August 06, 2009

stand-up comedy

A stand-up comedian or stand-up comic is someone that performs comedy in an informal way, ie: talking to the audience with the absence of the theatrical "fourth wall". It is usually done by one comedian and usually with a microphone. It can be done in comedy clubs, colleges, theaters, alternative venues--almost anywhere an audience is open to comedy. The comic usually recites a fast paced succession of amusing stories, short jokes (called bits) and one-liners, typically called a monologue, routine or act. Some stand-up comedians use props, music, or magic tricks in their acts.

Many stand-up routines are similar to one man shows, with the main difference being the expectations of the audience, who, with stand-up, expect a relatively steady stream of "laughs". This in turn affects the aims of the performer, who is under great pressure to deliver those laughs.

Many smaller venues hold "open mic" events where amateur comedians can perform comedy before a live audience, offering a way for the performers to hone their craft and possibly break into the business. Stand-up comedy is considered difficult to master, because the stand-up comedian is at the mercy of the audience, which is an integral element of the act. An adept stand-up comedian must nimbly play off the mood and tastes of any particular audience, and adjust his or her routine accordingly. Stand-up is a comedic art form that is openly devoted to getting and receiving laughs from an audience above any other component of the form (unlike theatrical comedy, which creates comedy within the structure of a play and with character and situation). The skills attributed to being a stand-up comic are diverse; it is often necessary for a solitary stand-up comic to simultaneously assume the roles of a writer, editor, performer, promoter, producer, and technician. One test of a master stand-up comedian is the ability to not only face down a "heckler," but win over and entertain the rest of the crowd with a retort. Many stand-up comedians work for years to get 45 minutes of material, and usually perform their bits over and over, slowly perfecting them over time. Actor and comedian Will Ferrell has called stand-up comedy hard, lonely and vicious.

Some stand-up comedians achieve their own television programs or star in major motion pictures, reaching a level of mainstream success and recognition often unattainable in the comedy club circuit alone. Examples of this include Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Ray Romano.


Stand-up comedy has its roots in various traditions of American entertainment popular in the late 19th century, ranging from vaudeville and humorist monologues (with Mark Twain a notable master),circus clown. stand up is alo deeply rooted in Yiddish theater.some may argue that american jews are to stand up what american blacks are to music. Most early comedians were merely viewed as "joke tellers," who warmed up the audience as an opening act, or kept the crowds entertained during intermissions. Being a comedian was often considered a stepping stone to a proper career in show business. Jokes were generally broad and (oft when not broadcast) mildly risqué, and often dwelt on stock comic themes ("mother-in-law jokes," ethnic humor). "Blue humor," or comedy that was considered indecent, was popular in many nightclubs, but working "blue" greatly limited a comedian's chance for legitimate success.

The fathers of stand up comedy were the "masters of ceremony", as they often were referred to, of the "golden age" of radio broadcasting. Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Bob Hope all came from vaudeville and often opened their listening programs with monologues and routines. These were topical, characterized by ad-libs and discussions about anything from the latest films to a missing birthday. The programs largely were split into the opening monologue, musical number, followed by a skit or story routine. Their guests were varied and included other radio comedians of the day including Burns and Allen. A "feud" between Fred Allen and Jack Benny was used as comic material for nearly a decade.

In the late 1950s and into the 1960s, a new generation of American comedians began to explore political topics, race relations, and sexual humor. Stand-up comedy shifted from quick jokes and one-liners to monologues, often with dark humor and cutting satire. Lenny Bruce became particularly influential in pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable entertainment (among comedians, such "boundary pushing" dates back at least to vaudeville in a traditional joke called The Aristocrats that comedians would tell usually only to each other). African American comedians such as Redd Foxx, long relegated to segregated venues, also began to cross over to white audiences at this time.

Stand-up comedy exploded during the 1970s, with several entertainers becoming major stars based on stand-up comedy performances. Stand-up expanded from nightclubs and theaters to major concerts in sports arenas. Richard Pryor and George Carlin followed Lenny Bruce's acerbic style to become counterculture icons. Steve Martin and Bill Cosby had similar levels of success with gentler comic routines. The older style of stand-up comedy was kept alive by Rodney Dangerfield and Buddy Hackett, who enjoyed revived careers. Television programs such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show launched the careers of other stand-up comedy stars.

