For the first time in over a year, Michael returns to Shadowbox Live’s Backstage Bistro for a special-one night only event! Things are about to get weird.
Fresh off a 110-city, 10 country whirlwind tour in 2015, Comedian and Magician Michael Kent is kicking off the new year with a one-night-only show exclusive for Shadowbox Live’s Backstage Bistro! Recently named ENTERTAINER of the YEAR and MAGICIAN of the YEAR, Michael Kent is one of Columbus’s busiest entertainers. He’s performed in more than 500 college campuses, for corporations such as Disney and AT&T, various cruise lines and regularly asked to travel to other countries to entertain American troops serving overseas.
Reservations recommended – Food and Drink available – Adult Language and Content
Backstage Bistro / Shadowbox Live 503 South Front Street Columbus, OH 43215 Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
Tickets: $5 (click link above to buy tickets or call 614-416-7625) (Parking is available behind the building in two different lots on Liberty street. Parking ranges from $2-$5. There are also meters on Front Street.)
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently made headlines with his statements about how college campuses are too “PC” for comedy due to college students’ lack of understanding about sensitive topics like racism or sexism.
“I hear that all the time,” Seinfeld said. “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’ I’ll give you an example: My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys.’ You know what my daughter says? She says, ‘That’s sexist.’ They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist’; ‘That’s sexist’; ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Well I may not be a stand up comedian, but I’m a comedian and magician who has performed at over 500 college campuses in the last decade and I can say that I wholeheartedly disagree with Seinfeld’s comments.
1. Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t work college campuses. While he may perform at an occasional college campus with a ton of money, or give a commencement speech here and there, Jerry Seinfeld admits in his statement that he doesn’t work colleges. He doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of what college students are like. He’s basing his opinion on a thing that college comedians love to complain about. “Colleges are too PC.” I suspect that comedians who complain about this use it as an excuse for a joke that goes over with a comedy club crowd and falls flat with college students. Or maybe they think they’re not getting repeat bookings with colleges and blaming it on the college being “too PC.” I can’t speak for them. But I do know that there are MANY comedians who make a decent living from performing at colleges and they have no problems with this issue. They know the audience and they know the gig (see number 4).
2. This isn’t just a “college campus issue.”
Are college students politically correct and sometimes a little too quick to claim that they’re offended? Yes. Guess who else is? F***ing everyone. College students are intelligent, quick, and connected. They GET IT. They know pop culture more than anyone else in the world and while some of them may still have naive or underdeveloped views about socio-political issues, they know right from wrong. If we’re going to have a discussion about college students getting “too PC” to take a joke, we need to be having it about everyone. College students aren’t any more politically correct than a diverse television viewing audience. There are some great debates out there about whether political correctness is killing comedy. I can see both sides of that argument. But that’s not what I’m here to write about.
First of all, the example Seinfeld gave about his 14 year old daughter is somewhat irrelevant. That’s not the type of misunderstanding of sexism that would keep a joke from being funny in a college. So what would keep a joke from being accepted as funny in a college?
3. Jokes that disparage groups of people just aren’t funny.
In my experience, college students don’t want to hear jokes that disparage groups of people. It’s not only because it’s not politically correct; it’s because gay jokes, fat jokes, sexist jokes are easy, unintelligent and lack creativity. They’re not funny because there’s not that much effort involved in writing them. I have watched nationally-known comedians bomb with college students by trying to do entire sets based on homophobic material. The crowd goes silent, the tweets and Yik Yaks start flying. I’ve personally witnessed it on multiple occasions.
This reminds me of a joke from one of my favorite comedians, Mike Birbiglia: “I wasn’t like the class clown in school growing up. I think the class clown was always the mean guy who walks in the room and was like, ‘You’re fat! You’re gay! I’m outta here!’ You know? I was always a little fat, a little gay; I never got along with that guy.”
The stuff that goes over in colleges is comedy that is relatable. Today’s audiences want the person onstage to be someone they feel like they could hang out with. There’s a reason people love Jimmy Fallon. Gone are the days of the comedian being the guy in the room who is cooler than everyone and has to prove it by making fun of everyone he can. Now before you say it, YES, I do often call a guy a “dick” in my shows. But I’m very adamant about doing it in a way that makes it feel the same way it would feel if that guy were one of my best friends.
4. These are learning institutions, not comedy clubs.
I’ll stress again that I’m not a stand-up comedian. What I do is a different game. But I see entertainers go into the college market expecting that THIS is the place they can really let go. Of all places, colleges are supposed to fulfill that Animal House stereotype of anything-goes reckless abandon. It’s like they forget that they’re performing in a student union ballroom next to an academic advisor’s office. If a joke works in a comedy club but falls flat in a college, there are many situational factors that could be blamed. Political correctness may be one of them. But there are other issues to think about. In a comedy club, people are usually there with a small group of close friends. Those people usually know each other very well and the rest of the room is full of strangers. In a college, a student is aware of the impression he or she is making on everyone around them. There isn’t the amount of anonymity in a college audience that you find in a comedy club. It’s not as easy to laugh at sensitive topics when you think the people around you might hold you responsible for your views. Everyone can be a little bit of an asshole when they’re anonymous.
