Louis CK brought up several disturbing things on last night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, among them tampon stealing and diarrhea. Oh, and comedians who work on cruise ships.
About halfway through this clip, Louis CK explains how he got to introduce his daughters to the concept of cruise ships, and how his work as a stand-up comedian differs from those stand-ups who work the cruise-ship circuit.
As he tells Kimmel:
“Comedians have a mean hatred of cruise-ship comics. It’s just a mean prejudice. We call ’em boat acts. It’s just mean. ‘Boat act!’ Cause they pander. We just think they’re crap. And it’s just something you just feel, it’s like being born racist, you just believe it, you don’t question it, it’s just a thing in you. So my daughter is like, ‘Have you ever worked on a cruise ship?’ I’m like, ‘Nooo!’ And she says, ‘Why not?! Why wouldn’t you want to be on a boat?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, that’s a different kind of comic.’ She says, ‘Well, what’s different about them?’ I said, ‘Well, a cruise ship comic just tries to please everybody.’ And she’s like, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Of course! Isn’t that what you want to do?’ ‘Yes, but I, see, some things I say onstage might upset some people.’ ‘Why would you upset people?! That’s a terrible thing to do!'”
Roll the clip! And a few more thoughts on the matter, after the jump…
In the earlier part of Louis CK’s visit with Kimmel, he explained how when he was a kid, parents had no idea where you were when you weren’t in school, and how that allowed him to cause more than his fair of mischief. (Watch Part 1 of Louis CK with Kimmel)
And after a commercial break, we see a delightful little scene from his FX series, Louie, and then he explains how each episode represents its own reality from his world. “When I get bored with something, I just stop doing it.” Which is how he explains not writing his friend, comedian Robert Kelly, back into season two as his brother, why the same woman could play his date in one episode and his mother in another, and how he loves that Kimmel describes Louie as “a movie out of the ’70s.” (Watch Part 3 of Louis CK with Kimmel)
But back to Louis CK’s point about “boat acts.” Look, if you’re a stand-up comedian and you’re able to make a living at — whether it’s working the comedy clubs, putting on your own tours together in dive bars, delivering speeches at corporate meetings, hopping from cruise ship to cruise ship, or even teaching would-be comedians in community college classrooms (well, really?) — then bless you for it. I’ve been on a couple of cruises in my time (one of them much more eventful than the other), and each time, I saw the stand-up comedy shows. Did they pander a bit more than a club comic? Perhaps. Did they all tell a joke or two or more about the velocity of the toilet flushes in the cruise ship’s cabins? Most definitely. Did they all have to scale back their acts in one form or another to accommodate the disparate types of people who are passengers on cruise ships, as well as the worried natures of the people who book entertainment on said ships? You can bet on it. Do they get to spend their daytime hours in lovely tropical settings instead of in a roadside motel? Well, sure.
So what’s with the “mean hatred,” then?
I don’t think what Louis CK is describing is necessarily any sort of hatred toward “boat acts” (or even corporate acts, for that matter), as much as it is a feeling of disappointment coming from other comedians.
Because you decide to become a stand-up comedian because you have to. That’s the only way you can express your life to the rest of the world as an artist. And, certainly, you hope to make enough money to not have to worry about paying bills, and you might hope that strangers will love you (or merely lust after you) because you’re funny. But it’s about the art and expressing that art. And if you find yourself removed from the art, to where it’s merely just about commerce — whether it’s in a hotel ballroom or on a tropical cruise — then can you really enjoy it? Can you separate the art from the commerce and be content with your career path? If so, how? Can you make a case to your fellow comedians that’s a beneficial trade-off?
This is where the disappointment or the mean hatred arises.
For a counterpoint, take two guesses where the Male Half and the Female Half of Shecky Magazine where when they watched Louis CK on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night? OK, don’t guess. Unless you have no idea who or what Shecky Magazine is. In which case, you’re welcome. Enjoy the ride.