Dear readers, you all know I love to laugh. Almost as much as “hanging out with friends.” I’m fascinated by comedians; they occupy an extra special place in my heart of hearts. Let me share a thought I had about them.
There are virtually no good comedians under the age of 35.
I can’t find a single widely-known comedian whom I admire that is not 12 years older than I. I was in first grade, they were in their senior year of high school, if not already graduated. A sample (this also serves as an abridged list of my comedy heroes):
- Amy Poehler – born 1972 (38)
- Dave Chappelle – 1973 (36)
- Zach Galifianakis – 1969 (40)
- Demetri Martin – 1973 (36)
- Bob Odenkirk – 1962 (47)
- David Cross – 1964 (46)
- Louis CK – 1967 (42)
- Patton Oswalt – 1969 (41)
- Jim Gaffigan – 1966 (43)
- Jerry Seinfeld – 1954 (56)
- The Sklar Brothers – 1972 (38)
- Tina Fey – 1970 (39)
I could go on. Notice that even the “young” comedians — comedians whose primary audience tends to be young — are at the very least entering middle age.
What gives with the 19-year-old doctors, CEOs, and pop stars? The media love these wunderkind and dangle their success before us like we should have worked harder in school. But there is a difference. I think there is something intrinsic to comedy that is much more resistant to this kind of fluke. In no way, shape, or form can the media make a comedian. Enough plays on the radio will make any song with a beat catchy. But a joke just gets older and more stale. Something about humor demands perception and experience. Practice and study of the mechanics of the craft can only augment talent and exposure to life.
What really strikes me about these specialists who have been writing and thinking for years, is the material that actually makes it to our ears is relatively very limited. As if all those years attempting original, humorous thought netted only a few hours of stories worthy of public presentation. Presented and appreciated so casually! A joke, a laff. No wonder comedians are so humble; some part of them is aware of this brutal inefficiency.
And so I think it must go with any experience-driven occupation. Building on this post, youth does not favor the designer, the producer, the director.
As with all claims, there are exceptions. Dave Chappelle had an early break with Half Baked. Tim and Eric are 34. Aziz Ansari is only 27 and he is a little past up-and-coming. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting discovered. Maybe it’s because the comedian stands alone, whereas the pop star is almost always backed by a team of producers and creative staff. Or maybe it’s because there’s just no rushing a good joke.
I think the same age gap is true with actors/actresses. Most of the time I picture actors/actresses being a lot younger than they actually are. The people playing 28 year-olds are actually 35+. What are they doing in their early/mid/late twenties?
Well, a lot of that is well-known; just wikipedia the person and it’ll tell you. More often than not, they were training in acting. To me, acting is more of a skill that comes from practice and doesn’t require as much raw life experience.
This is backed up by the fact that there are many young actors, some good, some less so. It’s a matter of practice and marketing. Even comedians who are BAD (i.e., I dislike them; e.g., Dane Cook) have to have loads of real life experience for their jokes.