Many of the most exciting comedians performing right now on stage, on your television, on your laptop, phone, and probably on repeat in your head were once part of specific class of comedians that were in Chicago at the same time. Known by being part of The Lyon’s Den open mic or part of The Blerds, You might better know some of them now as Kyle Kinane, TJ Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Hannibal Buress, Pete Holmes, Nick Vatterott, John Roy, or Matt Braunger who has an hour Comedy Central special tomorrow night. We’re not going to go into what was in the water in Chicago because, honestly, we don’t know.
What we do know is that one, Pat Brice, was part of that group.
PPat Brice held the microphone while he performed as a formality, sometimes at hip level while he bellowed at an audience.
It’s incredibly bizarre that comedy is now in a period of rebirth and burgeoning relevance and yet, what comedians say today is often scrutinized and attacked more than ever before. People being offended by a tweet by Chris Rock is a news story, when it shouldn’t be.
The rampant “trolling” of whatever is said or done in comedy has the Internet to blame. Still, the Internet is how comedians are now discovered and build their following. It’s really proving to be a sensationalist circus of faceless crowds with torches and pitchforks that are ready to burn anyone at the stake that they, only two weeks ago, enjoyed listening to in the middle of the town square.
It’s pointless for me to continue addressing this issue, but it’s late and I’m sober and it’s still bothering me.
Yesterday, I was more or less cyber-jumped on Twitter by people who I was trying to help. Yes, the Colin Kane issue. Here he is, getting more free press, and I’m the one up late still sore about it.
The short version: Colin is a comic. He is a shock/insult comic. He’s got a fanbase. I don’t care for his act. It seems designed specifically to rile people up. Jeselnik without the wink. He does a lot “misogynistic” material/jokes. Folks on Twitter offended by this decided to start making fun of him, seemingly in a way to say, “Hey, look how shitty this guy is.”
My problem with this approach is if people were truly offended by his act and the misogyny it contained, you’d want him to go away. Bringing attention to it is the last thing you should do. I first responded with “Chefs don’t waste time getting upset that McDonalds exists. Be chefs” or something to that effect. Basically, his kind are going to exist in some form or another. I thought that with my years as a comic, I could weigh in on how be truly effective in making sure Mr. Kane’s fanbase did not grow. Because wasn’t that the point? If this guy is really so terrible, we should want him to stop, to go away and stop propagating these hateful ideas. I wasn’t suggesting we turn our back on a genocidal dictator, on rape, on some kind of physical violence taking place. This isn’t Joseph Kony. It’s not Darfur. But don’t ironically celebrate something you don’t want injected into the mainstream. I was suggesting that we don’t give someone whose entire act is “Hey, look at me! I’m an asshole!” exactly what he wants. It’s a ratings/publicity issue. Making fun of him or praising him didn’t matter—attention is attention. MTV doesn’t care WHY you watch the Jersey Shore, just that you watch it. As long as the ratings are there, intention doesn’t matter. Tuning in to ironically mock the trash on that show made them all millionaires and talk show guests. And here we are, doing the same thing for Mr. Kane. Maybe not on the same level, but we’re still helping the trash move into pole position.
So, the naive asshole that I am, I thought I could explain this idea on the internet. And what an unending shitstorm I incurred because of it.
I thought I was weighing in on how to deal with a shitty comic. If he has no shame, then shaming him publicly wouldn’t work, right? He knows people get upset at his act. He WANTS people to get upset at his act. I was told I couldn’t tell people how to feel. Never did I tell people not to be upset, or do just dust it off. I never told one person not to be upset. I said to be better than him and don’t play into his plan. Be pissed, but think about what you’re doing. I offered an opinion that maybe they were throwing gas on the very fire that was burning them. Unless I missed the point entirely, I thought the common goal was “this guy’s bad news and he better not get more people listening to his terrible act.” I wasn’t telling people how to feel. I was saying their method of handling the guy was probably going to backfire.
