Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Our Blog Thing

So yesterday, I was talking about New York Magazine's blogging issue, and the similarities, for me, between comedy in the '80s and blogging now. And one that occurred to me this morning is how, with both practices, you can get so caught up in the tiny distinctions in your little universe that you forget that the astounding majority of the planet doesn't even know or care about what you're doing.

One day in the very late '80s, I was volunteering in the office of a comedians' advocacy group. Our computer broke down--a Mac SE with a whopping 20 megabyte hard drive--and we called a tech to come in and fix it. The tech arrived, this twenty-something Hispanic guy, and there were four or five of us comics sitting around talking to him while he was fixing Univac, and one of us asked him, "So, who do you like in comedy?"

The tech thought about it for a moment. "Well, I like that show 'In Living Color.'"

"No," another one of us said, "I mean, like, stand-up comics."

"Aw, Richard Pryor! He's great, man."

Another one of us ventured, "How about ______," mentioning one of our colleagues who we thought was the President of Show Business because he had "Done a Carson."

The tech drew a blank. "Nope, never heard of him."

We were nonplussed. We had built entire hierarchies around "Do you have the 10:00 spot or the 10:20 spot at the Comic Strip" and the average human being on the street, if you asked him "Who's your favorite comic," would say something like "Robin Williams."

Jump forward fifteen years. When I started this blog, I e-mailed a copy of my first post to every friend, relative and acquaintance with a computer. I included the URL so that they could click through and bookmark the site.

A few weeks ago, our friend Peter was visiting from upstate and asked me, "Did you ever write another one of those blog things?"

"Peter, I've been writing in the blog almost every day!"

"But I only got that one post."

"No, the blog is online! I included the URL in the e-mail."

"Oh, I don't go in for all those high-tech things." He had thought a blog was e-mail. And you can have people subscribe to your blog and get notified by e-mail whenever there's a new post. The point was, I get so caught up in somebody dissing me in a flame war on a spinoff of a spinoff of a little-known blog--the same as I got caught up in the politics of comedy clubs, day jobs, and e-mail lists--that I forget that even to most highly-educated people, blogs are "those high-tech things."

Practically every day, you can read an article on "The Blog Explosion," just like in the late '80s there were any number of features about "The Comedy Boom." The real boom in comedy was actually a few years before that, and had already reached a saturation point by the time most normal human beings read about it.

I would take with a grain of salt any statistics on how many blogs there are these days. Not a day goes by that I don't run across some blog that hasn't had a post in over a year. When I first set this one up, I didn't realize that the preferences were set wrong until I had several friends tell me:

"Yeah, I started a blog."

"Oh, I inspired you?"

"No, but your blog wouldn't let me leave a comment unless I started a blog."

Needless to say, these are blogs that were not continued.

Plus, there are people who have more than one blog, or who have their own blog and are part of a group blog.

So while it may look as if everyone and their cat has a blog, there are actually huge swaths of the population who are not my mother, and yet have no idea what a blog is. Just as there were large quantities of people who couldn't have cared less who had bumped me from my spot in a comedy club. Unless it was Robin Williams.

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