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BRIAN MCKIM has performed standup comedy in all 50 states. He earned a B.A. in Magazine Journalism from Temple University. Any resemblance to a living person is purely coincidental.


Brian McKim
Editor In Chief

"Listing Badly"

I will take the occasion of my first anniversary as Editor of SHECKY! to reinforce and embellish the sentiments expressed in the SHECKY! Manifesto, which appeared in our very first issue which was uploaded April 1, 1999.

In it we said that "SHECKY! is a monthly online magazine dedicated to the glorification of standup comedy, standup comics and anything peripherally involved in the practice and consumption of standup comedy."

Part of the glorification of standup entails defending it against those who would disparage it.

On our most recent trip to Los Angeles, we picked up a copy of OC Weekly, the alternative entertainment weekly that they give out for free at all the convenience stores and book stores in Orange County. As comics, and as publishers of the WWW's most beloved online magazine about standup, we were interested in seeing who was in town at the comedy clubs, so we turned to the Calendar section in the back to see the following at the top of the "COMEDY" section:

"...Call ahead, comedy clubs are notorious for changing programs without notice. The OC Weekly takes no responsibility if the acts suck."

Isn't that precious? (The answer is "No. That is not precious.") No other category in the OCW's listings receives this kind of shoddy treatment. There's nothing in the Music section that cautions readers that some of the bands might be out of practice or that some of the poetry readings might be filled with pretentious nitwits spouting nonsense. (Note: I am not claiming that there may be pretentious nitwits at a poetry reading...I'm just pointing out that the OC Weekly wouldn't dream of hinting that there might be.) There isn't the slightest hint that all the poets and rockers aren't giving anything less than their best, most sincere performances. Why, then, does the calendar editor, whose name is Anna Barr, feel compelled to make such nasty and unnecessary comments?

Darn good question. So I asked her. On March 6, I sent Ms. Barr the following email:

Dear Ms. Barr:

As editor and publisher of a monthly online magazine about standup comedy, I am offended by your disclaimer at the top of the Comedy listings in the Calendar section. ("The OC Weekly takes no responsibility if the acts suck.")

You unfairly malign standup comics in particular and the standup comedy business in general. The vast majority of comedians are hard-working, sincere professionals who strive to entertain and make sure the paying customers get his money's worth.

I am making your comment and others like it the subject of my next column in our April issue. If you would care to comment, I would be happy to consider your remarks when formulating my column. If you decide to change the wording of the disclaimer to make it less inflammatory and insulting, please let me know that you have done so.

Thank you,

Brian McKim,

Editor, SHECKY! A magazine about standup...

Hours later, she replied:


For a guy who deals with comedy, you don't seem to have much of a sense of humor.

I expected as much. Fortunately a response like this one doesn't require me to waste my time responding. (I don't need to defend my sense of humor. One doesn't last through 18 years of performing standup comedy without a sense of humor.) This situation does, however, merit further examination.

The OC Weekly's bad attitude when it comes to standup, as evidenced by the comment atop the listings, isn't just a simple case of a dour, humorless journalism nerd trying her hand at wit and failing miserably. It's an attempt to maintain the hip, informal tone that so many of the "alternative" weeklies have traded on so successfully over the last 25 or 30 years. The act is getting mighty old. (And a bit embarrassing considering that none of the alternative weeklies are alternative any more.)

Consider the following, from a recent wire service story:

Stern Publishing, the premier alternative newspaper company in the country, will be acquired by a management group led by David Schneiderman, the current president of Stern, affiliates of Weiss, Peck & Greer, a New York-based investment management firm, Trimaran Fund II, a private equity fund associated with CIBC, and other financial investors.

Did you ever think you'd see the words "alternative newspaper" and "investment management firm" in the same article? The item went on to say that Mr. Stern's bundle of newspapers have an "annualized revenue" of $90 million! That's a 9 followed by seven zeroes. Among the Stern group's pack of publications were the Seattle Weekly, City Pages of Minneapolis, the Cleveland Free Times, the Long Island Voice, the Village Voice, the LA Weekly and the OC Weekly. Well, well! It seems that Ms. Barr and her free spirited little beatnik rag aren't so alternative after all!

Suddenly, the fake-freewheeling, pseudo-rebel tone adopted by Ms. Barr and her band of merry journalistic pranksters seems a little contrived when you consider that her employers are raking in $90 million clams every 365 days.

Now that we know they're legit, isn't time that the Anna Barrs of the world start behaving legit? Does it make any sense for the OC Weekly and the others to trash other members of the business community in which they both operate? If they insist on masquerading as hipsters, is there any way they can do so without belittling an entire industry? It would surely test their creativity, but we'd all be better off if they met that challenge.

Coincidentally that same week, the OCWeekly sent Rebecca Schoenkopf out to sample some of the comedy being offered in Orange County. In it, Ms Schoenkopf reveals that she's intimately familiar with the clubs and comics in Southern California because her "dearly departed live-in boyfriend was a comic...and truly a very, very funny one; we were dreadfully proud of him...and guess whose career was more important?" Where's Brill's Content when you need them? This is a clear conflict of interest, the stench of which even a cool, chic and trendy rag like the OCWeekly should strive to avoid. Anyone who's been schtupped and subsequently dumped by a comic should be barred from making any kind of commentary on the subject. (Regardless of whether or not you like your irony applied with a trowel!)!

It's bad enough that she refers to Jay Mohr as a "smug, prissy white boy," or spells Patton Oswalt's name wrong (O-s-w-a-l-d), or denigrates the Improv, not on its merits, but because it's now located in a mall (Horrors!). The article is boringly and painfully self referential (See New Journalism, circa 1975). She buries any positive criticism amid a running commentary that portrays standup comics as dull, misogynist, derivative clods. Hmmm...I wonder why she does that? Perhaps I'm not picking up on the irony.

This wouldn't be so bad if this were an isolated incident. The sad fact is that the popular (and the unpopular, or alternative) press is similarly predisposed toward shoddy treatment of standup comics. I used to think that it was inevitable, that there was nothing that anyone could do about it. Well, that isn't necessarily so. If you're a comic, demand that publications like the OCWeekly cease this kind of nonsense. If you're an editor, try to find a better way of exhibiting attitude. If you're a club owner, spend your advertising dollar in a publication that refrains from telling the public that your establishment is nothing but a haven for "prissy white boys" and their Neanderthal devotees. And, if you're a writer who hates standup comedy, exercise a little self-restraint (and some honesty) and cover the poetry slams and the renaissance fairs and stay the hell away from the comedy clubs. HOME Back to the Top