Oh, there was definitely a backfire. Just for me though. See, I was then accused of turning my back on misogyny. Again, I was trying to help—if all these people truly wanted Colin Kane to go away, maybe they would’ve listened to what ANOTHER COMIC had to say. But all of a sudden I wasn’t a comic offering an opinion about comedy. I was now a white male that had no place telling women, and a few male feminists, how to deal with misogyny. Huh? What did I miss? I thought I was Kyle Kinane, a comedian with 13 years experience that had seen similar situations and could offer up an inside opinion in the hopes that maybe we could all accomplish a shared goal. Coincidentally, yes, I happened to be a white male. But we were talking about a shitty comic, right? I’m Kyle, the comedian. I can talk about other comedians, right?
I wasn’t Kyle Kinane the comedian anymore. I was white privilege. I had no place telling feminists how they could feel. I came from a place of inherited superiority and culturally I was incapable of understanding what it’s like to be a woman or minority or homosexual.
But weren’t we trying to make sure a comic wouldn’t get any praise for being a shitty comic? Not anymore. The trolls pounced on me as though Colin Kane never existed. (During this time, Colin instructed his fanbase to lambast a Laughspin article about him. They flooded the comment boards with what seemed to mostly be “Lighten up, you cunts”-type comments.) Meanwhile, I was the heterosexual white devil. I basically was being told I had no right to offer opinions on suffering because I was the reason all suffering existed. No matter what I wrote, they only read “LET THEM EAT CAKE.”
And yes, I trolled myself. I looked up the people with seemingly endless free time, coming back again and again. Constantly @-replying to me to goad me on. People with 45k tweets. Where does the rest of one’s life fit in between 45k tweets? I can’t begin to imagine. One comment on a blog I reposted stated that I was the reason you can’t trust white males, and that I reinforced the reason why the author felt “nauseous” when talking to the white man. Fuck, really? Me? My very existence makes people sick now? And I thought I was finally hitting my stride.
One women troll asked what I felt about one of my fans telling her that he hoped her baby got AIDS. I said that I didn’t feel it was my responsibility. The Beach Boys weren’t responsible for Sharon Tate’s death just because Manson was a fan. She accused me of avoiding the question, so I responded “You’re a dipshit and I hope no babies get AIDS.” Well, she decided to go ahead and tell her followers that unfunny comedian Kyle Kinane hopes her baby dies of AIDS. Not only did I not say that, but getting AIDS and dying of AIDS are two different jokes.
I wondered how many agents were reading all of Colin’s fans comments on the Laughspin article during this. “Hmm, people seem to have strong opinions about this guy. There’s got to be some kind of spark to piss people off this much. Let’s get him in for a meeting.” Tucker Max got to make a movie. Why not Colin Kane?
So I accepted my role as the white devil and tried to make some jokes about it, which was labeled “typical behavior” by Twitter’s board of expert sociologists. Eventually I surrendered. The people who didn’t like Colin’s jokes didn’t like my jokes either. Although I thought my concession speech of “You’re right, white men have no feelings and their dicks can block bullets and bad vibes” was worth a chuckle or two. There was no winning. What a great privilege I have, representing straight white males. And I guess I need to remember that I’m not allowed to offer an opinion on misogyny, homosexuality, or race. Funny, since the only thing I thought I was offering my opinion on in the first place was comedy—the one subject I thought I was remotely qualified to talk about.
That’s about it. I let the trolls get to me. They picked me clean. I was exhausted and rattled by the end of the day. But there were a few people in there that I thought should’ve understood. Other comics that should’ve seen we were talking about shitty comedy and how to resolve it. Take off the PC glasses for a second and deal with the real issue. Shit, there’s that white privilege again. I’m gonna go play a few rounds then take the yacht out to calm down.
*for the record I think what I’ve seen of Kane’s act is misguided, lazily-written and mean-spirited, but he still has a right to do it, just like everyone has a right to criticize it. Except for me I guess.