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August 19, 2010 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Can a stand-up comedian's performance be objectively evaluated and ranked? In the recent documentary I Am Comic [imdb | clips], Steve Roye demonstrates his product, the Comedy Evaluator Pro. A "Positive Audience Response" (PAR) score is the percentage of PAR during the time the comedian is on the stage (not taking into account other factors such as venue size, etc.). Of course, this method stirs controversy about the art vs. science of stand-up. Ritch Shydner, the protagonist of I Am Comic, thinks that booking agents shouldn't rely on PAR scores to choose who gets to be on stage, while the director of I Am Comic, Jordan Brady, disagrees, seeing PAR as a way to elevate the quality of stand-up. So, drum roll, please: Who is the world's funniest comedian? According to PAR score, it's J.R. Redwater, during this bit at the Pow Wow Comedy Jam. [agree | disagree]
posted by not_on_display (112 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I Am Comic is really a great documentary. It digs into the business of stand-up in great ways. I caught it on some satellite channel recently, and have it saved on my DVR for another viewing. I recommend it.
posted by hippybear at 1:40 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see your Gallagher reference and raise you a Gallagher performance.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:45 PM on August 19, 2010


I think a lot of it would depend on the audience. Some comedians tend to draw folks that will laugh uproariously at anything, while others attract a more discerning crowd. Given that, all the evidence here is based on a self-selecting sample. As long as PAR's not controlling for this -- say, by pitting each comic against a roughly similar crowd -- the results won't tell you much.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:46 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm -- doubtful -- according to the same lines as Rhaomi. Redwater, for instance, is a Native American performing largely self-denigrating ("I miss my mom's Indian cooking -- powdered eggs, powdered milk, powdered cheese," etc.) comedy in front of what I would assume (Pow Wow Comedy Jam). It seems a bit like evaluating Larry the Cable Guy playing for a NASCAR crowd and then saying he is the funniest man in the history of humanity.
posted by Shepherd at 1:50 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note: J. R. Redwater has been a Killer Stand-up Comedy System comedian from the very beginning of his comedy career.

Wow, it turns out the world's funniest comedian (according to Steve Roye's Comedy Evaluator Pro™) has been using Steve Roye's own Killer Stand-up Comedy System™ for years! And if that doesn't convince you that Steve Roye's Killer Stand-up Comedy System™ is the best damn Comedy System out there, I'll point out that Steve Roye's Comedy System Evaluator Pro™ gives Steve Roye's Killer Stand-up Comedy System™ an impressive score of 71.5!
posted by burnmp3s at 1:50 PM on August 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


Er -- in front of what I would assume (Pow Wow Comedy Jam) to be an audience that self-selects for his brand of comedy.
posted by Shepherd at 1:51 PM on August 19, 2010


Thanks, Shepherd. I thought I'd started drinking again.
posted by umberto at 1:54 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't really had a chance to dig into the links here yet; I'm mostly posting to say that if more people put that [agree | disagree] link at the end of their posts, I'd be a happy, happy Mefite.
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:55 PM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


How many people in an audience like you is not an objective measurement. It is a measurement of collective subjective measurements.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:55 PM on August 19, 2010


Sure, objective measurements are useful. Just like the NFL Combine results in 40-yard dash and weightlifting and the Wonderlic. And yet, there are still plenty of professional football players who score lousy on things that are supposedly excellent indicators, and yet they make the Hall of Fame. Similarly, there's comedians who don't necessarily pack 36.4 laughs into every minute of stand-up who I'll go see any time. Dave Mordal can take three or four minutes to get to a punchline, but by god it's worth it when you get there. In the same amount of time, Dane Cook has pulled seventy laughs from the self-selecting desperate-to-laugh drunken frat boys who come to see a Dane Cook show.

