Being a comedian is hard work. It’s well documented. If you’ve read any books about stand-up you’ll know that the road can be a lonely, unforgiving place. If you’ve been on the road, you probably know even better. Thousands of comics get up on stage every night but only a tiny fraction of them ever become household names. This is true for any kind of art or entertainment. This is conventional wisdom. Everybody who gets into show business knows this when they sign up. Everybody, apparently, except Aaron Berg.
Berg wrote a guest post for JH5: A Comedy Blog (Regular updates about what’s happening in the Ottawa comedy scene) wherein he complained about the “state of comedy” and how the pursuit of fame has made comics less innovative and turned stand-up into a “factory job.” In his poorly-written, infantile lament of the “comedic system,” Berg whines about the lack of unique voices and comedians’ focus on social media validation, pointing out that “real comedy” should offend people. Here’s a sample:
Real comedy is meant to shock, to offend, to educate about the road less traveled. To have strokes that are equal parts Kerouacian, Ginsbergy, Bukowski-esque and a little bit of schtick on the side. Unfortunately due to unnamed comedy festivals and the push of Warhol’s notion of 15 minutes of fame, more and more people do stand-up just to get on TV. As a result, the comedic system the world over revolves not around innovation and possessing a unique voice but rather emulating ‘successful’ comics and striving to please the system and to move on up as though this was a factory job.
Read the whole article here.
He raves about his personal ambition and how he isn’t satisfied with the life his moderate success has afforded him. “I never got into this to make a living,” Berg assures us. “I wanted to pursue greatness.” Run of the mill jokes about how “movie trailers are dumb and how horrible your flight was” will not do in his mind. These are unoriginal jokes with nothing new to say! This coming from a man who’s top hit on YouTube is titled “Hitting on a G.I.L.F.”
Berg echoes this sentiment in this recording of recent set at Yuk Yuk’s. He dedicates his entire seven minutes to the futility of being a Canadian entertainer and the lack of support comedians get from Canadian television.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxlC2JOWcG4&feature=channel_video_title%5D
Taken together, the blog and the set display a truly jaded individual frustrated by his inability to live up to his own expectations. He hasn’t made it big like he thought he would and so he lashes at “the system” for not recognizing his brilliance. Berg has legit road cred (8 years according to the video) and he makes a lot of good points about the Canadian entertainment industry and the mediocrity that exists in the world of entertainment. But it is pure arrogance that has led him to suggest that it is “the system” that has kept him from becoming a movie star. It’s “the system” that is forcing him to sell his house and separate from his fiance. It’s “the system” that has drained the world of it’s soul. Really, Aaron? Was it “the system” that forced you to tell jokes about how you were “the Jewish Situation?” I’ve got a feeling Richard Pryor wouldn’t have found that funny.
He never names names, so it’s hard to know who’s style Berg doesn’t like; what undeserving unoriginal voices have made it to the top leaving him in their dust. But from my vantage point, there are countless comedians who are funnier and 100 times more original who have found success within the system and/or in spite of it. Is being from Canada an added barricade? Sure, but that hasn’t stopped legions of Canadians from achieving success around the world. And the focus on social media? Welcome to the 21st century. This whole rant reeks of jealousy and bitterness.
Berg ends his blog by saying “Comics of the past paved the way for us all to be great. We won’t all do it, but we can sure as hell go down swinging.” Swing away Aaron. Next time though, don’t point to center field. You’re no Babe Ruth.