From internet bullies and Ariana Grande stans, to none other than the Roman Catholic Church, people love to shit on Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson. Which is fine, as the 25-year-old comedian has put his foot in his mouth more times than I can count. That being said, just because he’s no longer engaged to a world-famous pop star and is now dating a woman who’s 20 years his senior, doesn’t mean that we should open the floodgates of vitriol and incessantly tear him down on a personal level.
But his work? That’s totally fair game, especially if it’s crap.
Like his acting work in The Dirt, Netflix’s new biopic about the ‘80s cock rock band Mötley Crüe. In it, he plays Tom Zutaut, a record executive who signed the band onto one of its first record deals. The film itself is utter crap, but I’m not entirely sure what made me laugh more — Davidson essentially playing a slightly less-assured version of himself, or the godawful wig that he wore for the entirety of the movie. I’m sure he’ll get better at it with each new movie he does, but still…
Anyways, I realize that this is a weird way to start a newsletter about how there’s too much stand-up comedy in the world right now, but that’s fine. If anything, consider this a litmus test for your ability to withstand subsequent editions of Too Much Comedy. Unlike the articles I write for professional publication, this newsletter is completely run by myself and suffers from no thoughtful oversight. So, sometimes, I’m just going to get things started by ranting about how bad Pete Davidson’s acting and wig-wearing abilities are.
(Though, he’s a really great stand-up and I selfishly wish he wasn’t as big of a player on SNL. If he weren’t, then he’d able to tour more often and I’d actually get the chance to see him. Maybe he and John Mulaney, with whom he’s been doing double-billed shows in and around New York, will take their act on the road this summer.)
Amy Schumer: Growing debuts on Netflix
Speaking of shitting on people, Amy Schumer’s latest comedy special, Amy Schumer: Growing, is now out on Netflix. I open the previous sentence like that because Schumer, more than most female comics, is a frequent topic of criticism, both online in the press. Back in 2017, when her previous Netflix special initially debuted, the streaming giant had to rethink its user rating system after trolls (who hadn’t actually watched the special) decided to tank its overall rating. Meanwhile, if you Google her name, chances are good that articles or videos laying out the evidence that she’s a notorious joke thief are bound to populate the top hits.
Regarding the first matter, internet trolls are, more often than not, nothing more than sexist, misogynistic assholes who yell really loud and quite often. They try to hide behind faulty arguments about subjectivity in art and other bullshit, but there’s no hiding it — they hate women, especially women who are funny. This doesn’t mean that thinking Schumer isn’t funny equals sexism, but I dare you to comb through her mentions on social media (or, for that matter, the mentions of any comic who happens to be a woman) and not come away thinking the same thing: “These trolls are sexist, misogynistic assholes.”
As for the second matter, two things are true when it comes to stand-up: (1) joke thieves are despised and (2) it’s really hard to determine whether or not joke theft has occurred. Back in 2016, accusations of joke stealing were lobbed against Schumer by fellow comedians, bloggers and trolls alike. There was plenty of evidence to suggest that, in at least some instances, Schumer had in fact lifted a bit or two from someone else. Then again, parallel thinking is a very real thing, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
As Schumer told New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman last week, she purposefully tried to make sure that her Growing set was not borrowing anything — whether subconsciously or not — from others:
[W]hile she denied she ever stole jokes — parallel thinking is far more common than you might think — she conceded that if she had seen those YouTube videos, she would have thought she was a thief, too. She said that when she asked John Mulaney to give her notes on the special, he kept an eye out for overlap with Ali Wong, who also performed pregnant.
Yeah, that’s how ridiculous it was getting. Because Schumer was also pregnant during Growing’s taping, many of her detractors immediately accused her of stealing that (yes, because getting fucking pregnant is nothing more than a goddamn comedy bit) from Wong, who was pregnant during both of her Netflix specials, Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife. Hell, as Sarah Aswell as Forbes points out, some reviewers even wrote about this as being problematic in their articles about Growing.
So all of this is a long-winded way of saying that Schumer’s new special is now available to watch on Netflix. Since, like practically everyone we know, you’re a Netflix subscriber, now you know Growing is there for you to watch. Or not! If you don’t like Schumer’s comedy because it’s just not your preferred style or content, that’s totally fine. If your issues with her stem from some of the reasons I poo-pooed above, however, then get over yourself and at least give it a shot. Besides, she’s already making plenty of money from her sizable Netflix deal, so you’re deciding not to watch it based on some “scandal” from several years ago isn’t going to amount to much.
