Sometimes, watching someone else flail around is pure comedy genius. For instance, my new came with a freebie 3-mo subscription to XM Satellite radio. For the most part it sucks - the music comes through with digital distortion that chops out most of the highs and sounds very flangey. But the talk radio channels are brilliant - BBC World Service, Talk America, etc. And there are also several comedy channels, which mostly play clips from stand-up routines of various comics. Now, don't get me wrong, your Dane Cooks and your Eddie Izzards are darned funny - but I have to admit that I get an even bigger kick out of the total flops. (Apropos of nothing, by the way, the un-funniest comedians seem inevitably to be Canadian.) Listening to someone totally bomb on stage is wincingly agonizing in the same way that the BBC version of "The Office" was. You just want to curl up and make it stop, stop, stop! But.. when you stop worrying about how humiliated the painfully unfunny comic must be, and instead listen to the audience - it becomes priceless. Sometimes the audience resumes chit-chat amongst themselve, sometimes they let out the occasional polite chuckle. What they're not doing is laughing, for sure. And how sad is that these are the clips that make it onto recordings? What must the ones that got rejected be like?
I find myself wondering how these people even got booked - it's not just that their delivery is bad - though that is often the case - but also that their material just isn't funny. The perfect storm of bad comedy is this one middle-aged Canadian woman who does bits about what it's like to be Middle-Aged and female and Canadian. You know... maybe middle-aged Canadian women are a lot of things, but funny isn't one of them. The audience is painfully silent when she does her bits, too - and... well, I find it hilarious. Not that her material is funny, but that she soldiers on, apparently oblivious to the fact that she's utterly bombing.
And another - I randomly stumbled across this blog written by a Los Angeles woman who is trying really hard to be Carrie Bradshaw. Apparently these entries get syndicated somewhere, too - though these must be rough drafts because spelling, grammatical and word-usage errors are rife. (Nothing wrong with that, it's just you don't see it in a newspaper, right?) She apes Carrie's style from "Sex And the City" right down to asking herself rhetorical and cliched questions, " I don't want to fear the things I desire. How does one lose that fear? " etc. Well, it's not the writing that qualifies as schadenfreude, but rather the tale that her entries spin - of a woman obsessed with getting married and having kids, and simultaneously obsessed with a guy who has made it absolutely clear he has no interest in her - and also can't figure out why she can't find a boyfriend. Look, I know plenty of single people who wish they weren't, and that's not funny at all. And you know, "funny" isn't the word at all - it's just that it's this beautiful, slow-motion train wreck that I can't stop checking in on. I'm sure, in fact, that there are people out there (Hi Laura!) who feel much the same way about my own adventures... but I'm fairly certain I'm aware of my own hand in my predicaments. And, in fact, I hope spiralggrl gets everything she wants ... but until she does... schadenfreude, baby!