Jeff Simmermon’s The 5: Five Things the Joker Got Right About Stand Up Comedy

5 Things Joker Got Right About Stand Up

Jeff Simmermon brings us this week’s edition of The 5 and he’s tackling five things the Joker got right about stand up comedy. It’s perfectly timed with the Joker’s incredible 11 Oscar nominations announced this morning:.
Simmermon has won multiple Moth StorySLAMS, including a GrandSLAM. His stories have appeared on This American Life, Risk!, The Moth’s podcast, and in written form on The Paris Review Daily. Additionally, he produced and performed in “And I Am Not Lying,” a show combining burlesque, sideshow, standup and storytelling at UCB East for five and a half years.

His album “And I Am Not Lying” debuted at #1 on the iTunes standup charts in June 2017, and he recorded his second album on with 800 Pound Gorilla Records on November 16th at The Nest at Bluebird, in Brooklyn.  It will be released this spring.

And Jeff’s weekly cooking newsletter, “Cooking Is Coping” – is a one recipe-as-comedy-essay per week. Signup is here:

#1: Real Help is Hard to Come By

After Arthur is mugged by a gang of violent teenagers, his colleagues in the clown locker room express sympathy and only one of them offers anything in the way of concrete help – by selling Arthur an illegal handgun.  Stand ups offer each other a lot of words of support, but tangible assistance is hard to come by and rarely works the way you think it will.

I once paid out of my own pocket to fly a comic I admired round trip from NYC to Nashville for a variety show I put on down there. The show didn’t do that well and I didn’t either.  On the flight home, I told the comic “well, please consider this an elaborate pitch to do eight minutes on your bar show sometime in the future,” and she laughed out loud, right in my face.

#2  Arthur Thinks Late-Night Will Solve All His Problems

Arthur Fleck thinks that if he could only just get one appearance on a popular late-night television show, he’ll be lifted out of his depressing daily life.  Most stand ups who haven’t yet appeared on late night think that too, despite what they tell you.

I personally know several comics who have done multiple late-night spots, JFL and taped half-hour specials and still pay their rent with temp work – but I just know it’s going to be different when it’s my turn.

#3 If You Think Your First Time Onstage Went Well, You’re Deluding Yourself

The first time Arthur gets onstage, he stumbles clumsily and messes up his jokes.

The film implies that he takes a minute to find his footing but ends up winning the crowd over. Later, the film reveals the whole thing was a delusional fantasy. He actually bombed and his entire set was just painfully awkward.

That’s pretty much how it goes from the first time you get onstage through the next 3-5 years.

#4 It’s Really Hard to Follow Sam Morrill and Gary Gulman

Arthur Fleck follows Sam Morrill and Gary Gulman onstage. It’s also a fact that if you follow those guys, you’re definitely not going to do as well as they did and if you think otherwise you’re probably lying to yourself.

I’ve done this before, and pretty much the only reason that I didn’t dive into traffic is because I believed myself when I said, “my set wasn’t that bad, the crowd just needed a break from laughing so hard.”

#5 Joker’s Biggest Success As a Comic Has Nothing to Do With Being Funny

The climax of the movie shows Joker appearing on late-night TV as a clown, preaching an angry leftist political agenda and immediately connecting to a rabid fan base without ever telling a single joke.

This is a terrifically accurate depiction of comedy in the 21st century.


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