Participatory humor
November 13th, 2006

The following introductory paragraph in this weekend’s New York Times magazine story about comedians getting big fame online gives a list of powerful disincentives would-be comedians faced in the pre-Internet world. Getting those disincentives out of the comedian’s move to prominence is a positive role the Internet plays.

Also, there has been a lot of puzzling about how YouTube could be worth billions. Could it be that participatory humor, the laughter of the crowd and the long tail of a good joke are the killer app!

Some people were clowns at the kitchen table and in Mrs. Gadjodnick’s third-grade class — they’ve been funny all their lives — and without making a big thing out of it, they’ve always believed that the world could use them up there on the silver screen. But there was all that junk you had to do to become a star — get your head shot, learn to act, move to L.A., get a job reading scripts at I.C.M., do nude improv, sprinkle crystal meth into your Diet Coke every morning for 10 years while auditioning for Burger King commercials and writing fake ‘Friends’ episodes while having your breasts or bald spot surgically replanted. The specter of the casting couch, the security guard at the gate of the Paramount lot, the shame of confessing your ambitions to your family, were enough to keep you from throwing your life away.

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