The great popularity of stand-up comedy led to a boom in stand-up comedy venues for both locally-based and touring comics in many cities. Many stand-up stars landed major television deals, and established television and film stars such as Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, and Billy Crystal tested their comic skills with live stand-up comedy appearances. The advent of HBO (which could present comedians uncensored) and other cable channels such as Comedy Central added to the stand-up comedy boom.

By the 1990s, a glut of stand-up comedy led to its decline, as the market became somewhat flooded with comedians. Established stand-up comedians still commanded top ticket prices, however, and talented new comedians were presented with many smaller venues in which to establish themselves.

Many believe that Chris Rock's stand-up career, which took off in 1996 with his hugely popular special Bring the Pain, was incredibly influential in the resurrection of stand-up comedy that took place in the second half of the 1990s. By the 2000s, comedy had enjoyed a resurgence, not only because of Rock's popularity and success, but also because of newly accessible and popular media outlets such as the internet and television channels like Comedy Central. There is currently a renaissance of sorts occurring in the comedy world, with younger comics (often between the ages of fifteen and twenty nine) finding their way on stage and becoming the norm, evolving the art form in a new direction for a new age.

In the USA, New York City is still considered by many to be the heart of the stand-up scene, with many of the young rising stars as well as the top performers regularly trying out material at the Comedy Cellar when not on the road. Caroline's on Broadway is considered to be one of the top clubs in the country for headliners, with past performers including Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Hicks, Colin Quinn, Gilbert Gottfried, Mitch Hedberg, Jerry Seinfeld.

In New York City's Greenwich Village, comedy even flourishes outside of the stand-up club circuit. Theaters that are more known for sketch comedy, like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCB), as well as cabarets that do not exclusively offer any kind of comedy, like Rififi, have weekly comedy shows. The UCB Theater has "Crash Test" every Monday, hosted by Aziz Ansari. Rififi has "Invite Them Up", hosted by Bobby Tisdale and Eugene Mirman.

Some might even say these places are helping develop a new form of comedy -- alternative comedy -- which involves more character-based, surreal, or absurd humor as opposed to observations of everyday life or more polemical themes. A growing number of comics (Demetri Martin, Slovin and Allen, Andres du Bouchet) do not strictly get on stage and tell jokes, opting to play music or act out sketches, making their performances more similar to vaudeville than to traditional stand-up.

Los Angeles is the other major market for US stand-up comedy, being a home to much of the American entertainment industry, as well as providing stand-up comics with the greatest opportunity to branch out into television and film. The Los Angeles comedy scene consistently showcases many of the most well-known comics in the world regularly playing at major comedy venues, such as The Laugh Factory, the Hollywood Improv, and the Comedy Store. Prominent figures in the L.A. comedy scene have included Dane Cook, Kathy Griffin, Dom Irrera, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno, and many others. There is a newly burgeoning comedy scene in the North Hollywood and Silverlake areas of Los Angeles, as these areas have experienced an influx of artists over the past decade as the housing costs in West Los Angeles have risen.

On television, Last Comic Standing has brought milder stand-up comedy into the homes of persons who otherwise wouldn't partake.

Outside of the United States, there is a burgeoning stand-up comedy scene in Canada, the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands, with major comedy, film, and entertainment industry festivals occurring in all of these locations. Not only this, some comedians are using their stand-up work to make an impact on international relations or to promote peace and understanding across cultures. For example, the "Allah Made Me Funny--Official Muslim Comedy Tour" is an example of three American Muslim comedians (Preacher Moss, Azhar Usman, and Azeem) using humor generally and stand-up comedy in particular to ease tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, promote better understanding of Muslim culture and practices, and dish out social commentary about topics related to Muslim life in America.

Stand-up comedy is the focus of three major international festivals: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland; Just for Laughs in Montreal, Canada; the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in Melbourne, Australia; and a number of smaller comedy festivals, most prominently the Boston Comedy and Film Festival and the New York Underground Film Festival. The festival format has proven to be quite successful at attracting attention to the art form, and is often used as a scouting and proving ground by industry professionals seeking new comedic talent.

(wikipedia-the free encyclopedia)

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