Stand Up NY

Stand Up NY

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What Inspires Comedians?

It’s a tough thing, trying to think of something that is truly worth sharing. Comedians, in standup or otherwise, have to come up with words and actions that when combined result in laughter on a regular basis. The process that goes into this involves a lot of thinking, but even before that, the comedian has to find something worth thinking about. Of course, this depends on what the individual finds interesting and is as variable as the many different comedians out there.

The legendary comedian George Carlin who was famous for his incisive breakdowns of social and political happenings attested to “leaving the media on all day” as a way to let his mind subconsciously take in new material. Whether it was by leaving on the radio and TV or skimming through the newspaper, he maintained a passive yet constant focus on cultural trends that no doubt aided in his poignant observational comedy. Carlin’s method works for comedians trying to make a statement on the world around them.

On the other end of the spectrum is Eric Andre of The Eric Andre Show, which follows the late night interview show format if it was run by an insane person on a variety of psychedelic drugs. In an interview with Conan O’Brien, he talks about a big inspiration for the show coming from this obscure video of a live public access show where a man is running on a treadmill, blending drinks, painting, and taking calls from viewers all at the same time. If you’ve seen the Eric Andre Show the correlation will be clear. Seeking out the absurd and obscure, understanding the personalities behind inexplicable behavior- these are inspirations for comics trying to not make any sense.

Many comics use personal experiences in their TV shows or stand-up routines. This is highly evident in comedian Marc Maron’s show “Maron,” his podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” and his stand-up material. In his stand-up and podcast, Maron has talked openly about having been addicted to various drugs, and drug addiction is a major theme in the now-sober comedian’s TV show about his life. Personal experiences are a part of most, if not all comedians’ routines, however, Maron’s material is especially fixated on his personal mishaps, to the point that he appears to be playing himself as a character. Based on his act, it seems that taking inspiration from personal qualities and experiences requires objectivity about one’s own personality, and that can be tough.

While some comedians draw inspiration from specific areas, others draw from multiple dimensions and combine them to create unique routines. This makes sense- we all experience widespread social issues, absurd occurrences, and personal problems, and make sense of them with our individual minds. The important part is paying attention to these things.