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March 22nd, 2007


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12:20 am - Comedy 101
This video clip (see it on YouTube before it gets lawyered out of existence) is like a class in comedy. A real object lesson. Ignore the bad audio sync; you can just listen if you want.

First, watch Bill Cosby do one of his more famous routines from "Himself", the routine about the father who teaches his kid football. Watch his delivery. Watch how he takes his time to set the joke up, how he tells it like a story, how he gets you going with the story as it builds and then springs the punchline on you. And then watch his reaction. His acceptance and subtly smug rejoinder at the end. He gets you good.

Immediately after, you'll watch Carlos Mencia. His first mistake? Stealing Cosby's joke. Brazenly stealing a joke from one of the best-known comedians of all time, who used it in one of the best-known comedy albums of all time. It should come as no surprise -- Mencia's a well-known hack, he's ganked routines from George Lopez, Joe Rogan has called him out live onstage, all kinds of stuff -- but it still surprises me, because Mencia steals Cosby's material and does so horribly. You couldn't even justify this as an "homage" to Cosby, because homages don't usually take the original material and butcher all the funny out of it.

Watch Mencia's delivery. Watch how he throws this story out all rapid-fire and angry, how he recites it like a kid who's learned a joke and wants to repeat it to all his relatives. Watch how he takes the story out of slightly-believable territory and into hyperbolic fantasy (Cosby's football kid has his moment of glory at a college game; Mencia's kid has to throw the winning TD at the Super Bowl and win MVP.) It's no longer a compelling story, it's a "Hey watch me tell this joke guys."

Then watch him deliver the punchline. And then his reaction.

Screaming and pounding a chair does not comedic punctuation make.

And neither does a completely needless rejoinder, complete with the rhymes-with-itch word cause it's all edgy and stuff, that explains the joke and then berates the mother. Why the hell do that? No, seriously, why? It brings nothing to the joke other than a burst of anger. Oops, hope you're not offended!

I hadn't really formed an opinion on Carlos Mencia other than I knew the "kids love him" cause he cusses and uses words like "beaner" and has a catchphrase to use on people he thinks are "retarded", and that I didn't care for any of that "I'm edgy! Look!" stuff. But when I saw this video, I realized Mencia isn't really that bad a performer; in fact, he's doing us all a valuable favor by teaching us how not to be a comedian.

Don't despair. I know. Comedy black holes hurt. So for some cheering up, here's Bill Cosby's wonderful Chocolate Cake For Breakfast routine. Note how the real punchline of the routine, the real stinger, comes in the last 30 seconds of the bit, and he doesn't have to milk it for you to get it. Amen.

(42 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:laura47
Date:March 22nd, 2007 05:42 am (UTC)
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actually your description does not make me want to watch it
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From:derspatchel
Date:March 22nd, 2007 05:47 am (UTC)
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That's okay, because it really hurts. I think it made the cat cry. Yeah, he's crying.
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From:coffeebeanben
Date:March 22nd, 2007 08:15 am (UTC)
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There's a split second when you can actually see Mencia thinking about how to add onto the joke. Then he comes up with the NFL bit, the super bowl bit and the MVP bit.

Oh man. Maybe I should go into standup if this is all it takes to pull it off.

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From:littlegirltoast
Date:March 22nd, 2007 08:28 am (UTC)
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Okay, I will readily admit that that was awful and a travesty and everything.

But I feel like even worse is this thing I found tangentially... following a couple similar links, I wound up at the page of this sketch alleged-comedy group, "The Next Level Oh Yah!"

Oh no

I have to warn you that far beyond being a how-not-to be funny tutorial, it is very close to being a how-not-to-want-to-breathe-or-live-any-longer tutorial.

I just can't imagine wrapping one of these and feeling like it might be fun to show it to somebody. Check out Gay Guy Beatdown for maximum lack of jokes!
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From:cursethedark
Date:March 22nd, 2007 08:37 am (UTC)
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Who do I kill for this: me or you?
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From:semer
Date:March 22nd, 2007 10:59 am (UTC)
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Oh sweet FSM, Chocolate Cake for Breakfast... that routine was seriously a potent staple of my childhood. I don't know if I've seen it that many times; in fact, it's been repeated so much in my house that watching it again just now actually yielded some surprises - little bits forgotten here and there, slight differences in timing.

That was a bizarre and wonderful experience. Bless you, Huncle Spatch.
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From:muffyjo
Date:March 22nd, 2007 12:18 pm (UTC)
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OMG, thank you. I've been thinking about that routine lately! (Chocolate cake). You have made my day!
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From:olethrosdc
Date:March 22nd, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
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Very interesting difference.
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From:grumqa
Date:March 22nd, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
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You have to be careful with eggs.
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From:derspatchel
Date:March 22nd, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
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gets me every time.
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From:fancycwabs
Date:March 22nd, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
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I think he stole the screaming and pounding on the chair from Sam Kinison.

