Stand-up Comedy: The Tweet & Lowdown
Chris Cubas and Kath Barbadoro hashtag it out
By Wayne Alan Brenner, 2:48PM, Fri. Apr. 27, 2012
Stand-up comics Chris Cubas and Kath Barbadoro
have a lot to say about ethics and social media.
Of course, we already posted their recommendations for the recent Sausage Party and She Bang shows, as part of our Moontower Festival supplement, yeah. But we ran out of space, as tends to happen in ye olde printe mediae, and so had to cut the rest of the interview. Which was sad, that cutting, because not only do Cubas and Barbadoro have a lot to say, it's, I mean, it's pretty fucking smart. About the craft of comedy. About what's happening to it in these digitally connected times.
So here we are, online only now, in the sweet pixelated realm
of this BRNNR BLG. So here we go:
Wayne Alan Brenner: Okay, let's talk about ethics. No professional stand-up is going to see somebody else's routine and steal a joke. They're not gonna do that – except maybe, who is that one guy, Mencia? But: Is there a slippery slope, a gray area? Especially now, with Twitter and everything going nuts? Like say you're following somebody – not a comedian, just some friend of yours, maybe a friend of a friend, and he says something funny in a tweet. Is there any temptation to maybe take that and, ah, massage it a bit and use it as your own?
Chris Cubas: There are certain people – and I'm referencing Pete Holmes, he's got this great podcast – there are certain people who are springs and there are certain people who are sponges. And the sponge takes in everything that's around them, and it's not like they're stealing, they're just taking everything into their head all the time. And I don't think somebody would do that purposely. I mean, to me, it's not fun. The whole point of comedy, what's fun, is taking the stupid thought I had and working it into something that makes a bunch of people laugh. It's about, I came up with that. I don't wanna fuckin' say something someone else came up with.
Kath Barbadoro: Yeah, you don't get any enjoyment out of people –
Cubas: – laughing at someone else's shit, yeah.
Barbadoro: And, as a comedian, your job description isn't to come up with a joke or to have this certain act that's five minutes or 45 minutes. Your job is to be a dynamic, creative person who's constantly coming up with material. So if you're taking someone else's stuff, then you're not really doing your job.
Brenner: Okay, but then what about Ron White? Tater Salad, right? He doesn't do his own stuff anymore, does he? His delivery's great, but he's not coming up with that stuff. He uses lots of writers. Tons of people in Austin sell him jokes, right?
Cubas: Absolutely. And I'm not saying that's bad. That's just what he does,
and it wouldn't be fun for me, but – he's a machine.
Barbadoro: He's a brand.
Cubas: He's an industry in and of himself, by this point. So it's different for him versus me,
in that he has to keep this million-dollar enterprise going.
Barbadoro: And there's nothing particularly shady about it.
Cubas: There's a difference between hiring writers and stealing jokes.
Brenner: Well, of course. But –
Barbadoro: A lot of people at his level do have writers, and I don't think that takes anything away from them, necessarily. But, if you're not at that level, I don't know why you'd be buying jokes.
Brenner: So when you guys get to that level – let's say you do – then would you feel okay buying jokes?
Because you wanna just, ah, spend six months in Jakarta or something?
Cubas: If I was going to spend six months in Jakarta, it'd be so I could have a new 20 minutes where I'd be talking about Jakarta. I'm at the point where I'm doing ridiculous things because it's a source, you know? I'm out hunting for material. Like, I met this girl who's a dominatrix? And she was telling me about this weird, kinky sex-party thing that happens every month. I think it's called, uh, Temple of Flesh? And part of me is like, "Yeah, get me an invite, I wanna go," but not because I have any interest in it – I'm sure it's gross – but because I'm sure I can get a good 15 minutes out of the Temple of Flesh party.
Barbadoro: There's this weird split interiority that you have if you're stand-up or a comic or even a writer. As you're experiencing something, part of you is experiencing it, and part of you is out of that moment and already making a narrative about it while it's going on. Because you're like, "Will this work as a bit?" Which is a weird way to experience your life. And there's, uh, not buying jokes, but collaborative writing, too, sometimes. And I feel like everybody does that.
Cubas: Yeah-yeah-yeah! I definitely have friends who gave me a tag for a joke I already had. Like, "Here's another line." A tag is, oooooh, it's an industry term. It's like, there's the punchline, and a tag is like a secondary punchline. And that's the sort of thing, when you're in a community with your friends, you write like that, y'know? I've given people lines, they've given me lines.
Barbadoro: I've also been in situations – I think everyone has – where you're getting drunk with your friends, and you'll all be riffing on one subject. And then, next morning, you're like "Who thought of that?"
Cubas: It's hard to remember how it even started.
Barbadoro: And you're like, "We were talking about this the other day; do you mind if I talk about it onstage?"
Brenner: Okay, here's another thing. You come up with something and it's great. It's not just a single joke, it's part of this whole thing. You're gonna work it into a routine that you're gonna do for the first time two nights from now. But now there's Twitter, there's Facebook, so what do you do? Do you hold it back? Do you not put it online because … ?
Cubas: Yeah, Twitter, I'm kind of getting into it now, But Twitter is basically just writing a bunch of one-liners – it's a short form or whatever. And I don't really do that in my act, so it's like working a different muscle – you know what I mean? There's not a lot of crossover for me. There's a couple of things where I'm like, oh, that's an interesting idea, I can build on it. So I don't really care if I put it on Twitter, because I can take it and build it into something bigger for the act.
Barbadoro: I haven't been doing this long enough to have a really solid process. I'm still sort of figuring out how I write and how I write best. And Twitter can be hard for me, because if I have an abstract idea and I think of a little one-liner about that idea, I'll often tweet it. But sometimes that will solidify that pathway in my brain, like that's how this idea is phrased. Which sometimes makes it hard to write longer bits around that. So I go back and forth about not sharing things until they're done. And the other thing is: All the comics in town pretty much follow each other on Twitter, and we're tweeting all day. So if you think of something and you wanna do it that night at an open mic, and the audience is comics … everyone will have seen it already.