Comedy, like music, is best experienced live. There’s no substitute for being there, in person. But for the times you want to enjoy the art, but you can’t be in the room while it’s being created, what’s the next best thing? You might think watching video. You can see, you can hear, so isn’t it almost the same thing? The answer is no, it isn’t, and it may be that listening to comedy without video is a purer experience. In the music industry, seeing a band live on stage is a great experience. Listening to an album is another great experience. The least exciting of the three ways to enjoy music, is watching a band perform on TV, or watching a video clip.
As part of our week-long series with our partner, Audible, we’re looking at whether the same is true for comedy, and why. Here are our 10 favorite reasons why listening to comedy may be the best way to enjoy on demand comedy.
- Audio only comedy becomes theater of the mind. Hearing comedy is like reading a book. You engage. You contribute. While comedians paint a picture with their stories and their jokes, it’s up to you to fill in the missing visuals using your own creativity, and the result is hilarious. Listening to Reggie Watts on a show like Hold On with Eugene Mirman, tell a story about doing mushrooms in the forest with a hippie girl becomes a movie in your mind when you sit down with nothing but the audio. Without a video component, instead of watching Reggie speak, you’re imagining forests, and hippie girls, and when he gets to the part about a certain problem with the bathroom back at her apartment, you’ll see those beads- you’re animating that story in your head.
- Audio is more immersive especially when you’ve got your headphones on. It’s literally just you and the comic. You can block the outside world completely because you’re literally jacked in. No distractions, no drifting off. Nothing to take you out of the moment. Try it out. It literally changes everything.
- Get closer. When you’re watching stand up comedy there’s someone coming between you and the comedian- the director. Face it, these specials aren’t shot by Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg. There’s a cookie cutter look that hasn’t changed much since the 80’s and is it really enhancing your experience? Do away with the director, and you’re closer to the comedy. Do you really need the audience shots? The forced edit to a lady laughing in the third row at what may or may not have been the joke you just heard? How about that swinging camera shot that takes you all the way to the back of the theater so you can get an overview of the room? Audible comedy takes away the filter between you and the comedian and eliminates all of those distracting cut shots.
- Audio is a comedy writer’s realm. With audio only comedy, you judge content over flash. You can’t hide bad material behind a funny wig, a fake nose or a stupid prop. The only thing that matters is- is the material itself funny? Anyone signing up to put out an album, or an audio series knows they gotta deliver the goods. This is comedy in its most naked, and most pure form.
- Timing becomes even more apparent. When you are listening to audio, without visual cues, and distractions, you find you pick up the comic’s timing a lot easier. You will pick up on subtlety, nuance, and fall into the rhythm faster. You can get past sledgehammer comedy and start to appreciate something more refined.
- It’s authentic. The great tradition of comedy comes from the comedy album. And if you line up all the great albums, cassettes, and filmed specials side by side, you will find more of the ‘all time greatest’ comedy recordings remain comedy albums. Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Cheech and Chong, The 2000 year old Man, National Lampoon, Albert Brooks, Firesign Theatre, all were created and first enjoyed on vinyl. This was the original format and the format young comedians will always have to measure up against.
- Audio allows artists freedom to cover any topic. Filmed comedy- sketch material in particular- is limited by physical limitations, budgetary limitations, space limitations. That may seem irrelevant with straight stand up, but if you wanted to take a series like Audible’s Nick Offerman’s Bedtime Stories for Cynics, and create it for television, you’d need a fifty million dollar budget to do it right, and forget about hearing Lewis Black tell the “Todd the Dragon Slayer” story- it would just be too expensive. With audio, anything’s possible. Characters can fly, breathe fire, talk to bears, and nobody needs to worry how to bring it all to life.
- It’s good for your mental health to have some singular experiences in your life. You have enough sensory overload everywhere else.
- You can enjoy comedy in your car! You can’t watch video in your car, or at least you really really shouldn’t. Forget the news during your morning drive- too much stress, and you can skip morning radio, that isn’t going to get you to work in a good mood. Pop in Hot Mic with Dan Savage, and arrive at work in a better mood.
- Multitasking! You’re not always looking for a deep communal experience with your comedy. Sometimes you just want to laugh while you’re getting shit done, so you grab a comedy show on TV (or on your laptop) while you’re folding the laundry, texting, reading Facebook, or cooking dinner. What will you miss by not watching? How many times do you rewind to see what you missed when you hear something that doesn’t make sense from just listening? Multitasking is better with audio only, where everything that you need to know about can be heard. You miss nothing.
- It’s more efficient! Audio series use less of your data and battery on your mobile devices. And that means you can listen longer. Keep texting, follow Twitter and still have enough juice to call an Uber car later to get home.
Now that you’re convinced, you can listen to all the comedy you’ll ever need all day, every day. Download Audible’s free app, and subscribe to Channels! It’s free if you already have Amazon Prime and only $4.95 per month if you’re not.
Read more from our partners at Audible, in our special ad section all week.