Friday, January 24, 2014

Crossroads - The Act

I thought I should examine my act first. After all it is the product I am selling. Is it something people even want? In the comedy business model I’m the manufacturer. Just like any other product my act needs to be packaged and promoted. In my world the wholesalers are agents, clubs are retailers and audiences are the consumers.

I will start with what I think my act is, an irreverent look on life. In my act I go out of my way to make light of societal norms. I do my best to point out how ridiculous it is that we deny who we are. I try to do so in an irreverent way. I purposely put my message in a container that isn’t shiny or inviting. I do so because I don’t want you to laugh at my jokes because you like me. I want you to laugh because what I told you is real and true.

I use some curse words so I am not considered a “clean” act. In fact one booker did once tell me he got feedback on me that I was “dirty”. Once in the nearly 20 years I’ve done this and you’d be surprised at how something like that has stuck with me when things aren’t going well.

I will state for the record I do not believe I am “dirty”. I would call myself naughty or irreverent but to me throwing out some swear words and some innuendo is far from being “dirty”. In my mind “dirty” is someone who is leaning on swear words and/or talking explicitly about sex acts. I do neither of those things.

I use swear words as adverbs and adjectives. In other words I use them to put emphasis on what I’m talking about. Can I paint a picture without them? Yes I can, but believe me I’ve tried it both ways and inserting the proper “curse word” at the right time adds the punch that makes the difference.

So you see I don’t think I can do what I want to do by being a “clean” comedian. Why should I conform to standards that were created by people who think they know what is best for us? TV, radio and movies are censored in what I feel is an overly restrictive way. Political correctness is running rampant in our society.

Who are these people anyway? I never run into anyone that seems to be living by the standards these anonymous people have created. I’m not speaking of the people I run into at shows either. I’m referring to the people I run into while I live my life and believe me, that’s a varied bunch. My life is not anywhere near the norm. I think most individuals see the same people on a regular basis. This is by no means a small number but they do spend time in the same places all the time. They go back and forth to work, shop at their favorite stores and entertain themselves at the same places. Sure they run into new people all the time, put I would submit that the core of people they know doesn’t change much.

I really don’t have a core of people I deal with all the time. Everyone in my life changes from week to week. As a rule I interact with people that don’t know me or what I think. So I believe that people in my presence behave in a way that they believe is socially acceptable.

Having said all that I will make this point. People don’t speak with the restrictions that are set for TV, radio and the movies. That is why I have chosen to use curse words. Everyone uses them, so why shouldn’t I when I’m on stage. Besides, there are guys that much dirtier than I am and they’re working a lot more than I am.

So when it comes to my act what should I do? Here are what I think my options are:

I stick with what I am doing now - It’s what I’m happy with. I have worked over 20 years to get to this point. I feel like what I do is unique to me and no one else. I also have this belief deep inside me that if I continue being true to myself eventually I will be noticed. That my audience will find me and once that happens I’ll be able to work wherever I want.

I “clean up” my act - I remove all the language and any materials that is not considered clean. Taking the language out changes the tone of the material. Swearing also is one of the things helps to establish my character. You would expect the person I am portraying on stage to swear. Not doing so would send a conflicting message to those in the audience.

I throw out my act - I abandon what I have worked on for over 20 years. If I were to do something like start over am I doing it for the right reasons? Or am I just doing it to make money or get stage time. Either way I have to write from a different perspective and create a different character. I’m pretty sure it would feel like I was making a huge artistic compromise.

My act is only one of the things I need to consider, there is so much more ...

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

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