Calling someone an objectively funny comedian means they could get Margaret Dumont to laugh. Groucho couldn't do that. Maybe "objective" ain't really important.
posted by Etrigan at 1:58 PM on August 19, 2010


I missed the "Pow Wow Comedy Jam" part and just saw that it took place in Wisconsin, so I was going to say the audience was probably all really drunk (I'm a cheesehead, I can say that). But now it sounds insensitive. :(
posted by desjardins at 1:58 PM on August 19, 2010


I evaluate as closely as possible how many seconds of laughter a comedian can generate for each minute that they are on stage.
. . .
J. R.’s PAR Score? An unbelievable 62 for a 9 minute evaluation period.

So this guy generates 62 seconds of laughter per minute? Well gee, that really is impressive.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:00 PM on August 19, 2010


the guy is not funny and his delivery is poor.
posted by Postroad at 2:03 PM on August 19, 2010


The guy makes jokes that his audience likes. I think that's about as objective a measure of a comedian's quality as you can get.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:18 PM on August 19, 2010


chrisamiller sez: "So this guy generates 62 seconds of laughter per minute? Well gee, that really is impressive."

No, a 62 means that 62% of his time on stage is taken by the audience laughing. There are only 60 seconds in a minute. Geeeeez. </smugsanctimony>
posted by not_on_display at 2:22 PM on August 19, 2010


You have to admit, "I'm gonna quit breastfeeding too" is a pretty good line.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:22 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I watch and listen to a lot of stand up, that guy's not even in the top 100.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:32 PM on August 19, 2010


Clearly, PAR as a metric has some room for improvement. But I'm curious about whether there's any meaningful objective measure of stand-up performance.

(Unrelatedly, I'd like to see a really great FPP about the Wonderlic.)
posted by box at 2:35 PM on August 19, 2010


Could you guys keep it down? I'm trying to take notes on that standup performance.

lets see. "white people are all like... and the Indian people are like"
posted by LoopyG at 2:35 PM on August 19, 2010


You all may scoff, but this system is essentially how everyone decides what to buy on Amazon.

Yeah it doesn't work there either. Christ, people who review products are idiots. "This set of bowls arrived *upside down!* I asked for a full refund, and will never purchase Corning Ware products again!"
posted by rusty at 2:44 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, as a comedian and occasional standup show organizer/booker, the fact that the PAR score is calculated using a secret, patented method* makes me suspect. The crazy amount of over-selling on that website pushes me past suspect, and into "this is ridiculous/this is a joke, right?" territory.

Also, the PAR seems to assume you want the "classical" American Brucian style. Nothing wrong with that, some of my favorite comedians, local and national, perform this way. In fact, the bulk of them do, and do quite well. But how would it handle something really Kaufmanian? Like when the point is to bring the audience along to a weird, uncomfortable place for the bulk of the set, ideally engendering little or no Positive Audience Response before bringing everything to a crashing catharsis of laughter and relief? I suppose if it truly knew how to measure and average out audience response, the PAR spike at the end might even things out. I'm still skeptical, though- this seems artistically stultifying to me.

Then again, I'm being awfully pretentious for what is basically legitimate theatre's foulmouthed ball-scratching cousin-uncle. Brucian? Kaufmanian? Artistically stultifying? FUHGEDDABAHHHHDIT! (catchphrase PAR++)



*though I think you can do this at home: listen to or watch someone's set performed live, and- this is hard- notice when and how often people are laughing
posted by maus at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2010


there's any meaningful objective measure of stand-up performance.

Unless there is an objective way of determining whether something is funny or not (and to what degree it is funny), there really isn't an objective way of measuring stand-up.

Let's consider "the laugh." Every person has a unique, distinct laugh. Furthermore, different cultures (and subcultures) have different beliefs about how proper it is to laugh and which volume and lengths of laugh are proper. It is also possible for somebody to find something uproariously funny but make no sound at all - mutes and human centipede victims, for example.

Furthermore, context matters in terms of volume and length of laughs. For example, a small house (I'm talking theater space here) that is packed to the gills is going to generate louder laughs than a large house with a paltry few audience members scattered throughout. Its sort of a critical mass effect - people packed more closely together tend to laugh more. This is why if you're hosting a comedy show in a large house and sales are low, you force everyone to sit in the front and as closely together as possible.

