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 so happy to announce the next collaboration between myself and Shadowbox Live, the largest resident theater company in America. I’ll be appearing as a special guest in the next Sketch Comedy and Rock n’ Roll Show, called “Out of Control.” The show runs from March 27-May-31, but, due to my existing tour schedule, I’ll appearing on select nights only. Keep checking this space – and my tour schedule – for an update of which nights I’ll appear.
Shadowbox Live | 503 S. Front St. | Columbus, OH | box office:(614) 416-7625
Michael Kent special guest in “Out of Control” Select Dates:
April 11 7:30pm
April 11 10:30pm
April 12 7:30pm
April 12 10:30pm
April 19 7:30pm
April 19 10:30pm
April 25 7:30pm
April 25 10:30pm
May 30 7:30pm
May 30 10:30pm
May 31 7:30pm
May 31 10:30pm
From the article:
Journalists Clueless in Covering Magicians By Joe Hadsall, Globe Features Editor
July 12, 2013
There are so many incredible magicians out there. One of them, Michael Kent, will be performing at MSSU on Sept. 17. Trust me, you want to see him perform. Kent is brilliant and brutally funny.
I’ll be hounding him for an interview closer to his performance, mainly because I’ve interviewed him before. I know about how he got into magic and his unique presentation.
“Oh sure, Joe,” you might think. “You just know his story because you already know how he does all of his tricks, so, of course, you don’t care about that.”
Kent is a stage magician, and I’ve stuck to the world of close-up. I have no idea how Kent does some stuff, and I don’t care, because the story of how he got into magic is pretty interesting. How seriously he takes comedy is fascinating.
– Joe Hadsall, Globe Features Editor
I’ve got shelves in my office filled with things that I’ve collected during my travels. But the most valuable collection I have is my collection of stories. On July 10, I’ll be sharing many of these stories and performing the amazing magic that goes along with many of them. The event will be at Shadowbox Live’s Backstage Bistro on Wednesday, July 10. I hope to see you there.
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.
*To see which dates I’ll be appearing with Shadowbox Live, check my official tour schedule.
Visit ShadowboxLive.org for tickets and information.
There are a few reasons to be excited about this event:
- Arrested Development is returning for its 4th season, premiering the week of “Illusions, Michael.”
- 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
I’ve come a long way in my career and I am still learning every day. Along the road, there have been a lot of ups and downs that are natural with a career in the entertainment industry. I’ve put together a list of things that maybe would have relieved a little stress and anxiety had I known them beforehand. It’s my hope that this list is useful not just to magicians or to people in show business, but to all entrepreneurs.
1. Your audience will never be aware of 80% of the work you do in this business. But they would know instantly if you didn’t do it.
I recently spent 2 hours editing some bumper music so that it fit my show perfectly. The result? About 15 seconds of music that plays in my show under applause and my talking. The audience never really hears it. But I wanted it to be perfect. And though they don’t recognize it, it contributes to the feeling I’m trying to create in the room. If I didn’t put in that work, the result wouldn’t be the same. The audience might not know exactly what it was, but they’d realize something wasn’t right. It’s about details. The same can be said for spending an hour shining the chrome on one of my props. They will never know I spent that time. But they would probably notice if I didn’t.
On a tour, 80% (or more) of the “work” is the travel and preparation. In show business, there’s an old saying that “We don’t get paid for the show. We get paid for all the work leading up to the show. The show is the reward.” Keeping this in mind, I never mind spending those extra hours working on the most minute of projects as long as they will contribute to a better show. NOTE: This includes education. Those months and years we spend reading the texts on our art are invaluable. Some of the knowledge we gain will not be directly useful to our art immediately. Some will never be directly useful. But until we study what has been done before us, we will never know if what we are doing is great.
2. If You Try to Be All Things to All People, You End Up Being Nothing to Everybody.
This applies both to show marketing AND to performance. What do you want to accomplish with your show? This was a question that took me years and years to answer. A more appropriate question for many young entertainers is “Who do you want to entertain?” Many inexperienced entertainers just want to perform so badly that they will accept any gig they can get their hands on. The results can be detrimental to business, reputation and to the ability to grow as a performer. This includes taking gigs that may be biting off more than you can chew, gigs for which your act is not a good fit and gigs that aren’t in a pay rate that matches your act (both above and below). If you’re kicking butt as a kids’ magician and have been for years, you may not be the best fit working at a corporate trade show where you may be out of your element. You may have developed a skill set that works for entertaining a specific set of individuals and those skills may not translate to other audiences.
