Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. College Shows? No Thanks.

 

Drawing by Kristian Hammerstad.

I’ve worked for all kinds of audiences. Big, small, good, bad. I just did my first smoking show in a while: the entire front row was 20-something US Marines smoking cigarettes.

This was hard America

As long as I’ve been doing comedy, I’ve never performed for an audience that I didn’t like. That is, until I started performing at showcases for college campuses. College shows could be — and often were — great fun. But the showcases? Where thousands of students from colleges around the country load up on a year’s worth of comedians, magicians, rock bands, and a disproportionate number of “spoken word” artists, whatever that means? (I looked it up on Wikipedia, read it twice, gave up trying.) Also available are a large array of advocates for innumerable causes who presumably come to your campus for some old-fashioned awareness raisin’. It’s always advocacy with these people: advocacy for mass literacy, for free education, against U.S. policy in Central America — it consumes them. And if it can fit on a t-shirt, all the better. They really live and breath this stuff. It’s enough to make you wonder how Republicans ever win a nationwide election. Maybe the GOP controls the media or something.

Anyway, the showcase featured one performer after another somehow found a way to shoehorn time into their seven-minute spot to virtue signal, share their tale of woe, highlight the plight of pregnant men and what have you.

The highlight of my exceptionally unexceptional tenure on the circuit was at a rural college in eastern Pennsylvania. It was a faculty-free show for students and their families to acquaint everybody with the campus. The audience was mainly freshmen and their families. In the front row is your all-American black family: the shy, wide-eyed freshman, his little brother, and his mom and dad: the latter looking very much like he’s bracing against something he expects me to say. Like what? That maybe I work dirty or offer up politically correct pablum or something.

I opened the show with a story about how I got married “old school — to a woman.” The joke got laughter that evolved into applause but not from the father in the front row. Instead, he unfolded his arms, looked me righting the eye and began nodding in the affirmative.

It’s all a reminder that when you send your kids to college that they — not the faculty — are the closest things to adults in the room.

Whatever happened to taking things in the spirit in which they were intended? To assuming good intentions in people most of the time? To poise? Look, I get it: ours is an era of contentious politics. Republicans don’t want their sons marrying Democrats and Democrats don’t want their sons marrying women.

There’s just too much material you can’t do on campus. I tell audiences how I remember when you had to wait until they were born to determine their gender: “Nowadays, of course, you have to wait until they’re eighteen.” At colleges? Maybe a quickly-stifled laugh followed by widespread embarrassed gasps.

We’re at a point now where if you still have a sense of humor you’re considered part of the problem. So no, I have no interest in returning to the college circuit – and just as assuredly I won’t be missed. It’s not that today’s college students have no sense of humor. It’s that no one wants to be the first one to laugh. 

Are these sour grapes? You bet they are. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting small-town colleges, renting a car and driving through places I never even read about: Powell, WY, and deepest, darkest Vermont (whose junior senator is 77.)

It’s hard not to feel for these kids. Their parents are going bankrupt pouring money into an outrageously expensive an increasingly useless college degree while their adult children spend what should be the greatest part of their lives in a stifling ideological environment which pervades North Korea-like into comedy as it does into everything else.

George Carlin sharped his ax performing at what were then called gin joints. Robin Williams? He was discovered performing on the streets of San Francisco. Steve Martin was a writer during the still-golden era of television. Can you name one comedian who makes you laugh who made their bones performing for college audiences?

So, no, America’s Next Great Comedian isn’t going to emerge from the college circuit. Which raises the question, is comedy still funny? Apu? Gone. As if he never existed. It just goes to show you that when liberals cry racism, it’s always minorities like Apu who get fired. Now vegans have joined the growing list of off-limits groups who shan’t be joked about, which is pretty much the most vegan move ever.

When did we cross the republican as “identifying” as a member of a group of which we are demonstrably not? It’s been a goldmine for comedy but only because it’s so farcical. You’d think progressives would have learned this lesson when the Great War began openly identifying as World War I.

Rachel Dolezel represented a point on the cultural timeline when progressives’ second foot joined the first in becoming untethered from planet earth. You recall Dolezal: the white woman who “identifies” as black. Not to be confused with the white senator (D) who identifies as Native American or Rep. Robert Francis O’Rourke (D), who identifies — I hope I’m not exercising my privilege here — something called a “Beto.”