Audiences of similar people are more likely to respond loudly than audiences with a diversity of people. This is that 'self selecting" effected referred to above. I suppose if you know your audience is frat boys, you're more likely to book Dane Cook than objectively excellent J.R. Redwater. This does not mean that Dane Cook is funnier or less funny to all people at all times, but it does mean that you've made a smart business decision in matching the correct entertainer to your audience's perceived preferences.

Then there are all sorts of X factors. The rhythm of a comedian can be off one night, throwing their whole performance off. You can schedule a show months in advance and, on the day or week of the show some national disaster can happen that alters the whole mood of the audience. Heck, a local sports team having a major loss can make your job a lot harder or a lot easier.

Also, day of the week matters. Audiences laugh differently on Friday than on Saturday, for example. In my experience, Friday night audiences are ready to laugh after a week of work. Saturday audiences are ready to relax after a day of not being at work. In general. YMMV. Don't even get me started about Sunday or Monday audiences.

Anyhow, long story short, there are way, way too many subjective variables to have some sort of objective measure of all comedy for all people at all times. You can make some intelligent guesses about which comedians will be most successful in certain environments and with certain audiences, but even that's not a sure thing.

To whit, laughter is not water.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:11 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, that guy's not funny.

I mean, he's literally a standup comic who says things like "And I was all ... [funny face] and she was all [funny face]."

Look, I get that most people don't understand how stand up comedy can be art, probably because they've never seen a Louis CK or a Maria Bamford or a Mike Birbiglia do it really well. But, here's the thing: like all art, stand up comedy is good inasmuch as its honest and bad inasmuch as it relies about tired cliches. Bad stand up is particularly bad because most of its cliches are racist or sexist and because most people who go to see stand up go to let out their racist and sexist ids.

Lots of people buy Thomas Kincade paintings. Doesn't make the guy Picasso.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:29 PM on August 19, 2010


Not to mention the fact that not all of the best comedians are always laugh-out-loud funny even to the people that like them. Lots of Mitch Hedberg's stuff was less OMGROFLMAO and more, "I see what you did there." Acts like David Cross or Eddie Izzard, while much of it may happen to be funny, a lot of it is also just plain entertaining story rather than jokes per se.
posted by cmoj at 3:57 PM on August 19, 2010


But my ARTSCORATRONIX algorithm gives Thomas Kincade an unheard of 74.5!!
posted by betaray at 4:25 PM on August 19, 2010


Is that Redwater chap a new Carlos Mencia character? Seriously.
posted by cerulgalactus at 4:26 PM on August 19, 2010


Going for laughs-per-minute or whatever is a retarded way to approach the challenge of saying anything interesting enough to be memorable.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 4:44 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


That Redwater guy was actually not as bad as I expected him to be (just boring, not painful), but I guess I really expected him to be total crap. The method just seems like it would have to lead to bad recommendations. I mean, even aside from accounting for the size of the room, the specific audience, the particular night, etc, there's the simple problem that what's popular across the board is not going to be original, edgy, smart, subtle or complicated in any way - so what's widely liked is unlikely to be deeply loved.

If you doubt that, look at who wins "Last Comic Standing" and stuff like that...
posted by mdn at 5:31 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


As the inventor of the Comedy Evaluator Pro software, I feel it is appropriate to respond to the comments in this thread.

1. Stand-up comedy is a performing art executed in front of a LIVE audience - not in an empty living room or garage.

2. There are only 2 events that occur once a comedian takes the stage (in front of a LIVE audience) - the comedian is talking or the audience is responding. Both events are measurable and one can be taken as a ratio of the other.

3. While there are certainly subjective factors that come into play when it comes to whether or not a individual likes or dislikes a comedian, especially when a recorded stand-up comedy performance is reviewed without the benefit of a live audience...

It doesn't change the 100% measurable laughter, cheering and applause generation a comedian achieved as RECORDED in front of a LIVE audience.

A headlining comedian will generate 18+ seconds of laughter (ave) for each performing minute -- again, as evidenced from a LIVE audience recording.

