Why Is Online Comedy So Basic?

22 January 2016, 17:27 | Updated: 17 July 2017, 12:13

We the Unicorns

By Benedict Townsend

Why are the most popular comedians so dumb?

Let's Define Basic

When I say basic, I don't mean simple, I mean lazy. One of the best things about the internet is how dumb and silly it can be, and we shouldn't mess with that. There's nothing wrong with comedy being straight-forward, silly or even offensive, but what is a problem is when comedy is lazy or just pointlessly offensive. Take this vine from much-disliked vine dude Curtis Lepore. I wouldn't usually share it but you kind of need to see it to understand how terrible it is:



You know comedy is bad when you're struggling to work out how it is funny and/or how anyone could conceive that it might be funny. Quite honestly you could write a book about the amount of things that are wrong with this vine, but I'll try and break it down into a few bullet points:

- When he is invited to hang out with a gay man, Curtis replies 'but I'm straight' - implying that gay and straight man apparently can't hang out together platonically. It also plays to the extremely stupid and negative concept that straight people sometimes have, that just because a person is a gay, that means they automatically want to sleep with you. Newsflash: you're not that attractive, dude.

- When Curtis finds out Alyx has pizza, he manages to overcome his homophobia. It's extremely unclear why this is funny or what the message seems to be. Ultimately the punchline just seems to be 'pizza is so good that you'll even hang out with gay people to get it' ?

- When he heads out to hang out with Alyx, he is dressed in a stereotypically camp outfit. This implies that, again, straight people don't hang out with gay people and that, therefore, if you do hang out with a gay guy you must also be gay.

- The outfit also narrows a huge number of people down to a single outfit and persona. It's clearly stating that this is what gay people all look and act like. This is especially baffling as Alyx - who is in the vine - is not dressed like that.


If You're Still Not Convinced, Try This

If you still insist that the vine is fine, do this: reread my bullet points, but replace the word 'gay' with 'black'. A vine where someone doesn't want to hang out with someone because they're black would be offensive - and there's no reason why it isn't also offensive when it's about sexuality instead of race.  You may say: 'hey buddy, jokes are allowed to be offensive' - and you'd be right. But jokes also have to be funny - and if your whole joke is just you being offensive with no actual comic result, then it's not even a joke, is it? You're just being a d*ck.


Look, you may call me oversensitive or whatever and that's your right. I'm not saying that Curtis should have his vine account taken away or anything, I'm just using my freedom of speech and sense of taste to say that I think the jokes he's making with his freedom of speech are terrible.



I mean, a vine is six seconds. That's no time at all, so when you manage to be that ignorant and offensive in a single vine, it's almost morbidly impressive. The real question, really, is: why? Why if you could make a vine about literally anything in the whole wide world, would you choose to make it about this? In six seconds, you could make something really awesome, like this:


Now, wasn't that a chill and pleasant viewing experience?


But instead you choose to offend a large portion of your audience? Why? The answer is obvious: it's easy. Playing on stereotypes is the laziest and easiest way to produce a joke in the world. You don't have to actually be creative in any way, you just spout something that's controversial in a silly voice and people laugh because you're being oh-so-naughty.



Funny people are able to dream comedy just out of the air. Dudes like Lepore who aren't (or at least don't seem to be) naturally funny, but really wanna be funny have to take shortcuts. They have to rely on reusing old jokes or rehashing lazy stereotypes to make jokes. Sometimes people even build an entire career out of taking jokes from Tumblr and then just saying them out loud:


Fool me once...


On the very same app, you have people like JusReign who plays with stereotypes in a positive way, in order to make people more knowledgeable about his culture and religion:



YouTube Has The Same Problem

There are many amazing comedians on YouTube and, happily, a lot of them have found success. People like Crabstickz, H3H3Productions - these guys are genuinely hilarious. But at the tip-top, things always get way more basic. The truth is that if you want to reeeally make it on YouTube, it's the same situation as Vine, you have to dumb things right down. On YouTube, this has taken the form of the thousands of worse-than-death 'prank' and 'social experiment' videos that always seem to 'go wrong' because that's LOLZ ACTUALLY.


Yeah But Does This Really Matter, Really?

As far as global problems go, I realise it's not an urgent priority, but the truth is that when we become too accepting as an audience, we suffer. If we let people who are rubbish become successful then - surprise, surprise - the general state of comedy becomes rubbish.



Once again, I'll emphasise (because people seem to be obsessed with this in 2016) that I'm not saying they should be silenced or shut down. I'm just saying, if you see something terrible like that Curtis Lepore vine, don't just shrug and let it go, unfollow the dude and go and look for someone better. There are countless creators already out there, and even more up-and-comers, who are producing comedy that is 100,000,000 better than the trash you see coming out of some of the internet's biggest comedians. But hey, if you genuinely like basic comedy? Fair play, you do you.



It's Our Fault

In the end, it's our fault - and by 'us', I mean, the audience. The people who watch online creators. The simplest comedy will always be the most popular because it is the most accessible to the widest audience. It's also understandable that simple and base comedy will do well when you consider that the online marketplace is dominated by kids and young people - groups that traditionally enjoy dumb comedy more than say, a 60 year old doctor or a holier-than-thou WeTheUnicorns writer.



What's the solution? We need to stop giving support and a voice to people who produce lazy and uncreative content and start giving a bigger voice to genuinely entertaining people. People like these viners or these underrated YouTube comedians or even this rising star. Show them support and together, we can drag the world of online comedy out of the crappy, repetitive state its currently in and into a new, exciting and creative form.


Btw, if you're wondering why Nash Grier is in the picture for this article, it's because of this.