...a barrage of cheap, lazy gay jokes has kept me out of local comedy and improv shows for most of this year. I tried again recently and found more of the same. In show after show, area comics ridicule an exaggerated notion of how gay men walk, talk and love, which provokes reactionary laughter: that of the powerful mocking the disenfranchised.It sparked this letter (again, a snippet):
It's about time somebody called bullshit on this boondoggle that has been passed off as entertainment. Scherstuhl was dead-on. Most improv is small-minded, stale and lame. It's bad enough to pay to watch what is really more like an acting-workshop exercise than real humor. Adding insult to injury are those cheap, lazy jokes about gays (and others) that aim for the low laughs.And led to a back and forth on Clay Morgan's Facebook page filled with name-calling. Which was cut-and-pasted-and-sent to KC's most vitriolic blogger, sparking more smack talk.
All because a reviewer had the nerve to call a couple of local sketch and improv troupes out on doing humor that was beneath them.
I'll come clean on two points:
- I didn't see the shows he reviewed.
- But I've seen the brand of "comedy" he's talking about, and I completely agree with Alan Scherstuhl.
Every now and then, one of the kids in my high school troupe brings it out. When it happens, they get the same talk as they do when they play racial stereotypes, and it starts with "not acceptable."
We don't play one-dimensional, unkind stereotypes. BECAUSE IT'S UNKIND. Why would you want to create something that brings out the worst in yourself and the audience?
Why would you even need another reason? There are at least a few more, of course:
- Good improv is more than just saying something that gets a laugh. It's about creating characters who can have relationships. Playing a cardboard cut-out is a shitty thing to do to your scene partner.
- Good scenes happen when players react emotionally, in the moment, to what just happened. Stereotypes don't have emotions—they spout one-liners and rely on expected phrases and reactions. Again: Not. Good. Improv.
- Good improvisers bring their full brains to every character and scene they play. Why would you want to play a scene like a mean-spirited, close-minded 13-year-old?
It's hard enough building a reputation for improv in a city that doesn't understand it. Trying to defend behavior that lumps us in the same stereotype as the lamest of amateur open mic-nighters isn't helping anything.
Next post: Yes, the women of Spite do seem to talk about vaginas a lot.