Emma Arnold is real funny, y’all
Emma Arnold is a lot of things. She’s a stand-up comedian with a new album out titled Abortion. Abortion. Abortion. She’s the co-director of Comedyfort, the Treefort Musical Festival’s stand-up component, which is currently happening in Boise, Idaho between yesterday and Sunday. She’s also a single mom and, I swear to God, a third generation beekeeper. The above video is her 2017 self-produced and self-distributed special Yes, Please, which is really funny. If you listen to the Doug Loves Movies or Bertcast podcasts, then chances are you’ve heard Arnold before. Otherwise, check out Yes, Please and Abortion. Abortion. Abortion. whenever you get the chance.
I spoke to Arnold for Forbes last week to promote the new album and Comedyfort. You can read the entire thing here, but here are some of my favorite bits. First up, here’s her talking about how she manages to do so goddamn much. For fellow creatives, it’s some pretty goddamn motivational stuff:
EA: In the last couple of years, I've learned to work really hard and then rest really hard. I really think that helps -- if I bounce between the two. I do other stuff, too. I play the piano and paint and generally just try to use my downtime to relax. That way, when I have to hit the ground running and things are really chaotic -- like right now since I have a festival in two weeks and an album coming out -- I'm ready. So yeah, things get really busy, but then I make sure that I'm taking three or four days off in April. I won't do anything then.
AH: That probably helps with your creative process as well. Comics, or most artists really, will often occupy themselves with other things so that they don't get bogged down by whatever their artform is. It can help their work, or even survive the process mentally.
EA: Absolutely. That's kind of what I've found. Everything goes better when I'm doing a lot of different things. That might not be true for everybody, but I tend to be a perfectionist in everything I'm trying to do. But if I just do what I can and then move on to something else... Dana Gould, who is my comedy mentor, told me something this one time I was agonizing over a set and trying to get it right. He was like, "Give them 40 percent. Give everything you do, but at 40 percent. It's enough." I don't know. Maybe that's not the right attitude, but I've always stuck to that idea that, "What if you just gave every part of yourself, but not everything?"
Also, I'm just a really curious person and I like to try different things. That's a big part of it. It sounds sort of cheesy and silly, but all of that stuff is play. I like beekeeping. It makes me happy. It relaxes me. It kind of fills me with hope a little bit, because you're like, "Look at these little creatures figuring it out." It's kind of important, for me at least, to always be doing different things that keep me curious or keep me interested. Luckily, my job allows me to do that.
Also, Arnold has spoken out about the #MeToo movement as it relates to the entertainment industry at great length. (She also revealed that she was sexually assaulted by a comic in a blog post.) As a result, Arnold has been trolled countless times (by people with a similar disposition as those who troll Schumer). Even so, I was flabbergasted at just how positive she was about it all:
AH: It's an especially positive aspect of the industry, considering everything that's come about as a result of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. That's not to downplay any of that, of course. We absolutely must keep talking about it and doing something about it, but I think it's nice to highlight the good things that run counter to these stories. Like your positive relationships with these particular comics and the mentorship therein. Like the work that you and Dylan Haas are doing with the Comedyfort and 208 comedy festivals.
EA: Even the negative experiences I've had in comedy, like when I was sexually assaulted by a male comedian or whenever I've been harassed (which is a lot), are formative too. Those experiences have helped to build me into the person I am today. Recently, on Valentine's Day, I was thinking a lot about the people in my life who love me and the people I love. I've met so many good men in comedy. Guys who are just really good, gentle, hardworking and caring. They can get overshadowed by the Louis C.K. story and others like it. They're often overshadowed by the people who have been predators in the comedy scene. But yeah, there are a lot of really good, kind, decent and hardworking men and women in comedy. It's like any other industry. There's a big mix of people.
Anyways, go listen to (or watch) her stand-up. Abortion. Abortion. Abortion. and her previous two albums are both available to stream on Spotify.
I’m going to populate Too Much Comedy with a few regular sections, and “Random Bits” is one of them. For every new post, I’m going to post a shorter selection of random thoughts, video or audio clips, and other bits that I just want to share because they made me laugh for whatever reason. Like Moses Storm’s set on Conan last week.
And then there’s Mark Normand, who was also on Conan, albeit this week. Since his 2017 Comedy Central special Don’t Be Yourself, the New York-based comedian has been regularly performing at the city’s best known clubs and across the country. He’s a damn good joke writer, and his Conan set is a pretty good example of his talents.
Usually, when it comes to writing things for the internet, I ignore the comments. If social media houses all the digital world’s most nefarious trolling elements, then the comments sections on articles are the hellish homes they return to once the day’s misdeeds are done.
However, I actually want Too Much Comedy to be interactive… somewhat. Hence “Crowd Work,” a section that will appear at the end of each post that covers choice matters brought up by you, the reader. So, please, send me whatever questions, comments are snide remarks that you may have about my thoughts on stand-up comedy, or comedy-related matters I didn’t cover, but are nonetheless on your mind. To get in touch, simply email me and we’ll go from there.