After the comedy boom of the '80s, there was a certain formula that comedians had to do and could do in order to be successful touring comedians, and those were mainly observational comedians who had a very strict structure of what made an act, and I think it was very performance oriented.
A lot of times people will have after-parties or try and host an event for comedians, and they misunderstand us. They think it should be wild and crazy, or loud music, and comedians are typically pretty mellow people that just want to talk to each other. I think it would be highly unusual to find comedians who want to be at a loud, crowded party.
You can't expect everyone to laugh or applaud you for doing edgy things. Sometimes you'll miss. But I think comedians are artists and there's a value in failure. It kind of works both ways between comedians and audiences. The audience has to understand that comedians are going to sometimes tell a joke that doesn't work out with dark subjects, and the comedian has to understand that sometimes they 'll fail and it's not the audience's fault for not getting it or loving it.
Some street jokes are just timeless. There's an old street joke about comedians. The joke is that a beautiful girl comes up to a comedian at the end of the night and says, "I saw your show tonight, and I just loved it. I want to go home with you, and I'll do anything you want." And the comedian says, "Were you at the 7 or the 9?" That's just a perfect joke, because it points out how egomaniacal and obsessive comedians are. Even though I'm not waiting for a groupie, I can completely understand it. It just defines how comedians are driven.
I never wanted to churn it out. Comedians tend to work all the time. They never put it down like musicians who might make an album then take three or four years off to recharge their batteries. Comedians tend to work straight through and they get stale because of that. Even when I didn't have a lot of money I never ever did it unless I had something new to say.
Comedians dissect jokes all the time. Comedians are beautiful structuralists. But ultimately it's an athletic endeavor. You have to be able to just hit the backhand. You can't think about all the pieces of it. You can't think about your swing. You just have to do it. Reading someone else's deconstruction of what I do, all it does is put me in my head. On nights when the show goes particularly well, I am not aware of its fluidity. A lot of nights I'm just worried that I'm not going to be as good as the script in front of me.
Every time I've done comedy in, like, traditional comedy clubs, there's always these comedians that do really well with audiences but that the other comedians hate because they're just, you know, doing kind of cheap stuff like dancing around or doing, like, very kind of base sex humor a lot, and stuff like that.
Comedians, such as yourself, Jon Stewart and others, are a valuable supplement, and here's why: Good journalism at its best frequently speaks truth to power. What's happened with journalists - again, I don't except myself from this criticism - in some ways we've lost our guts. We need a spine transplant. What's happened is comedians, in their own way, speak truth to power and fill that vacuum that we in journalism have too often left, particularly post 9/11.