Thinking about comedy and what mainstream versus indie or underground means has my mind a little tangled.
First off mainstream means anything that has reached popular view, something most of the regularly consuming public have taken a shining to.
Now this shouldn’t be a reflection on the quality of the work, the fact that Radio Head has sold a lot of albums hasn’t made their music shittier. The fact that Muse’s new album sounds like U2 on a hallucinogen hangover does. Popularity and success are friends.
I think the divide has to do with making art more than consuming it. A genre becomes popular, a style is nailed beautifully by an artist and then the derivative pigs come storming in trying to ape the work. Now this is where it gets difficult, because subscribing to a genre and being a hack fuck are very different things that can very often look the same.
I think it’s best described here, I don’t hate Die Antwoord, but these guys can go fuck themselves.
So when it comes to comedy what does it mean to be mainstream or indie, sell outs or underground? I don’t know, but I do know that the average comedy punter isn’t an idiot. We’ll laugh at stupid things, that’s what we’ve paid for after all, but we certainly aren’t ignorant. We know what we want, but don’t want it enough to be miserable.
The thing I look for in an artist is independence, someone comfortable enough in their own skin with an apt enough dash of self loathing to tell the truth. Even if the gag harms their own ego. Again this becomes some sort of mechanism to solicit laughs, a game of fake humility and intentional selflessness. Making the whole thing fold in on itself. But easiest way to settle this thinking would be to look at someone like Dough Stanhope, last of the true underground dogs of whore. A bit that requires the preamble “Fuck you, I don’t need any new friends” has to be some of the most independent stances I’ve encountered.
Lastly, I have to admit that mainstream isn’t a real problem, the ripples it causes in the shape of free loading unoriginal hack acts is. The real question revolves around creative integrity and sheer dogged hard work. Just deliver us from tired stereotypes and lazy bullshit knee jerk nonsense. I don’t care how popular you become.
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