Note: That milestone is NOT arbitrary and is evidenced by simply measuring the headliner comedian performance levels in ANY widely distributed stand-up comedy CD, DVD, cassette tape, 8 track tape or LP produced since 1955 – no matter what kind of comedy the comedian is delivering or whether an individual "likes" the comedian subjectively or not outside the live audience arena.

Prior to the measurement of the YouTube video of J.R. Redwater, the highest PAR Score measured was by Bill Cosby. I have had NO video submissions that evidence greater laughter levels for almost 9 performing minutes, despite multiple calls for such a video.

The software was primarily designed as a performance evaluation tool to give comedians a minute-by-minute breakdown for any RECORDED performance in front of any live audience to identify:

- Overall laughter generation index (PAR Score)
- Set-ups that need to be shortened
- Lack of punchlines (laughs per minute)

No, it will NOT tell any comedian if somebody sitting in their basement alone watching stand-up comedy YouTube videos will like their content, style, look etc., nor does it pretend to.

For anyone who has actually read the instructions (which are available to all), they know that there are a number of variables that can affect audience response during a comedian's show, including audience size, seating, ceiling height, blah, blah, blah.

But where the controversy always seems to focus is on subjective matters which the software has nothing to do with.

My software does not deal with the subjective aspects of stand-up comedy, especially from an out-of-audience perspective.

Note: Audience response from a recorded stand-up comedy performance DOES NOT carry over into individual viewership/listenership. Laughter is a shared response and without an individual(s) to share that response with, all that is left is the appeal and relateabilty of the content the comedian is presenting, their look, and other subjective factors.

Nothing can measure that, including my software. But somehow, this always seems to get thrown into the mix, just like politics where only half the information is provided (lucky if you get half).

My software measures actual results a comedian was able to generate for any particular live performance -- which is of great interest to comedians who are into performance improvement.

A part in I Am Comic documentary that didn't make the movie was at the end when Ritch Shydner asked me:

"Now that I known how this actually works, why wouldn't any comedian not want to use this to improve their act?"

And I said...

"It's because most comedians don't want to know how bad they suck." The room broke into laughter.

I will be more than happy to answer any questions anyone may have about the software.

Sorry for the long post.

Cheers,
Steve Roye
posted by steveroye at 5:38 PM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I appreciate you coming by to state your case, Steve, but I still think the software and the philosophy that underlies it are fundamentally inexcusable and, quite frankly, insulting to a number of dedicated stand up comedians who think of their work as their art and strive to be more honest, not more popular.

Without doubt, stand up comedy is an art which takes place in front of an audience, as does any performance art. But to imply that the only things that take place there are that a comedian speaks and the audience vocalizes a response is just absurdly reductive. Like any art, stand up comedy influences cultural conversation outside the room in which its performed and influences not only other comedians but other kinds of artists and thinkers. Examples abound here: Carlin's Seven Words routine (and really all of his work on language), Pryor's frank conversation about drugs on stage, Chris Rock on the difference between money and wealth, Louis CK on white privilege, any material Maria Bamford's ever done on psychiatry, even the silly one liners of a Steven Wright or a Mitch Hedberg which seep their way into the ways we talk to each other or think about language. All of this has value above and beyond the stage and all of it contributes to the depth of the art.

Many stand up comedians that people laugh at are horrible: they're horrible because they use race or gender or sexual orientation to mock, degrade and divide people. Those people may fill seats at ethnic comedy nights, but they don't make our collective humanity better. If you don't get why people are upset at you, imagine the reaction if you were so reductive about painting or the novel or good chamber music. This stuff really does matter, beyond "performance improvement" or whatever other bullshit you've made up to make money off a group of artists who, quite frankly, have a well-deserved reputation for being far too insecure already.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:54 PM on August 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


So, what you are try to say here is that...

Laughter generation doesn't matter as a... comedian???

There's something oxymoronic there...

I will be the first to admit that as a speaker, that may be the case.

But as a stand-up comedian -- I respectfully and strongly disagree.

