This blog was inspired by a blog written by Leah Kayajanian, Leah is a female comedian. She hears this a lot.
I am a black guy, by no choice of my own. I am a comedian, by my own admission. Combining those two statements one can reasonably infer I am a black comedian.
I have a problem with this title, in that it implies I do the sort of comedy that is popular and prevalent in black culture. I do not. I respect the fuck out of what those guys do; the way they perform and the entire Def Jam style of comedy. That said, I don’t do that style, at all. Sure I do a little crowd work here and there, but the issues and topics I bring up in my comedy have little to do with my being black.
Why bring this up at all?
A few nights ago some of my comedy friends and I were discussing what “mark” we think we have made on the local comedy scene*, when one of the comics conceded that I was indeed the funniest black comedian in Oklahoma City**. This is unfortunate because my entire comedy career I have thought of myself as a comedian first, and a black person never (I don’t see color in comedy, funny is funny). BUT this guy is saying that my blackness DEFINES my comedy.
Calling me the funniest black comedian in Oklahoma City feels like a slap in the face. I know it was genuine, but it came across as a backhanded compliment. I work my ass off to be known as someone of great comedic sensibilities and still in 2011 my most defining characteristic is that I am funnier than a group of people (with which I have nothing in common other than skin) that do comedy infrequently at best!
I am not a fan of judging someone’s comedy by any barometer other than funny. I don’t want to be in the position to call someone the funniest “alt” comic I know, because that term has a set definition and that person may or may not see themselves that way. I know I don’t think of myself as a black comic - I am just a comedian. What Bill Cosby does on stage certainly isn’t considered black comedy, but he is a black guy.
My goal in comedy isn’t to be the funniest black anything. My goal in comedy is to be the best. I don’t want some dubious claim like “the best comic under 40” or “the best comic since blah blah blah” I just want to be the best.
*I know how arrogant it sounds to assume I have made a “mark” on a community in two years, I also know I don’t care.
**There are MAYBE 6 black comics in Oklahoma City. Of them I am probably the best. Also I am the only one pursuing comedy full time.