As far as marketing goes, your target buyer must be able to envision you at their event. If I’m looking for a kids show entertainer and all of your promo has you wearing clothing with skulls, it’s probably not a good fit (and you might want to rethink your style decisions). Likewise, if I’m looking for a street entertainer and all of your promo videos show you performing in ballrooms for suited business people, I’ll probably go for the kid with the skulls. You can’t be all things to all people.
3. Find Your Unique Voice
Knowing who you are onstage is key. And sadly, there’s no way to really know this until you have performed hundreds (literally hundreds) of shows. Another old saying is “Why be a second-rate version of someone else when you can be a first-rate version of YOU?” Consider this: If you perform a show that is truly YOU, no one will ever be able to duplicate that and you’ll be one-of-a-kind. For some people, performing as yourself isn’t an option. Some people are performing as a character onstage. I urge you to put yourself into that character. Make it an extension of you. Live through it. Then it will truly be unique, only because it will be you. With the hundreds of mannerisms, non-verbals, inflections and other nuances that make up our personality, an audience can tell if we are not being genuine.
I once had dinner with a comedy friend who passed some advice to me that he had received from Don Rickles. Rickles said, “The second you step foot onstage, the audience knows exactly who you are – sometimes even better than you do. And if what you say and do doesn’t match that, they’re not going to like you.” I still think this is great advice. I don’t take this advice to mean “change what you say and do to match the audience’s expectations” as much as I understand it to mean “make sure that you’re portraying an accurate picture of yourself onstage.” In everything you do, from the quickest phone call to the biggest project, be unapologetically YOU.
4. The beginning is probably going to suck.
Being self-employed, especially in the entertainment industry, is a job that requires a certain amount of ego. There’s a certain amount already there when we decided to make the leap into employing ourselves. Sometimes it prevents us from being okay with our failures. The tendency in the beginning is to react in one of two ways. We either get discouraged, or we put on blinders and ignore our mistakes. The second option here, which is the earnest beginning to delusions of grandeur, is a common phenomenon especially among magicians learning a new move in the mirror. During the part of the move that we’re not the best at, we tend to blink. Literally – many learning blink their eyes so that they experience the trick or the move the way the audience is intended to see it. This way we can imagine the way it’s supposed to look rather than see the reality of our suckiness. This is a truth as well as a nice metaphor. It’s really difficult, if not impossible to know how much we suck if there aren’t other people telling us. But we have to learn that failure is okay. Once we’re not afraid of failure, we can grow as artists. Stand-up comedians will be the first to tell you this truth. In order to be a good stand-up, a person has to be okay with going onstage and having a room full of people hate you. It’s going to happen. It’s the dharma of comedy – there’s no avoiding it. The difference between the good comedians and the ones who quit is that the good comedians learned from it and weren’t scared by how much they sucked. Ira Glass recently did a video talking about how even through we may not be that good in the beginning, there’s an underlying goodness to our work that has more to do with our taste and instinct. Check it out:
Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.
If we learn to keep a beginner’s mind about our work, we will always improve. It frustrates me to no end whenever I produce a new demo video. After the weeks it takes to get the video made, I look back at it and I’m never 100% happy. Mostly because since the video was shot, I’ve changed things in the show – improved things. And I always wish that I had the new, improved version in the video. But by the time I do the next video, there will just be more things that I’ve improved and it becomes an endless cycle. This cycle is a good thing. Sometimes I look back at the show I used to do and I can’t believe how bad it was. At the time, people loved it. But I know that it is so much better now. And in the future, I’ll look at the work I’m doing now the same way. I recently gave the following advice to a friend starting a business in a short amount of time. “You’ve got the rest of your life to make it perfect; now is the time to make it work.”
5. This is rare. Enjoy it.
Getting to make a living, or even supplement a living with something you’re passionate is rare. Not many people actually get to live their dream. There have been many 8 hour drives, 3 hour flight delays, insufficient sound systems, difficult promoters, and other headaches that have sometimes made me forget that. Those long hours practicing, learning, and editing a 15 second clip of music sometimes can drive me crazy. But I have to remember how amazing it is that I’m creating my own future doing something I love. It would be kind of nice to have some of those stress and anxiety-filled times back so I could enjoy the moment. And although this list is “Things I Wish I Would Have Known in the Beginning,” this is something that I constantly have to remind myself. This is rare. This is something special. And whenever you hear me complaining about it, you have permission to kick my ass.
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!