A stand-up comedian has ZERO impact on the "art" if they are unable to get laughs, no matter what "style" or content they present.

Show me a comedian who sucks, and I will show you a guy waiting in line for Obama money and not performing their "art". End of story.

The software measures the actual IMPACT of a comedian's ability to deliver their "art" and make improvements to deliver their "art" at the highest possible level.

It's called "tightening an act". Ever heard of it?

And I can assure from 11 years as a successful headlining comedian...

Stand-up comedians who can't deliver the goods don't get past open mic night.

For over 300 years until the early 1900's, syphilis was treated with Mercury. What you are proposing is really no different and reeks of a real lack of knowledge about the mechanics and dynamics stand-up comedy.

You are trying to justify bad stand-up comedy performances and doing a piss poor job at it. You are welcomed to sell that crap to everyone else who will listen.

Oh, and there's still a small group around who believe the world is flat and the moon landing happened in Arizona.

Your comments are essentially worthless and little more than hollow rage. But hey...

It only takes one lemming to develop a following of many others... :-)
posted by steveroye at 7:25 PM on August 19, 2010


Well, heck, you can also measure the comparable worth of one stand-up vis a vis another by how much money that stand-up makes in a year.

I think we can all agree that, in a capitalist society, the person who makes the most money is the most successful person. We publish lists of the wealthiest all the time.

Thus, your success as a stand-up comedian really has nothing to do with how many laughs you get, or how long people laugh for, or whether you're helping the human condition.

It has everything to do with how much money you have at the end of the year.

At least according to this article, the wealthiest comedians in 2009 were Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Jeff Dunham.

Thus, by the objective standard of who made the most money, they are clearly the most successful comedians.

Any comedian who doesn't measure their success by counting cash is just afraid that if they counted their money, they'd learn they sucked.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:25 PM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


(In a less snarky vain, I can see the value of this software if your goal is to tighten your act and focus on laughs per minute - I'm responding to the idea that there's actually an objective way to judge comedy.)
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:30 PM on August 19, 2010


(Or "snarky vein" as the heathens might spell it)
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:30 PM on August 19, 2010


Cool, they made a machine that measures how drunk an audience is!
posted by chaff at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


steveroye: "Show me a comedian who sucks, and I will show you a guy waiting in line for Obama money and not performing their "art"."

I think we're done here.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:40 PM on August 19, 2010 [28 favorites]


How much money a comedian makes is a function of marketing. My software has nothing to do with that.

Let me put this another way:

Comedians want to perform as much as possible AND they want to perform at the highest level possible, regardless of how much money is involved.

The better a comedian is able to entertain an audience (until I came here - that was directly related to their ability to generate laughs) the more performances they will get.

Maybe we are talking about extraterrestrial comedy or telepathic comedy and I am off topic here.

There's NOTHING anyone can write that will justify stand-up comedy to me that is without laughs or with limited laughter (called bombing). This is a myth bad open mic comedians proliferate.

Comedians have made it and comedians have failed in mass for decades without my software.

But I am not going to quit trying to help comedians improve their acts or their "art" just because people choose to look at the world through rose colored rectum.
posted by steveroye at 7:53 PM on August 19, 2010


So.... in Obama's America, comedian laughs at YOU? [agree | disagree]
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:55 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will leave with this:

Bad stand-up comedy is much like a turd — it can be varnished and polished to a high gloss on the outside. It can be wrapped in a fancy gift box and touted as a rare and exquisite delicacy that demands a sophisticated ”acquired” taste as a special art form.

But no how you slice it, bad stand-up comedy is still a turd — and audiences, bookers, agents, and comedy club managers will continue to refuse to choke it down, no matter how a comedian tries to sell it or deliver it (or say that it's great on a forum).

Ultimately, it ends up getting flushed with little afterthought.

It's been a hoot. Thanks for all the "buzz" about my software, no matter how inaccurate or irrelevant it may be.

