Stand-up comedy is a popular form of entertainment in the U.S. You’ll find lots of stand-up comedy clubs here, where you pay a cover charge (fee to enter) to hear one or more comics tell jokes. On cable television, stand-up comics often have comedy specials, which are usually just filmed versions of their stage show shown on TV. A number of comics who started out doing stand-up have gone on to become stars of their own television sitcoms (half-hour comedy shows set in “real life” situations), such as Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld, Ray Romano in Everybody Loves Raymond, Ellen DeGeneres in Ellen (the sitcom first, then the talk show).
If you’ve ever been to a live (not recorded) comedy show or have seen one on cable, you know that many comics like to use profanity (use offensive language). Some of the most famous comics of all time, such as Eddie Murphy, are known for their foul-mouthed (bad language) performances. However, as one owner of a comedy school in New York City points out, having a foul mouth can lose comics jobs. That’s because, in addition to working in comedy clubs, a large number of comics are hired for corporate gigs (live performance for a company). According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, this is why:
Big-city clubs have a dirty secret: Even the pros (professionals) earn only a few hundred dollars a set (each comedy performance), if that (if they even get that much). Stand-up’s steady (constant) money is at colleges, festivals, churches, and—for $10,000 a pop (each)—in the spotless (clean; not dirty) dinners, trade shows (conventions for an industry, such as travel) and pep talks (events to get their people excited and motivated) put on by corporations.
For these gigs, bookers (people who find entertainment for an event) are looking for entertainers who will not offend most people, with performances that are appropriate for families. Having a foul mouth may get a comic quick laughs, but he or she may get passed over (overlooked; not get the opportunity) for these lucrative (paying a lot of money) jobs.
Having clean (not offensive) sets may be difficult for some comics, since part of the nature of stand-up comedy is to push the envelop (do things that go beyond what is socially acceptable ) and to challenge conventional (traditional; normal) thinking or behavior. But it may be worth their while (worth it) to develop clean routines (performances) if they want to work.
Is stand-up comedy popular where you live? Do comedians have a tradition of being foul-mouthed? If so, are there limits to where they can perform?
Photo Credit: Eddiemurphyrawposter.jpg from Wikipedia