Brew Ha Ha
Headlining at Shadowbox Live
503 S. Front Street
10pm July 16 | Full schedule here
The 2012 Winter/Spring Tour is off to a wintery start! We had to reschedule the first college campus of the year (see below) and almost had to reschedule a second one! Nonetheless, things are really clicking with the show. I sincerely hope you have the opportunity to get to one of the shows on the tour soon! See the below list of shows on the schedule to see if I’ll be in a city near you and keep checking back for updates!
2012 Winter/Spring Tour
January 12 – Chicago, IL – RESCHEDULED FOR FEB. 2
January 14 – Dubois, PA
January 19 – Adrian, MI
January 21 – Glassboro, NJ
January 26 – Cleveland, OH
January 31 – Baltimore, MD
February 2 – Chicago, IL
February 3 – Flagstaff, AZ
February 7 – Alpine, TX
February 9 – Lyndonville, VT
February 11 – Guest DJing – Powell, OH
February 15 – Melbourne, FL
February 16 – Normal, IL
February 18 – Columbus, OH
February 22 – Mattoon, IL
February 25-29 – NACA – Charlotte, NC
March 10 – Dayton, OH
March 16 – Bexley, OH
March 29-31 – NACA – St. Paul, MN
April 6 – Bennington, VT
April 13 – Ewing, NJ
April 21 – Hamilton, OH
April 28 – Manito, IL
For more info on any of the above dates, refer to my published tour schedule.
Also – remember that voting is still going on for 2012 Entertainer of the Year! The story was recently picked up by Columbus NBC4!
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These “year-in-review” posts sometimes feel somewhat obligatory, but in this case, 2011 was an incredible year and as I look back, I’m overwhelmed with topics to write about.
The Kardashians will become irrelevant. Until one of them does something stupid that acts like catnip for humans and makes television gossip shows go apeshit crazy. The American Public will be thrown into an uproar and they will get government involved, who will use new National Defense Legislation to hold the Kardashians in an undisclosed location. This will launch the Kardashians into a new Reality (ever wonder why reality shows hire writers?) show called “The Kardashians Appeal to Congress.”
Apple will come out with a product that you never knew you needed. By next December, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
McDonalds will work with Paula Dean to introduce a new product called “McFatass.”
A Republican presidential candidate will say something stupid.
A group of people with Mayan ancestry will finally reveal the secret “Part 2” of the calendar they’ve been hiding.
Playboy will offer $50M to Betty White to pose nude. She will accept.
An asteroid will come so close to the Earth that TV News networks will actually be forced to report actual news. The Huffington Post will bump their previous lead-story about what Whoopie said yesterday on The View.
Someone will ask me If I can make them disappear.
You will receive a bad haircut.
Betty White’s Playboy spread will launch her into a career in pornography, shocking everyone who thought the first Golden Girl to do porn would be Rue McClanahan.
The Presidential race will end in chaos when Major News networks announce that the candidate with the most electoral votes was Exxon Mobil.
You will fall in love.
Here are some standout memories:
2011 was a record year for me as far as the college tour goes. So many great memories. I performed in more colleges than ever this year. While it was hard on my body and mind at times, I got through it with the help of friends, loved ones and amazing audiences.
Did some great TV with ABC6/FOX28 Columbus’s Johnny DiLoretto – some of my first experience with LIVE television. I learned that live TV can be a very difficult thing – Johnny handles it like a pro. When it goes well, it’s exhilarating!
I began my commercial acting career in 2011, and worked on commercials and industrials for Intel, Ohio Lottery, Kemba Financial and a few others!
In 2011, I offered an original creation as my first release to the magic community. repAIR is a Popped and Restored Balloon effect that has never been seen before in the history of magic. It was met with favorable reviews and has sold really well so far.
The Free Beer Tour* was an event that I put together with Corey Montie where I toured local bars and taught attendees bar bets that they could use to scam their friends out of free drinks.
In probably one of the most important things I’ve done in my career, I helped Hopeline, IMAlive.org and Post Secret raise money for Suicide Awareness through this PSA.
Predictions for 2012:
For me, I can already tell that 2012 has some exciting things coming. Two of them I can’t talk about quite yet, but soon! If you get on my mailing list by entering your email address above or clicking here, I guarantee you’ll hear about them! As always, I usually tweet about things as they happen! I hope everyone has had an amazing Holiday Season. Have a wonderful and fun-filled New Years Eve. Make sure you kiss your loved one and hold them tight. If you don’t have a loved one, grab the person next to you and smooch. The memory of the kiss will long outlast the bruise you’ll receive from his or her significant other.
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