smith and his wife. Not surprisingly, considering Jada Pinkett Smith, Will’s wife, was the butt of the joke. I’m sure you have all seen the video by now, so I won’t go into detail.

In the fallout from the slap, many have praised Smith for taking action when he felt Rock had gone too far; many others have sided with Rock pointing out that as a comedian it is his job to skewer folks. Tradition has it that the nominees for the sexy awards – best actor, best supporting actor, and so on – sit in the front of the auditorium. This year because of COVID precautions, those in the front were in film-related bubbles. I mention this because some critics have claimed that if you sit near the stage while a comedian is performing, you should expect to be ridiculed. Not just the celebrities at the Academy Awards, but anyone at any venue.

Nope, I pay my money to watch a comedian’s performance, not be part of it

Nope, that doesn’t float with me. I pay my money to watch a comedian’s performance, not be part of it. If you have to resort to ridiculing paying customers to get a cheap laugh, perhaps another line of work may be an idea.

George Carlin – Life Is Worth Losing

I’ve long been a fan of comedy and comedians. I grew up watching the likes of George Carlin – twice live and countless appearances on TV – Richard Pryor, David Brenner, Robin Williams, Bob Newhart, and many others. Also, the older guys; Henny Youngman, Jonathan Winters, Groucho Marx to name but a few. With the possible exception of Don Rickles, never one of my favourites, these comedians used the microphone to get their act across; they did not aim it at those sitting in the front rows. That’s cheap and easy.

… stand-up comedy has deteriorated from a time when it showcased well-written and presented material to a potential slagging match between performer and audience members

I’m not saying Smith was right to take violent action, nor am I saying Rock was wrong to pick on Pinkett Smith. All I’m saying is that it seems the world of stand-up comedy has deteriorated from a time when it showcased well-written and presented material to a potential slagging match between performer and audience members. If you can’t make people laugh with your wit, that’s on you. Don’t lower the profession.

Published by DCMontreal

DCMontreal - Deegan Charles Stubbs - is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

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