I headed back to my old stomping grounds, Bushwick (in actuality, I live less than two blocks inside of the BedStuy border, but it’s fun to be melodramatic) to see Ajai perform in a comedy show at Lot45. This is one of many new bars that have opened up in that section of Bushwick, that features a stage, a huge space, a food trailer outside, etc. The only other time I’ve been there was to perform a reading for “Bushwick Nightz”, and they packed it in then, but last night, it was quiet, quiet, quiet.
To be fair, it was a Tuesday night in the middle of winter, but there were still a number of people in attendance, most of whom, it seemed, had come specifically to watch the comedy show, or had decided to stick around once the comedy show began. It started off with a series of off-color but harmless (I thought) jokes about a birthday boy/friend of the emcees, that seemed to put the audience on guard and things never really improved from there. Ajai said the space had something to do with it–the way the seating and the stage were arranged leant more of a “TV watching” feel to the show, rather than the tight communal aspect that is necessary to really get an audience into the swing of things (ie: laughing).
That seemed accurate, but the crowd itself also seemed more than unwilling to give the comedians even the smallest of chuckles. I don’t know if that was a stereotypically Bushwick “too-cool-for-school” vibe, a stereotypically neo-liberal “I can’t laugh at anything even remotely controversial” vibe, or some combination of the two. More than one comedian was pretty frustrated at the stony audience, and I have to say, as an audience member who really and truly loves comedy, I was getting pretty frustrated as well.
Have we become so enamored with ourselves that we can’t stop and appreciate the people who are taking risks, getting down into the deep and nitty-gritty, and maybe, just maybe, making us think a little outside of our comfort zones? I mean, none of these guys were A level comedians but the way the audience was reacting you would have thought that a third-rate Andrew Dice Clay had started telling jokes about how all fat girls are asking to be raped.
Maybe I’m reading a little too into it. Maybe the comedians just had an off night, but something about that crowd made me wonder whatever happened to fun.