The Upright Citizens’ Brigade is a well known improv and sketch comedy group that exists in numerous cities in the US, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that even on a Wednesday night the shows should be sold out. If you get there without a reservation you can put your name on a list to get a seat if someone with a ticket doesn’t show up. And if you DO have a reservation you get to wait in line outside the door while they check that you are actually on The List to get in. It’s that popular.
It is pretty impressive for any group to be able to fill the house with that kind of consistency. Sketch comedy and Improv are tricky art forms, after all, and there is a special kind of horror reserved for being trapped in a the audience in a small theatre and being unable to walk out. So suffice to say that the performance groups that were performing the night in question: The Birthday Boys and A Kiss From Daddy were pretty accomplished.
Which brings me to the topic of fart jokes.
If you are familiar with Godwin’s Law then you will know that given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis. Likewise, though I’m not sure it has been named yet, in any sketch comedy or improv show- regardless of skill or audience- someone will make a fart joke and everyone will laugh at it.
There is nothing wrong with this- fart jokes are funny: even the word “fart” is funny, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, yes and no: though the fart joke is clearly a crowd pleaser, it might also be used as a litmus test for a performance group to determine whether they are more committed to developing and turning a clever joke or whether they just want to goose the audience into laughing. And when you take the fart joke out of the theatre and into the movies this distinction becomes even more profound because a moviemaker has no direct audience response: no one is there to laugh (or not laugh) when a comedy bit doesn’t work. In a movie a fart joke is like a safety net: if all the other humor fails then at least flatulence will get a laugh.
Filed under: Notes from the Director