5. This is a business. Show business people often forget about the second word. This is a business. The discussion about the commerciality of art and “selling out” will go on forever in coffee shops and art studios around the world. Are we creating our art for them or for us? At a certain point, we must realize that if we are being paid to do our art, we have to accept that we’re living by the rules of the person who pays us. If they don’t like what we do, they won’t rebook us. Many times it’s not the students who are the barometer of what is acceptable in a college, but the administrator or director of student activities. They will clearly tell you if you shouldn’t drop “F-bombs.” And I hear about it when a comedian disregards these rules. I hear about it when a director or administrator says “Oh, _____ won’t be invited back here. We asked them to keep it kind of clean, but they were way too dirty.” So is that the fault of the audience? Why paint college students with the broad brush of “they’re too PC” when it’s the comedian who made a bad business decision? I know. It’s not sexy to talk about comedy or any art as a business. But we kind of have to, right? Did Seinfeld complain when the FCC censored scripts on his show? Probably not, because he was getting a million dollars an episode.
So I ask the question: What jokes do Jerry Seinfeld and others want to do in colleges that they feel like they can’t? Do they wish they could do more gay jokes? Racist jokes? I honestly would love an example of a joke that works in other venues, but not colleges. I would be willing to bet that if it doesn’t play in a college, it also doesn’t play on television. Seinfeld has always prided himself on working clean. He’s a clean comedian, so what material is he afraid won’t hit hard in colleges? As far as the college market goes, Jerry doesn’t have a dog in the fight. He can say what he wants. Most colleges don’t have “Jerry Seinfeld” money anyway. They can book one of the MANY comedians making a living on working college campuses. I’ve been asked by a lot of people about my opinion on this matter. Are people too PC these days? Maybe. But as someone who visits 80-100 college campuses a year, I can tell you that college audiences are some of the best and they love to laugh just like every one else.
I would love to hear your opinion on this matter. If you’re a stand up comedian, or a comedian who works in colleges, what are your views?
I’m excited to announce I’ll be returning as a special guest in “The Best of Shadowbox Live” for select dates* through the rest of the summer!
This will be the 3rd show I’ve done with Shadowbox after having successful runs with “Smoke & Mirrors” and “The Best of Shadowbox Live” in 2012. My involvement in the show usually consists of 5-10 minutes of magic excerpted from my show and a few special appearances throughout the rest of the show.
Because of the Gob Bluth character on the show, Shadowbox Live’s Jimmy Mak and I decided to team up last year to do a magic-themed Arrested Development event. It was a great time and we had a nice turnout, so we decided to do it again this year. This time, we’ll be showing three “Best of Gob” episodes.
I’m using this event to debut a routine that’s been bouncing around in my head for a long time: The Thought Gun. This will be the very first performance of the new bit in its entirety! I ran the concept by Jimmy and he told me I didn’t have a choice – I had to debut it during “Illusions, Michael.” It’s a device that’s never been seen before, let alone used in a magic show. You don’t want to miss it.
The “Talk Back with Michael and Jimmy” portion is a very fun Q&A session. If you were at the event last year, you may remember this session provided a laugh that we’ve been talking about ever since.
Mark your calendar now: Tuesday, May 28th 7pm
Backstage Bistro (at Shadowbox Live), 503 S. Front St., Columbus, OH Reservations are not required, but are recommended due to limited seating
Call 614-416-7625 or visit shadowboxlive.org
Great news! I’ve received a nomination for the second year in a row for Campus Activities Magazine’s Entertainer of the Year Reader’s Choice Award! It’s a huge honor and I’m extremely appreciative to be listed among the OUTSTANDING talent nominated.
You may remember that I had the honor of being nominated last year and came just a few votes from winning (it came down to the final few days of voting). You can help make the difference this year to help me win the award!
On February 9th, I’ll be performing a special family friendly fundraiser show to raise money for the Pickerington High School North Marching Band! This Comedy Night will feature an hour-long show that your whole family is welcome to enjoy. Opening act will be Ventriloquist David Crone. Tickets are $15. Call Debbie at 614-570-9955 for tickets.
On July 16, I headlined the first ever Columbus Brew Ha Ha, a beer and comedy festival that featured comedians from all over, sketch comedy competitions, beer tasting, bands and SNL’s Garrett Morris. The following photos were taken by Heather Wack of Haute Stuff Studio. They are, in my opinion, some of the best live shots I’ve ever gotten of my show. Please take a minute to “Like” Haute Stuff on Facebook. Enjoy these photos! I’m sure you’ll be seeing some of them popping up in promo!
If you want a chance to see my full show in Columbus, this will be your best shot! I’ll be headlining at Brew Ha Ha, hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Garret Morris on Monday, July 16 with my entire full-length performance. This is where you’ll get to see stuff that I normally only perform on the road at colleges, cruise ships, clubs and other venues that begin with other letters. Brew Ha Ha is a beer and comedy festival that takes place for 3 days in Columbus, Ohio’s Historic Brewery District.
10pm on a weeknight too late for you? Stop being a pansy. Laughing at live entertainment is healthier than sitting on the couch watching Pawn Stars (Sidenote: my show probably has more to do with history than anything on the history channel).
I’d love to see all of my Columbus friends out at this show. To everyone who’s asking “when are going to perform around here?” July 16. Register here. See you there!