In my almost 10 years of doing this, I inevitably come across a comedian that thinks they can get up on stage, say what they want and have nothing happen to them. They like to parade around about their 1st amendment rights. For those that don’t know, the 1st amendment to the United States Constitution gives citizens the right to freedom of speech (among other things). This is true, but it is not so easy. You can’t just jump up on stage say whatever you want and think it is alright. It is an important concept to learn and I will attempt to dispel some common held beliefs.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. Your right to freedom of speech goes as far as the government not being able to throw you in jail for saying stuff. It doesn’t really apply when you step on a stage. Think about it. Most of the time, we are in someone else’s building getting paid by them. Your right to say what you want does not trump their rights. The owner of the club has a right to the pursuit of happiness. In this case let’s just say that what would make him happy is to have customers enjoy themselves. Here is an example. Some one graffitis someones building. They can’t then hide behind the 1st amendment saying it is their freedom of speech (freedom of expression…I am really trying to keep this simple) to deface someone’s property. I hope this example help explain what I was trying to say.
As comedians I think we are in a unique position. We already get to play around with a lot of taboos. We can talk about abduction, murder, racism, everything. So, sometimes I think people mix that up with them being untouchable because of the 1st amendment. The reason we are in this position is because we are supposed to be able to tackle these topics and make them more palatable. We are supposed to be the experts in taking stuff most people can’t make fun of and make fun of it.
The thing comics have to remember is that you are doing a job, and with any job there are rules. I have done shows where they didn’t want me to talk about Native Americans or casinos. It is well within their right, as a private entity, to request that from me. And, as a private contractor, it is within my rights to not take the show. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t take the money and then bitch that you can’t tell your Natives drink a lot jokes. If your material means that much to you, or you can’t do the rest of your show without that piece in it then you need not apply to those spots.
This always comes up when someone tells a terrible rape joke or calls someone a racial slur on stage. Then the place putting on the shows say stop calling people nigger and everyone gets bent out of shape. Guess what? If you need nigger to make your jokes funny then it isn’t really funny. You fail as a comedian.
Someone who describes themselves as edgy, loves to hide behind the 1st amendment when they are either asked not to say certain things or they get called out for their BS. Look, the first amendment may give you a right to say stupid shit, but it also gives everyone else the right to call you out on it. The 1st amendment isn’t your say stuff without repercussions card. You have to own up to the bs you are dropping. If you say hurtful things about women and then after the show no woman buys your merch, you can’t say, “Well, I am just exercising my rights!”. Well, they are exercising their rights to not buy your shit.
I hope this helped explain the 1st amendment as it applies to comedians. The constitution interest me a lot, but I haven’t really been into since I got out of school. If you notice anything wrong with it please let me know. I don’t want to tell people wrong stuff. I just want other comics to know that basically your rights don’t tump other’s rights. My advice is that if you don’t like the rules put forth to do a show then don’t do it. I have turned down shows (and some pretty good money) because they wanted something that I felt I could not deliver. I am not a dirty comic per say, but sometimes when I am feeling like it, I will go down that path. They also wanted a Christian show and I had no idea what that meant. So instead of taking the show, saying something about spilling my seed and then getting into this thing, I just said I could not do it and told them about someone that I thought that could.
I really hope you enjoy reading these post. I really enjoy writing them. Writing was something I used to do a lot. I haven’t done it as much, but thanks to this I can do it and at the same time give information to those that may be looking for it. Like always these are not the thoughts of someone that is a millionaire from comedy. I just had to learn it the hard way and just thought I should write down what it was from my point of view. You might not like my thoughts on certain things, but if you do go out and do it your way! You may find a better way of going about it. A way that will make you happier as a comic and a person.