There are 51 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You are in good company, David. Jerry Seinfeld has made the point that he will no longer work college campuses because of the stifling PC atmosphere.

     

    • #1
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:09 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    • #2
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:10 AM PST
    • 23 likes
  3. Concretevol Thatcher

    Sad topic but superb piece. I started to laugh then wasn’t sure if I should be offended…..so I laughed.

    • #3
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:13 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  4. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    There must be some jokes that still work . . . 

    Why did the chicken cross the road? Because Trump sucks! See, its funny because it’s true . . . well maybe not the chicken part.

    How many homophobes does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Well, unless it is a cis lightbulb, they won’t let anyone screw it.

    Then kids can leave the show saying, “That guy wasn’t very funny, but at least I wasn’t triggered.”

    • #4
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:27 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  5. Flicker Coolidge

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Because Trump sucks! See, its funny because it’s true . . .

    Is there a knock-knock joke about Trump sucks?

    Knock, knock.

    Who’s there.

    Trump…

    (There probably is a punch line. I just can’t think of it.)

    • #5
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:55 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Jeff Hawkins Coolidge

    I feel you brother (went through NACA with an improv group). You kind of need someone who speaks “woke” with you to read the room first. It’s almost as if you need someone to say “we’re with you, now relax and laugh.” College administrators are scared to death of comedians who aren’t Brian Regan (clean, funny, relatively inoffensive) and college kids want a bit more edge but not to the point where you cross the line.

    My improv partner (not a conservative by any means) loved tweaking these kinds of audiences and could bring them around, but they’d turn on me for something innocuous. Or to really sick them on me he’d say “you don’t like Obama, right?”

    All in good fun so to speak. I kind of got the lay of the land in the mid to late 90s working as an opener with a gay headliner (back then being gay was “anti-pc” which is hilarious in retrospect). Politics is the identity.

    I’ve found since I’ve been doing comedy (my first show was 91), when Republicans were in charge it was far more dogmatic and there were qualifiers of “in these dark times, we try and find humor” blah blah blah. Chappelle’s show was funny, but it was in the midst of being under the dark cloud of the Bush administration, etc.

    These days I’m far more outside the business than in it, though I still keep a foot in teaching/coaching improv. It’s harder to teach students because so much offends them and they are so wrapped up in their sexual/racial/gender identity as being what makes them unique that you can’t “attack” anything other than the culture of white male christian republicans. Which is why all comedy seems to be the same

     

     

     

    • #6
    • November 12, 2018, at 7:56 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  7. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    RAH, David! You nailed it. Too bad, so sad (not) for all the folks who’re gonna miss out on your perspective. Thank goodness PA got the jokes… 

    • #7
    • November 12, 2018, at 8:17 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Flicker Coolidge

    By the way, can you say the words “punch line” on a college campus? Or it that literally violent assault.

    • #8
    • November 12, 2018, at 8:20 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  9. TGR9898 Coolidge

    Flicker (View Comment):

    By the way, can you say the words “punch line” on a college campus? Or it that literally violent assault.

    As long as you FEEL the recipient of the punch is a member of an offensive group it’s okay.

    • #9
    • November 12, 2018, at 8:36 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  10. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    David Deeble: It’s enough to make you wonder how Republicans ever win a nationwide election. Maybe the GOP controls the media or something.

    Ha! what are you, a comedian or something?

    • #10
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:27 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  11. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jeff Hawkins (View Comment):

    All in good fun so to speak. I kind of got the lay of the land in the mid to late 90s working as an opener with a gay headliner (back then being gay was “anti-pc” which is hilarious in retrospect). Politics is the identity.

    I’ve found since I’ve been doing comedy (my first show was 91), when Republicans were in charge it was far more dogmatic and there were qualifiers of “in these dark times, we try and find humor” blah blah blah. Chappelle’s show was funny, but it was in the midst of being under the dark cloud of the Bush administration, etc.

    I’m old enough to have been in college when the *liberal* students were making jokes that would probably get them expelled today.

    1: Winter of 1981/1982 in Eau Claire Wisconsin. Art department trip to New York City. Art students making jokes about bringing back a “bag lady” [this was before the term “homeless” was coined] so Eau Claire could have it’s own.