Of course, if you want something that's so clearly not funny that I never ever want to see them ever, check out the Memphis Freak Engine, who turn something that's funny when it happens to cartoon characters into Hostel.
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From:campion7
Date:March 22nd, 2007 01:34 pm (UTC)
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A great comedian just has to tell a story to get people laughing.

A buffoon has to scream and howl and swear to get people even interested, let alone to laugh. (Okay, maybe Robin Williams is the exception to that.)

That's what makes Cosby one of the best.
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From:muse0fire
Date:March 22nd, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
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Agreed - Robin Williams Live at the Met still gets me ROTFLMAO.
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From:muse0fire
Date:March 22nd, 2007 01:43 pm (UTC)
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Actually the difference between Cosby and Mencia makes me think about the fact that the art of real comedy story telling seems to be getting lost. Is Garrison Keillor the only one who sort of does that now?

It also mirrors what's wrong with most sitcoms these days* - they aim for the quick and easy punchline after every other line, instead of telling stories that have also involve funny lines, and that lend themselves to humor (like Cheers, M*A*S*H, Taxi, etc.)** It's a deeper humor, and I think it's actually being found more often in dramas these days (anything written by Joss Whedon) than in sitcoms.

*and you kids get offa my lawn
**damn I'm old
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From:littlegirltoast
Date:March 22nd, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
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David Cross tells stories. They aren't always funny, but I think that's kind of reminiscent of Bill Cosby, too - people don't tend to remember the vast ocean of duds that Bill's gems are swimming in. He's had a long career on stage and the best years of it have been distilled into probably a couple records' worth of classics. His propensity for meandering improv resulted in a lot of klunkers, though. I'm sure a lot of them aren't preserved in any fashion, but even if you go to Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow, Right, which was a greatest hits itself, there's the bit Hoof & Mouth. It's terrible! He's audibly spinning it out and it has no punchline and if he didn't know by the end of it that it was a non-starter, then he paid too much attention to the generous audience.

I think that also mirrors what's always been wrong with sitcoms - everything that's still wrong with them now. We just excise the chaff from our memories and take home DVD sets of the ones that we thought were pretty darn clever. And okay as far as I know no-one has made a pretty darn clever one since Sports Night and that was a checkered affair at best anyway, but I don't think that what sucks about the sitcoms on now hasn't always been what sucked about sitcoms.

I think it's strange to call humour that's more incidental and less intrinsic to the action "deeper". It's just more restrained. Staying quiet to appear deep is the oldest trick in the book, but it's not like when CJ cracks up and says "I just remembered something funny about the deficit!" in The West Wing it's a joke that really makes you think or expresses something profound... it's just a genuinely hilarious moment that isn't wedged in between a zillion crappy jokes about how fat people sure do love to eat and men are very stupid.
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From:infinitehotel
Date:March 22nd, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
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A friend of mine used to do stand-up around Boston, and to hear him tell it, Mencia's kind of humor is what gets you gigs for the first couple of years. The crew that shows up at Dick's or the Aku-Aku doesn't want Cosby, they barely want Kinnison. They just want to hear the word "fuck". A lot. Everything I've seen from Mencia reminds me of the guys I used to have to watch warm up the crowd before my friend went on.
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From:sanspoof
Date:March 22nd, 2007 03:43 pm (UTC)
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Here's also Lenlow's little remix, and his longer version.
I'd've lunk to his site, but those songs aren't up anymore. Dunno why.
From:dcart
Date:March 22nd, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
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I really hate Carlos Mencia. He's in the same category with Toby Keith, in my book, of people who just make the world a worse place by packaging all of the mainstream prejudices as "entertainment".
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From:derspatchel
Date:March 22nd, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC)
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During the video where Joe Rogan calls Mencia out live on stage, he mentions a joke about how "California wants to kick all the illegal Mexicans out and then put up a big wall to keep them out ... but who would build the wall?"

Mencia ganked this joke from Ari Shaffir when Ari was opening for him. Mencia denied it vehemently; his defense when Rogan called him out was "Ari couldn't have come up with that joke, he's a Jewish comedian, he tells Jewish jokes!"

Pure class.
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From:moneypenny
Date:March 22nd, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for setting off an embarrassingly long stint of procrastination at work today where I watched every YouTube clip and loaded every website relative to the Mencia plagiarism thing. I never, ever thought I would spend this much time thinking about Joe Rogan at all, much less in a positive light.
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From:derspatchel
Date:March 22nd, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
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I've never been too much of a Joe Rogan fan myself (well, he was pretty funny in Newsradio) but I gotta admit the guy's got integrity, or at least some serious stones, for calling Carlos Mencia out in public at the expense of his career. He's been banned from the Comedy Store, his agent's dropped him, and boy oh boy do the Mencia fans have it in for him.

But, as he says, at least he's not a comedian who steals jokes from others.
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From:nolly
Date:March 22nd, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the reminder that there are good solo comendians (Cosby), and there's been good comedy since Abbott and Costello (who remain the peak of comic achievment for me, but the list of funny is a bit longer now, and is always subject to change).

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