I will leave you all to your eloquent pontification and prognostication about my software. Enjoy!
posted by steveroye at 8:23 PM on August 19, 2010


Hey Steve, I don't think anyone's denying that laughter is sought by comedians, just that it's a bit reductive to assume it's the be-all end-all. According to the PAR system, Andy Kaufman's Tony Clifton bit is terrible. But comedy's not about laughs per minute, it's about subverting expectations. Laughter is the most common and obvious symptom, but not always the goal. Different strokes, though, I guess.

And I'm not trying to be argumentative or confrontational with this, I'm genuinely curious: what benefit does your software offer a developing comedian over, say, watching one's own video while taking notes on a setlist?
posted by maus at 8:35 PM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow, that was a pretty embarrassing performance.
posted by empath at 8:39 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder if he feels he got his five bucks' worth.
posted by hippybear at 9:18 PM on August 19, 2010


Oh God, I just realized this is a total Kauffman-esque bit and we've fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:31 PM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Using this PAR system, one would conclude that this not-all-that-funny Redwater guy is a better stand-up performer than, say, Eddie Izzard or Mitch Hedberg. That's the first clue that this invention -- and its idea of measuring humor as a series of interchangeable units -- has to be some kind of brilliant meta-parody of itself.
posted by dacoit at 9:32 PM on August 19, 2010


Oh God

haha, I thought the same thing soon after I posted... but somewhere on one of the sort of timecubey pages there's an order form link. Unless, like Glenn Beck, this is one of those deep rabbit hole metajokes, this is a Real Thing.
posted by maus at 9:54 PM on August 19, 2010


The PAR score is sort of a neat metric for SELF-evaluation. To use it, as a club-owner, for evaluating unknown comics? That's like a health inspector evaluating a restaurant's cleanliness by how many people, out of 100, don't end up vomiting*

If you were a booking agent, producer, club-owner, et al., I would certainly hope you could watch a video of a given comedian perform and immediately know "this comic knows what they're doing, how to work an audience, and has enough solid material to headline with". You don't need a machine to tell you that - it's painfully fucking obvious to anyone with half a mind for the craft.

Moreover, what a LOT of promoters really care about has almost nothing to do with any of the above - it comes down to this basic question :

"If I put this comedian's name on the marquee, would it increase my revenue for the evening?"

The way to evaluate that, beyond seeing if said comedian even has the chops to do it for long enough, is to find out what size of an audience said comic is playing to lately. Promoters/agents/owners are easy enough to get ahold of if you're looking for references on who pulls a crowd and who doesn't.

Comedians that have made it even past the first 3-4 episodes of a given season on Last Comic Standing can and will get booked all over the country for double what a hilarious, but unheard of, comic would get. Why? Because people will look at the marquee and say "oh.. hey! I've heard of that guy/girl. I wonder what s/he's like as a headliner". J.R. Red....who? No one knows who that guy is, irrespective of what some dude's software said.

Also - is this the place to point out that I can use any stopwatch on earth (or, hey, even my iPhone's built-in timer) to simply record these values myself and use 7th grade math to calculate a so-called PAR score? (business tip : the money's in the algorithm, not the interface).



*I'll be here all night. Try the veal. Tip your waitstaff
posted by revmitcz at 10:30 PM on August 19, 2010


Obama's on money now?
posted by gc at 2:10 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the automotive industry has something called the Tyranny of the Wind Tunnel. Basically, once it became clear that certain designs were far more aerodynamic than others (and thus, more fuel efficient, etc), the ability to be completely aesthetically driven in designs was really quite hampered.

It is unquestionable that laughs-per-minute is a metric that can be objectively measured, and that there is some value to knowing that number. Steve, I think people are responding to the fear that PAR will become an overriding metric, optimized at the expense of everything else. I chuckled a bit at Redwater, but he's basically depending on repeating jokes with funny faces and funny voices.

There's a burnout effect, that doesn't show up in automotive designs, but would show up in PAR: Two hours of Redwater's style, and the PAR scores would drop. This isn't limited to Redwater's humor -- two hours of Kaufmanesque stunts would also get old really quick -- but the threat is that turning humor to a simple number will lead to this state.