    2: Same time frame, or maybe the following year – Head of the Activities Committee was Mike, a seriously, weirdly gay [BDSM, the whole bit] guy. This was very, very early in the AIDS epidemic. A bunch of us used to hang out in the activities office between classes -I was the token right-winger. One woman picked up an open can of soda off a desk and took a swig. Someone else said “You know that’s Mike’s, right?” Woman does a double-take, very slowly puts the can down and leaves the room with a look of horror on her face. Hilarity ensued among the rest of the lefties.

    • #11
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:38 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  12. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    David Deeble: the light of pregnant men

    Should this be maybe “the plight of pregnant men”? Or are pregnant men luminescent? I’ve never met one so I wouldn’t know.

    • #12
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:40 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  13. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    David Deeble: the light of pregnant men

    Should this be maybe “the plight of pregnant men”? Or are pregnant men luminescent? I’ve never met one so I wouldn’t know.

    They say that pregnant women “glow” – why not pregnant men?

     

    • #13
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:51 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. Henry Castaigne Member

    David Deeble: But the showcases – where thousands of students from colleges around the country load up on a year’s worth of comedians, magicians, rock bands and a disproportionate number of “spoken word” artists, whatever that means. (I looked it up on wikipedia, read it twice, gave up trying.)

    • #14
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    David Deeble: But the showcases – where thousands of students from colleges around the country load up on a year’s worth of comedians, magicians, rock bands and a disproportionate number of “spoken word” artists, whatever that means. (I looked it up on wikipedia, read it twice, gave up trying.)

    Only if it’s *woken* spoken word, don’tcha know?

    • #15
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:55 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  16. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    David Deeble: But the showcases – where thousands of students from colleges around the country load up on a year’s worth of comedians, magicians, rock bands and a disproportionate number of “spoken word” artists, whatever that means. (I looked it up on wikipedia, read it twice, gave up trying.)

    Only if it’s *woken* spoken word, don’tcha know?

    If it’s the only representative from a group, would it be token woken spoken word?

     

    • #16
    • November 12, 2018, at 9:56 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  17. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You should try just quoting Eddie Murphy’s Delirious concert word for word . . . you’d probably get killed but it would be fun to see the reactions.

    • #17
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:24 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  18. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Only if it’s *woken* spoken word, don’tcha know?

    “Woken Spoken”, I like the sound of that.

    Hey, what do you do for a living?

    I’m a woken spoken artist.

    Oh, so you’re still unemployed?

    Yeah, pretty much.

    • #18
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:26 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  19. Henry Castaigne Member

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Only if it’s *woken* spoken word, don’tcha know?

    “Woken Spoken”, I like the sound of that.

    Hey, what do you do for a living?

    I’m a woken spoken artist.

    Oh, so you’re still unemployed?

    Yeah, pretty much.

    Maybe the token spoken word artist should switch to joking because the current spoken word is broken because it’s always woken and you just want the activists to stick a fork-in when they peddle their propaganda like Norc-in a state controlled newspaper. Perhaps he could collaborate with Aaron Sorkin or do a sad soliquoy about how he was a dork-in high school.

    • #19
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:36 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    Only if it’s *woken* spoken word, don’tcha know?

    “Woken Spoken”, I like the sound of that.

    Hey, what do you do for a living?

    I’m a woken spoken artist.

    Oh, so you’re still unemployed?

    Yeah, pretty much.

    Maybe the token spoken word artist should switch to joking because the current spoken word is broken because it’s always woken and you just want the activists to stick a fork-in when they peddle their propaganda like Norc-in a state controlled newspaper. Perhaps he could collaborate with Aaron Sorkin or do a sad soliquoy about how he was a dork-in high school.

    So Aaron Sorkin did a token broken spoken woken jokin’ performance?

     

    We’re getting into Pearls Before Swine territory here:

    https://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2005/11/14

    https://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2006/05/08

    • #20
    • November 12, 2018, at 10:57 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  21. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    ‘Sounds like an opportunity for a Tony Clifton style alter ego, designed specifically for campus gigs.

