Friday, February 08, 2013

Why There Aren't Many Good Martian Comedians

I've been trying my hand at stand up comedy for the last few months and one thing that stood out to me is that I have yet to see too many good Martian comedians on the Edmonton scene. You know, a comedian with a different perspective and approach to life in the old Milky Way galaxy and at the same time make me laugh. I look at the comedians around me and I think, "Man, us Earthlings really outnumber Martians." To be fair, maybe more of them are Martian, but sometimes it's hard to tell. The lighting, their choice of clothes and some are really good at hiding their methane-filtering blowhole. If you find that offensive, look it up. That's what is called.

I sometimes hear the complaints that there should be more Martian comedians and that comedy is an "earthlings' club" and thus make it sound like that I, as a oxygen-breathing bi-pod, am somehow a part of the problem of denying Martians their shot at comedy. Thus I am contributing to denying human culture of some sort of sitcom that follows the day-to-day of a Martian clanpod as they deal with wacky situations that will get wackier (but not because of their Martianish) and then resolve in a feel-good lesson about life. Possible names for the show: "Martians with Children" or "The Robin Williams Show")

I mean, it makes sense to me that should be more Martian comedians in Edmonton. There are a lot of Martians out there and it seems logical that the folks who have discovered the secret to interplanetary travel and dryer sheets should have the capability to be funny. However, the handful of times I've seen an amateur Martian perform on stage, it has been lacklustre to say the least.

They have tended to go towards the cliched "Earthlings always eat their food like this/Martians always latch their tendrils into the skulls of their prey like this" jokes or talk about their plasma metamorphosis rituals. It is aggravating because I want the Martian to be funny, but they go for the hack (or shortcut) joke. For some of my fellow humanoid comedians, this is an indication that Martians are not funny or and the ones who are more widely regarded funny (such as Gorblarch C.K. or Demetri Martian) are the exceptions. Unfortunately, this is what ticks off the crowd who believe that Martians are very much funny and the whole thing turns ridiculous on both sides when there doesn't need to be sides.

I believe that the reason that there are few good Martian comedians is simply that they're a minority and being a minority in a given situation makes the task tougher. Look, the bulk of Martian comedians suck. There is a 90% chance that you go and watch a rookie Martian comedian, they'll be nervous and use weak  jokes and can't engage the audience. However, you need to remember that the bulk Earthling comedians suck too. I've seen so many Earthlings use terrible hack jokes too. I've heard so many "Isn't it weird how we breath oxygen with our mouths" jokes or jokes that always relate to the size of their nasal cavities. Unfortunately, Earthlings are such petty creatures that we will be more okay with our cliched jokes and yet roll our vision orbs at the Martians.

One reason why there aren't more great Martian comedians is that there aren't a lot of Martians even trying to do comedy. The shear vast number of Earthlings trying comedy means that statistically it makes sense that there are more well-known and talented humanoid comedians than those with glowing thoraxes even though the bulk of them stink all the way to Mercury.

Regardless of what gas you intake for life, what makes a comedian great is how they can connect with their audience and bring their personal experience to others in an engaging way. But that's bloody difficult and takes time. How do you get there? I'm still figuring it out and perhaps I never will.

The bigger problem for the Martian is not that they lack the ability to be as funny as the Earthling, but rather it can be difficult when there aren't others that empathize with you. If you're the only one of your kind doing comedy, it can seem daunting. It can seem like the others are keeping you out. Reality is that most of the comedians are not trying to exclude anybody. They just want to get their slice of the laughter pie (which is something like a flougaboo for my Martian readers but with laughs instead of crystallized argon). Most comics, whatever their stripe or carapace shape, will be excluded.

So how do we get more good Martian comedians? The same as how we get good Earthling comedians. They have got to keep going up and work on it and refine and fail and keep trying. We can't just move up Martian comedians due to them being Martian. They, just like every other comedian will have to overcome the barrier between them and the audience. Some audience that can be easier than others and hopefully you can overcome that. However, to blame other comedians or even the audiences for your inability to succeed in getting them to laugh is not going to make you a better comic. Comedy is one form of entertainment with a pure response. You as the performer, know if the audience finds it funny, thought-provoking, boring, silly or understandable. Did they laugh? Smile? If not, then they didn't find it funny.

A Martian comedian will have to be a pioneer. A pioneer in the sense that it may feel like they're the only one. Which, I think that's what every comic kind of feels like anyway. If one wants to be a minority, then they will continue to see themselves as one. Instead of lowering the standards of Martian comedians, I would encourage the Martian comedian to push hard to not be the best Martian comedian they can be, but the best comedian they can be and know that they will essentially be doing it on their own.

If you're not a comedian, then I encourage you to give the comedian on stage a chance to do his thing regardless of the amount of similarity to you. You don't have to bend your tastes just to say you like them. In fact you owe it to them to give them a fair shot one way or the other. If you don't think that the Martian on stage is funny, then let that be the reason, not your prejudice against their unfamiliar exoskeleton.

You know why I have a hard time writing this. Because I'm an Earthling. I'm the majority. The world has given me all these advantages that I didn't ask for. Some say I can't fully understand the plight of the minority. Maybe they're right. Maybe I should just be quiet.

Or maybe, just like the comics who have to be funny in order to be called funny, maybe my insight can be judged by the content of what I'm saying. Isn't that what every carbon-based being deserves?

"You're a zero
What's your name?
No one's gonna ask you
Try and hit the spot, get to know it in the dark
Get to know it whether you're crying, crying, crying, oh, oh
Can you climb, climb, climb higher?"
- "Zero" from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs album "It's a Blitz"