Friday, March 10, 2006

Comedy in the 80's: I'll Sayet Again

This caught my eye while reading Marc Cooper's coverage of David Horowitz's Restoration Weekend (kind of a political retreat weekend for conservatives):
Conservative L.A.-based comic Evan Sayet was wisecracking on the stage in front of us and was clearly working his rhetorical shtick slowly toward the former attorney general.

He’s a funny guy, and he had the crowd howling.

I headed over to Google to confirm what I was pretty sure of: Yep, it was the same Evan Sayet I'd known from comedy open mike nights twenty years ago. I'd lost track of him after he headed to L.A. to write for TV, which he's done successfully. I don't remember him as having been particularly political at the time, yet apparently he's now acquired the appellation "Conservative Comic." Here he is on his home page with conservative icons Ann Coulter, Michael Medved and...Elton John? Whatever.

In fact, I was probably more conservative twenty years ago than he was, although I considered myself cynically non-political. I was a "beatnik libertarian" living on the drips from the Trickle Down Theory as a temp in several gleefully litigious corporate law firms.

If I recall correctly, Evan's big joke at the time involved Queen Elizabeth and the penis of a moose. Maybe Elton liked that one.

I don't remember a lot of political comics from that time, overall. There weren't many in the mainstream, except for Jim Morris, who impersonated Reagan. Bill Maher was picking up steam, but wasn't especially known for politics yet. Lew Black held court at a small, theater-like club as part of a weekly line-up of smart, left-leaning performers, the "smart" making them more "out of the mainstream" in the stand-up game than did the "left-leaning."

I did find, whenever I was asked to "do something political," that one could create servicable Dan Quayle jokes by repurposing Polish jokes. What's surprising to me now is that I didn't realize that to many in the audience, my very presence on stage was a political act. I was part of a bumper crop of females born at the crest of the Baby Boom and headed into her 30's with no immediate intention of marriage or family, and taking for granted the idea that I was going to make a name for myself. The sheer number of us alone stopped us from being outright freaks, and we slowly changed the status quo just by following our own personal agendas.

The past few years have been a boon for political comics and political humor. But reading the rest of Cooper's article, you get the idea that people are getting pretty durn tired of what's been going on for the past few years. Many Republican elected officials do not want to be identified with the party that's been running this country like one big party. Voters are turning off to "politics as usual" and politics in general.

This will mean that being a "political comic" won't be an automatic ticket to steady bookings. Trends come and go. When they go, you can stay and play to a smaller, specialized audience, or you can morph your talents into the next trend. If you're funny--which I remember Evan being--you'll be funny no matter what your hook is.

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