    You could be the first transgender lefty comedian:

    • #21
    • November 12, 2018, at 11:16 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  22. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I saw George Carlin at Washington State University in 1971. He was hilarious. We had a sense of humor then, and I can’t remember anyone being offended.

    • #22
    • November 12, 2018, at 11:44 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  23. Full Size Tabby Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I saw George Carlin at Washington State University in 1971. He was hilarious. We had a sense of humor then, and I can’t remember anyone being offended.

    My late father was a professor of engineering in the 1970’s. He freely used all types of stereotypes (sex, age, race, ethnic, religious). He always announced near the beginning of each quarter that he tried to be an equal-opportunity-offender, so if toward the end of the quarter he hadn’t offended your “group,” to let him know so he could rectify the oversight. In those days, everyone knew he did this because he really liked students of all stripes, and he was one of the most-liked professors in the school. There were some who intensely disliked him, but it was for reasons other than his propensity to “offend.” He could not do any of that today.

     

    • #23
    • November 12, 2018, at 12:07 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  24. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    I assume speaking Woke is equivalent to speaking Jive.

    I saw Steve Martin and Robin Williams while in high school. A guy I knew got front row tickets from his mom who worked at the University of Toledo. I wasn’t interested in him, but he kept getting tickets. John Denver sang “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio” on demand. We all sang along. That would never happen today.

    A refresher:

    • #24
    • November 12, 2018, at 12:23 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  25. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    I assume speaking Woke is equivalent to speaking Jive.

    I saw Steve Martin and Robin Williams while in high school. A guy I knew got front row tickets from his mom who worked at the University of Toledo. I wasn’t interested in him, but he kept getting tickets. John Denver sang “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio” on demand. We all sang along. That would never happen today.

    A refresher:

    It didn’t happen in 1981 at UT, Ninth: We booed him so loudly, he tried to vamp into “Country Roads”…No soap. We were just proud of the place, not humorless. :-)

    • #25
    • November 12, 2018, at 12:35 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve been watching old, funny YouTube videos, because, “boy! do I need a laugh!!” My favorite so far is Jimmy Stewart on Johnny Carson. Remember those days? Jimmy could talk about hanging out with Reagan (a Republican!!). They were both funny! And gracious. And kind. And totally lacking in mean-spiritedness. Man, those were the days.

    • #26
    • November 12, 2018, at 1:17 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  27. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    It didn’t happen in 1981 at UT, Ninth: We booed him so loudly, he tried to vamp into “Country Roads”…No soap. We were just proud of the place, not humorless. :-)

    Toledo is uniquely self-loathing.

    • #27
    • November 12, 2018, at 1:33 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    I’ve been watching old, funny YouTube videos, because, “boy! do I need a laugh!!” My favorite so far is Jimmy Stewart on Johnny Carson. Remember those days? Jimmy could talk about hanging out with Reagan (a Republican!!). They were both funny! And gracious. And kind. And totally lacking in mean-spiritedness. Man, those were the days.

    Chauvie, thank you! I adore Mr. Stewart for many reasons: (home state boy, war hero pilot, gorgeous dude, marvelous actor/writer, believer) and able to be self-deprecatingly funny.

    • #28
    • November 12, 2018, at 1:42 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  29. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    Toledo is uniquely self-loathing.

    The key term there, Ninth, is *self*-loathing, a love-hate thing; not can’t read an audience well snark. :-)

    • #29
    • November 12, 2018, at 1:45 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. barbara lydick Coolidge

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    My late father was a professor of engineering in the 1970’s. He freely used all types of stereotypes (sex, age, race, ethnic, religious). He always announced near the beginning of each quarter that he tried to be an equal-opportunity-offender, so if toward the end of the quarter he hadn’t offended your “group,” to let him know so he could rectify the oversight. In those days, everyone knew he did this because he really liked students of all stripes, and he was one of the most-liked professors in the school. There were some who intensely disliked him, but it was for reasons other than his propensity to “offend.” He could not do any of that today.

    Please oh please – someone have the courage to follow in this Giant’s footsteps. Any Professors willing to take the plunge??

    But then, if you David, and Jerry Seinfeld have thrown in the towel…

    Still in all, a very popular prof just might be able to crack thru this wall of insanity

    • #30
    • November 12, 2018, at 2:12 PM PST
    • 3 likes

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.