The reality is that there are multiple kinds of humor, and multiple kinds of laughter. You've got to generate laughs, but over the course of a night, laughs need to be generated in different ways, some of which will have lower scores in terms of laughs per minute, but higher scores in terms of variables we haven't figured out how to measure yet (perhaps, audience attention in terms of eye contact).

PAR's useful, no question. If you're not generating laughs, you're not doing your job. But a mechanistic, efficiency-driven approach to humor is going to leave out essential elements that might locally optimize but globally destroy.
posted by effugas at 5:19 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Steve,

I think I'd optimize your advice a little: There's going to be a minimum PAR score below which a comedian is really just boring or annoying their audience. You should be able to calculate this, with some surveys to crowds, or by measuring the extent of applause as the set is ended.

Past the minimum, bookers should downgrade the importance of PAR.

I'm sure you could run some experiments that would show the effects of overoptimization.
posted by effugas at 5:26 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


revmitcz: "Moreover, what a LOT of promoters really care about has almost nothing to do with any of the above - it comes down to this basic question :

"If I put this comedian's name on the marquee, would it increase my revenue for the evening?"
"

Right, which explains the ethnic comedy night phenomenon popping up all over LA. Hell, it explains why ladies night is so popular - because very few comics are famous enough to merit name recognition and, in its place, most people will go out to get their laugh on. But art is rarely cultivated in these kinds of spaces.

If you run a comedy club or a performance space that's interested in developing a reputation for putting on good stuff, it's still in your best interest to hire, say, Paul F Tompkins (who will bring 300 people to his show) and bank on those people keeping a more interested eye on your calendar of upcoming events.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:46 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahh, it's always good to witness the afterglow once a departure is announced. I've played these fourm games before...

And I will still be more than happy to answer the intelligent questions about my software or stand-up comedy in general - without an "order button".

But when I see references to Last Comic Standing -- that's TV generated intelligence referenced by "armchair comedians" , not boots on the ground functionality, which is what I am about.

Here's the hard, cold reality about PAR Score:

Once a comedian has reached 30-35 on a consistant basis...

Anything above that is gravy. Few comedians ever even get to this level. There will never be a funniest comedian (except from a PAR Score perspective) -- but there are comedians who work at the top of the game from a number of perspectives. But none of them work at those levels without being able to generate big laughs.

And yes, it is measurable from a live audience reaction perspective. Not a sitting at home alone perspective.

As far as Andy Kaufman's character Tony Clifton...

I don't believe there was ever a widely distributed CD featuring that character. If there was, I stand corrected -- there are always an exception to any rule. If that is the case, only 99.99% of the comedians featured in nationally distributed stand-up comedy recordings generated 18+ seconds of laughter per performing minute.

As far as determining laughter generation as reductive...

Again, that seems to be an attempt to somehow justify substandard stand-up comedy in the name of "art".

It's obvious to me that many folks commenting on my software haven't been on stage as a comedian and haven't experienced the humiliation of bombing. They haven't experienced "hit and miss" comedy material. They haven't been ruthlessly heckled because they were unable to generate laughs with their "art".

They also haven't spent one minute trying to improve their performances.

And they haven't caused an audience to blow milk out their nose because they killed the room -- show after show.

Folks can talk that art BS all day long. But when it comes to actually performing for a live audience, which is what comedians do...

Laughter generation is the ultimate result of successful execution of the "art", as well as a DIRECT reflection of an individual's skill as an artist -- which encompasses their style, wit, sense of humor, perspective, etc. That's why they are called COMEDIANS...

If laughter generation really didn't matter or count for much...

Then everyone who decied to be a comedian would automatically be a headliner if "art" was actually the ultimate gauge. I can assure, that is simply NOT the case.

You will find no one as passionate or as knowledgeable about the art of stand-up comedy than myself. That didn't happen from an "arm chair" or from watching the boob tube.

And I refuse to apologize EVER because I want comedians to get compensated for their talent -- provided they actually do have comedy talent.

