The Most Annoying Things You Can Say to a Comedian

After a recent show with Todd McComas.

I spend most of my time at this site discussing train wreck shows and strategies that I think will help make younger comics better. I had been compiling some of my least favs for the blog. My friend, Mike Brody, mentioned one on Facebook I that I enjoyed his answer to.

Here was Brody’s.

Woman at the bar at the House of Comedy: Are you a comedian?
Me: Yes.
Woman: Then tell me a joke.
Me: Are you coming in to the show?
Her: No.
Me: Then $%#* you, you don’t get a free show.

Nice work Mike. Very direct. By the way, check-out his new comedy cd he just released.

I have a couple different responses to the Tell me a joke question. My first few years I used to actually try to accommodate their request and almost every time the short set-up and then joke I would pick would lay completely flat after I told it. Being a standup comedian is not about telling a joke to another person in a conversation. Hey young comics, if you want to annoy veteran comics, weave your newest bit into a conversation. Translation: DON’T WEAVE NEW JOKES INTO CONVERSATIONS.  If you have a new bit you want to run by someone you respect then tell them upfront you want to do this.

Now when someone finds out I’m a comedian and says Tell me a joke, I respond with this. What do you do for a living? Then I follow up with a deal. For example, if they say they work as an accountant I tell them I will be glad to offer up my services in trade, as long as they do my taxes in return. You see, this is my job and I don’t work for free. Do you work for free? Sure it comes off dick-ish, but I want them to understand that I don’t live to make them laugh when I walk off-stage. You know who I generally find is dying to make people laugh off-stage? Comics who can’t get laughs—on-stage.

On that front, another major annoyance is people coming up to you after the show telling you they have a joke. I’m not big on joke jokes. This is probably why I can only remember about 6 of them and half of them are from some old Redd Foxx record I had as a kid. I’m not Jackie the Jokeman. For those non-comics out there who are reading this, save your work joke for people at work, not professional comics. Oh and NEVER tell me hey I got a joke you could tell in your act. This statement happens a handful of times each year and I don’t take it well. My response is so you just got done seeing my show. What part of it did I tell some joke joke in it? Since half of the jokes people seem to tell me after the show are racist, I add what planet do you live on where you think I can get away with that? I’m not performing for the townfolk from Mississippi Burning. 

Here is one I got this past Saturday before the show. The person was standing in line when one of the waitresses talking to this customer saw me walk by. She mentioned I was the comedian. He insults me with this one. So are you funny? My answer: Too funny to perform for dimwits like you. That is definitely one of my least favorite questions I ever get, as you can tell from my answer. When I hire a plumber I don’t ask him when he gets there, uh, are you any good at plumbing? The other answer I use when someone asks me before the show if I’m funny is Nope. I don’t know how I’ve managed to do this job for 20 years. I would suggest you see if you can get your money back because there will be no laughs provided by me tonight.

Don’t forget this gem I get from people when I’m hanging out with them and they something that is embarrassing about them.  Oh my God, I bet you are going to use that in your show. A former neighbor used to say that to me, so one day I had to relieve her fears.  Listen, don’t worry about that. I promise you nothing in your life is even remotely close to being interesting enough to make my show. I kind of felt badly after I said it, as I know she was hurt by my blunt words, but I got tired of hearing this from her. I have come up with my guess over 6 hours of material during my career and I have never done a bit that had anything to do with something someone said in a conversation. I have, though, used some people’s conversations in this blog. For example, like today.

Do you write your own material? I’ve just gotten done making funny for an hour, which much of was told from the point of view of my life. I know the average person has no idea how we create comic material, so let me help anyone who is curious. Unless you are an established comedy superstar, you cannot afford to buy an act from someone else.

What else do you do for a living? Now this is trickier. I have no idea how most feature acts pay their bills on what they make in today’s current climate, so that one is kind of a fair one. Even with this caveat, I get kind of offended as a headliner who has crafted a 45-60 minute show that you think this is some kind of fucking hobby. I make enough money to pay my family’s bills and live check to check. You know, just like most Americans.

Do you fly to all your gigs?  Ok, let’s take this SAT question. Scott gets paid 400 dollars for this gig tonight. The nearest major airport is 1oo miles away and it would cost more than 400 dollars for just the round-trip ticket, not counting having to rent a car to drive to this gig. Next question. (Weird deal about being a professional standup. Some people think we make huge money, while others think it’s like some type of hobby. Somewhere in between, though for most comics, closer to the latter.)

I’m sure there are others I have forgotten. Please leave any other annoying questions you get. It’s cathartic!

12 thoughts on “The Most Annoying Things You Can Say to a Comedian

  1. Most of the people that talk to me after shows are really nice, they are just curious or little drunk. The only problem I see when the day comes thats they stop wanting to talk to you after shows .This is silly to complain about !.

    1. On one level, I hear you Lee. I’m about as positive as you can be to people after the show. I really appreciate that they came out to see a show. There are just a couple of things that set me off. It’s when something is said to me that is insulting or condescending.

  2. I was pulled over for speeding on my way to the Beer Sellar one night and I said to the policeman, “Im sorry sir, Im performing at a comedy show and Im running a bit late” so he takes my info and when he gets back to the car he says “So you’re a comedian huh”? I said “Yes sir, or at least working on it”. Then he gives me the “tell me a joke” line. I told him I was working on a bit about a nice state trooper that pulls over a struggling comic for speeding and let’s him off with a warning. He laughs hysterically and tells me to slow it down, Crisis averted.

    1. Very funny Jeremy. And yes, that would be the time to break out the jokes. I would have no problem hacking someone even, if it was between just me and a cop and it meant 200 bucks and not having my insurance rates go up. Yes, I just admitted that in public. Of course, the last time I got pulled over I did a Matt Holt joke and I was cited for Hate Speech.

  3. My standard reply to “Tell me a joke!” recently has been this:

    me: “Where did the bird get his taxes done?”
    them: “I don’t know, where?”
    me: “H & R Flock!” (usually punctuated by an over-exaggerated self-rimshot)

    When they say it sucks, I tell them that’s the free one.

  4. What about the audience member that interrupts you your entire set then comes up to you after the show to tell you how much they enjoyed your set and they’re glad they could “help.”?

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