Note: This is, of course, completely subjective- everyone finds different things humorous, and comedians affect individuals in different ways. That being said, if you read this and go “WAIT WHAT ABOUT KATHY GRIFFIN SHE’S SO SAUCY!”, feel free to get the fuck out of here and never come back.
I was talking to a woman the other day about Chelsea Handler; more specifically, why I don’t like Chelsea Handler. She couldn’t understand for the life of her why I don’t think Chelsea Handler is funny and, filled with rage by the mere mention of her name as I was, I couldn’t properly elucidate my quarrel. Now that I’ve had time to cool down, I thought it might be good to write what qualities I think make a person funny, and why Chelsea Handler doesn’t exhibit any of those qualities. Seriously, she is just fucking terrible.
Self-deprecation is a valuable weapon in any funny person’s arsenal. It’s a defense mechanism, usually borne from childhood teasing or an abusive home environment. (Right, DAD?!) To be self-deprecating is to take away someone else’s ability to hurt your feelings; if I call myself fat before someone else does, it doesn’t have the same sting.*
*Yes, it does 😥
The thing about self-deprecation is, you have to be willing to take on the stuff that really does make you feel shitty inside. Take, for example, Louis C.K.- he talks about being fat, divorced, selfish, old, kinda ugly, etc., and it works for him because the audience can connect with that. He’s not making up flaws just so he can poke fun at himself, he’s actually analyzing himself onstage. As a result, there’s always an undercurrent of discomfort- the audience doesn’t know if Louis C.K. is going to like what he finds, so by extension, they don’t know if they’ll like it.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Handler brays about her gaping maw of a vagina, and everybody thinks it’s a hoot. But she’s not actually self-conscious about her body (and why should she be?)- she’s just pretending to be because she thinks it’s relatable and funny. It’s the same as a millionaire making jokes about the price of gasoline- you don’t hear it and go “This guy gets it!”, you go “OH, FUCK YOU.” It’s the same thing with Chelsea Handler. When Dave Attell says “I have a drinking problem,” you believe it. When Chelsea Handler says “I LOVE VODKA SO MUCH LOLOL I’M SUCH AN ALCOHOLIC,” it’s just a shameless attempt at getting people to pay attention to her.
You know what I love about Louis C.K.’s, Richard Pryor’s, George Carlin’s, Patton Oswalt’s and David Cross’ standup? Not everything they say is a joke. They’ve mastered the slow build, where the beginning of the joke and the punch line can be 10 minutes apart. You can hear it in the audience, too- there’s a slight chuckle at the beginning, then it increases, finally cresting with an explosion of laughter at the end. And the best comedians know how to keep the audience laughing throughout the entire joke, even if what they’re saying isn’t technically a punch line. Chelsea Handler might do this too, but I can’t hear her jokes over the sound of the wind passing through her vagina.
Now THAT’s a Chelsea Handler joke.
Conversely, shitty comedians like Handler and Robin Williams (yes, I said it) never seem to shut the fuck up. They could tell 10 funny jokes in an act, but instead they choose to tell 100 mediocre ones. The best comedians know how to budget and hone their jokes; the shitty ones just dump them in your lap and say “ENJOY THIS, YOU FUCKING PLEBE.”
This isn’t really a comprehensive list, but if you want to be a comedian, it’s a good jumping-off point. And for God’s sake, nobody watch Chelsea Handler anymore.
Side note: I know I haven’t been posting a lot, but that’s largely because I’ve started writing a book, so most of my writing lately has been related to that. I’m going to try to balance both, but I figured it’d be fair to warn you first.