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What is criticism?

April 23, 2013

When I did stand-up, after I finished my act there were some people who said I was great and others who said I sucked and was the worst act they’d ever seen.And the way I handled it was appreciating the compliments, and accepting the disparaging remarks (Usually said by someone who watched the entire show, and did one of two things: 1.) was broke and wanted to keep drinking and hoped by complaining they could get their money back for a free drink. 2.) Prided themselves as a heckler, and took me on, and I destroyed them in front of their friends, and they couldn’t handle being put in their place in the food chain of comedy.

But the larger issue is this, someone saying I’m great or suck are both opinions, and if I accept one, I have to accept the other. Some comics arrogantly dismissed anything negative, claiming the people were morons. Sometimes this came to bite them. One night at The Holy City Zoo, a comedian named Rick Reynolds, who had a reputation for being excoriating to members of the audience who didn’t find him funny, was standing outside the club after his set, and an audience member went outside and said, “You know, what you said to my girlfriend really upset her, she’s crying.” Reynolds apologized. Then when the guy walked away, he blurted a comment to the other comics hanging outside, that was clearly about the guy, and the comics laugheed. The guy turned, came back, and punched Reynolds. And the comics who laughed at his remark, didn’t lift as finger,Ah, comedy!

Another time, a comedian who finished his set, asked me what I thought, I complimented parts of the act, then pointed out some of it’s weak points where I thought it could be improved. He replied, “Boy, you’re a big help.” He was offended, I was only supposed to say he was wonderful. I countered by saying, “You asked me for an honest opinion, and if you want someone to agree with you all the time, go to someone else.” Then I flashed to how he once said, “You know they say flattery is bad, but it feels good.”  Once when I was talking to this comic in a comedy club, he was nodding but looking over my shoulder during the whole conversation and smiling. After we finished talking I turned around and realized he was admiring his 8×10 glossy on the club’s wall. Some comics feel the audience fills a void in their life, I must admit I never felt that or needed it, but those comics are the most driven. For me, I was pleased that what I thought was funny worked, and enjoyed the feeling of it.

I’ve always thought that if someone can stab you in the back, they have to get close enough so you think it’s a hug. The real enemies are people who agree with you all the time. A friend will differ, and challenge you, or tell you, “You were out of line.” I’m certain Judas always agreed with Jesus, and patted him on the back, which it was way it was so easy to stab him in the back.

And so what is criticism? Well, if it’s not constructive, it’s criticism.

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