“Territory” Battle of Comedy and Audience Attention

In a way, I think many people including myself have been doing the “comedy” game in the wrong way.

Sure, stand-up comedy is an amazing art form and has been around for decades. But in a world where everyone is fighting for attention to further their agenda, sometimes I think stand-up comedy itself is becoming another noise. Just like barkers in Times Square who come across as super annoying.

Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or even live comedy like stand-up, sketches and improv, we’ve always been kinda fighting against each other for attention in the name of entertainment. “Hey I can make you laugh! I can entertain you! Come watch us!” And sometimes for a nominal fee, there’s a fair exchange of money and entertainment. And hence the entertainment industry. And there’s fierce competition on all sides. Comics are not just competing against other stand-up comics but all kinds of entertainment out there. In certain cases, the Medium itself becomes more important than your talent level at any one comedic craft. For example, there’s talented veterans in the stand-up community who lack any audience on Instagram or YouTube. But if you are the kind of person who can hack a popular app, such as recent stars on TikTok, then you’ve just surpassed in popularity and influence more than anybody else.

Granted, a TikTok star never has any ambitions of competing against old stand-up comedians. But in a way, we all are fighting for attention. A teenager who becomes a fierce fan of a TikTok star will probably not switch to suddenly learning about stand-up comedy and following comedians.

So here’s my conclusion. You cannot afford to be pigeon-holed into one form or another. A comic should realize when he or she is turning into a one-trick pony. Even in history, there’s been performers and comics who engage in a rather antiquated form of comedy. The danger is not being able to evolve with changing audience tastes and gain new audiences. There are people out there and ways to reach those people. You have to create a new flavor there. Something different. A unique value proposition and positioning. And you can’t just be different in a small way. You have to create something that people so desperately want … that a small, janky version of that comedy made by an unknown commodity like you can create a popular reaction that serves a large group of people. It’s no different than opening up a business and having a MVP.

In a way, I’ve always wanted “mainstream” success. But how can I fit into that? That’s crazy. I wrote a little bit about Lilly Singh’s show yesterday and me trying to fit into the “mainstream” entertainment may be similar in concept to what’s happening there. I’ve never been the “mainstream” guy so why should I all of a sudden act proper, PC and do traditional kind of American humor? I am not a traditional American, traditional Korean, nor am I a traditional “anything.” Instead, there’s value in freedom and breaking the mold.

“Think Different.” Isn’t that what Steve Jobs and Apple used to say?