Rising comedian, Robert Sherrell out of Indiana whom we talked to about being the first person to make stand-up their major, jumps in a guest contributor spot for Comedy Hype. Rob wants to know is it true that only weaker comedians depend on profanity?
Vulgarity in Comedy by Rob Sherrel
Time and time again I hear the phrase that vulgarity or profanity is a crutch used by comedians that are inexperienced and lack depth or their own character. Is that really the case? I believe that vulgarity has a place in comedy and will always be a part of the culture regardless of how it is presented or by whom.
When you look at comedy greats like Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, or the late Richard Pryor their humor was full of inappropriate innuendos in varying degrees. Religion, sex, everyday life; comedians have filled punchlines about these topics with vulgarity for years and it remains to be a very booming way to tell jokes.
Of course, when you drop that F-bomb or the N-word, you run the risk of cutting your target demographic in half. Having certain material or even a certain persona can prevent you from reaching certain areas of the industry. We all know that there are certain things that aren’t “TV friendly”, yet that hasn’t stopped the likes of comedians such as Daniel Tosh or Louis C. K. from flourishing. Both of whom have their own TV shows whose producers and networks know of the type of comedy they present. However in a world where uncut cable specials are on an increase, things like vulgarity seems like it’s around to stay. In my eyes, censorship has always been one of the greatest enemies of comedy. Joke telling is an art form and should never be limited and just like any art form, it tells a story about the experiences and personal perspective of the performer. Those are things that you just can’t put a filter on, less you get a watered down feel of the artist. As a comedian, if I moved to tell a joke, I will tell it.
What about the jokes that “cross the line”? That honestly just depends on where that line is for the comic or if the line even exists at all. Personally, I wouldn’t tell a joke about rape. The subject is too touchy for me to go after, but Jerrod Carmichael made a joke about rape in his HBO special, Love at the Store and even I laughed at it. I could even appreciate the fact that he could pull it off. That “line” or comedy moral compass as to what is off limits to joke about is up to and should remain up to the comedian.
In the midst of artful expression, people say that the use of this word or that phrase is only a hindrance to growth in the craft, but what if that is who you are? If you are a person whose material lies within what some would call bad taste, then own up to it. Have the confidence in not only yourself as a comic but in your own sense of humor that what you find funny, others will too. Don’t be afraid to say it loud, “I’m foul and I’m proud!” just also don’t be afraid of facing the criticism that will almost assuredly follow.
Interested to see more from Rob you can follow him on Twitter: @IamRobGodDammit, check out his site Robjustjokin.com or catch some of his latest editorials for Collegefession, where he writes humorous editorials.