I’ve been doing comedy for six years now. I’ve tried my hand at almost every form of it — improv, sketch and stand up.
Throughout all of my years in the biz, there has been an apparent, recurring problem. According to so many in the industry, there are too many white guy comedians.
A few months ago I submitted a packet to the NBC Late Night Writer’s Workshop. This is a program designed to educate comedy writers on how to hone their skills so that maybe one day, they could write for “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show” or “Late Night.”
The packet was dense. It required completing two pages of topical jokes, two pages of desk bits and two sketches (one topical and one character sketch).
Upon looking over the submission requirements, I noticed something peculiar. Under the requirements, it stated that everyone is urged to submit, “Especially those with diverse ethnic backgrounds.”
As soon as I saw that, I knew I wouldn’t be picked. I’m as non-”diverse” as they come. If diverse is what they were looking for and what they were aiming to get, I didn’t stand a chance.
I used to work at a comedy club that held a competition every year. Recently, the comedy club started holding an additional comedy festival competition, specifically for women.
Only women could enter. No boys allowed! The thing that confused me about this additional festival was that women were already incorporated in the original edition.
I understand that people want to encourage diversity in comedy (I guess?) but isn’t this a little insulting? It seems to me like the comedy club holding the competitions are saying “Oh, ladies don’t stand a chance in the regular festival. Let’s just give them their own festival.”
I do numerous shows across the city and at every show, the booker says that they have to have a girl in the show because, “We can’t have a sausage fest up there.”
So they’ll just throw any girl comic up there regardless of how funny she is or how experienced she is at comedy. It doesn’t matter what her credits are as long as she has a vagina.
That same booker will go on a hunt throughout his or her mental Rolodexes to find a “diverse” or sometimes “urban” comic to put on the show because, “We can’t just have a bunch of white guys.”
So rest assured comedy audiences, in almost every show you may attend, there will be one girl and one non-white person.
It seems to me that the comedy industry is losing sight of what is really important: BEING FUNNY.
I know quite a few women who are hilarious; some of my favorite comics in the city are girls, and I don’t think they need to be coddled.
These separate comedy festivals aimed to reward comics just for gender are ridiculous. Women don’t need special, gender-related treatment in the comedy industry — they are more than capable of holding their own, and I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen many girls blow lesser male comedians out of the water. So, why do they get preferential treatment?
Some of the best comedians of all time come from “diverse” (AKA, not white) cultural backgrounds. Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, for example, are comedy legends.
Aziz Ansari has skyrocketed to the forefront of comedy recently. But, one thing that all of these people have in common is that they are funny FIRST.
If you’re a comedian, you shouldn’t want to be perceived at as just the “female comic” or the “Asian comic” on the show.
You should want to be the BEST comic on the show regardless of race or gender and, unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people have lost sight of that goal.
Don’t allow “sausage fest” shows. Make every show “diverse” because you’re so funny that people NEED to book you on their shows because you’re hilarious.
Don’t let people have “white guy” shows. Be funnier than all the white guys and the bookings will come.
It is fair to have an all white guy comedy show if it is comprised of funniest talent around. We should reward people for their accomplishments rather than for what they just happen to be.
If there is a female comedian who is funnier than I am, I have no issue admitting that; if there is a “diverse” comedian who kills every night, I have no problem admitting that.
What I have a problem with is the coddling of the undeserved. So, instead of relying on your race or gender, just go out there and be the funniest.
Top Photo Credit: WENN