Telepathic laughter and huge episodes of smiling have absolutely no play in my perception of what stand-up comedy is or meant to be.

Again, I will be more than happy to help anyone understand and ultimately improve their stand-up comedy knowledge and/or skill.

Thanks again for the responses -- including the negative ones.
posted by steveroye at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2010


steveroye, I loved you when you used to perform as Bruce Bruce.

Oh, and you were great in Jerry Maguire - "Show me the Obama money!!" Still kills me.

But you've been slipping lately. This whole weird Tea Party pomo stuff is just above my head.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:38 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


No tea party promo here. And if you can't take a joke...

That's a personal issue that's off topic. :-)
posted by steveroye at 6:58 AM on August 20, 2010


I don't believe there was ever a widely distributed CD featuring that character. If there was, I stand corrected -- there are always an exception to any rule. If that is the case, only 99.99% of the comedians featured in nationally distributed stand-up comedy recordings generated 18+ seconds of laughter per performing minute.

Sure, but not all comedy works well on CD. Mediums inform messages and all that. We're already seeing that with Redwater -- he appears to be hilarious in person, but on YouTube?

Not funnier than Cosby live. (I've seen both.)

I think you believe you're arguing against bad comics here. This is probably because bad comics hate you with a passion. They should. But I'll tell you, you're talking to mostly audience members here, with the occasional performer from another realm. (I present professionally quite regularly, and I'm exceedingly aware of how important it is to play off your audience.)

What we're reporting back is:

Your simplified system doesn't match our internal metrics (we can all find ten youtube videos we're more entertained by, that have much lower PAR scores). You can't argue with this, you can only make better metrics -- which I at least encourage you to do.
posted by effugas at 6:59 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooooh, steveroye, an emoticon? The AHaWO Laugh Sensor™ just docked you 10 Funnybones™.

Anyone else get the feeling that this whole thing is like a trial balloon for a George Saunders story?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:11 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I think I'd optimize your advice a little: There's going to be a minimum PAR score below which a comedian is really just boring or annoying their audience. You should be able to calculate this, with some surveys to crowds, or by measuring the extent of applause as the set is ended.

Past the minimum, bookers should downgrade the importance of PAR.

I'm sure you could run some experiments that would show the effects of overoptimization."


Again, should anyone dare to read the instructions for the software, this is covered.

I have never met a real booker or agent who didn't want to book the funniest comedians they could. And if there are no content restrictions (ie: corporate work vs. club work)...

Then it really boils down to who can actually generate the laughs -- at least at a headliner level. Once a booker or agent knows a comedian can deliver the goods -- then it becomes a matter of subjective likes -- not the other way around.

Bookers and agents don't remain such for very long booking stand-up acts from a purely "artistic" perspective and especially those who can't deliver the goods.

Again, if that were the case, "garage" comedians performing without an audience would be getting booked all over. While I've seen these videos on YouTube, I am not convinced these folks are getting booked. :-)

If you know where that is happening, let me know and I will let folks who read my blog know about it.
posted by steveroye at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2010


You will find no one as passionate or as knowledgeable about the art of stand-up comedy than myself. That didn't happen from an "arm chair" or from watching the boob tube.

I respect anybody who makes a career out of comedy, it's obviously not an easy thing to do and I agree that you've spent more time than most of the people here honing your craft and thinking about comedy. But your repeated dismissal of non-comedian views in this thread is tiring. How would you feel if someone with a PhD in Statistics dropped into the thread and told you that you have no business trying to develop a set of statistical metrics for measuring anything? Let your work stand on its own and stop trying to use your credentials as a comedian to try to discredit people who have views different from yours. And it's not as if you are more accepting of criticism from professional comedians, you imply on your site that any comedians that disagree with you are just threatened by the idea of an objective measure of how funny a comedian is.

As far as your actual claims about PAR, yes good comedians generate laughs, and yes bombing is pretty much synonymous with not getting any laughs. But I'm not convinced that measuring PAR in detail is going to give a comedian any more information about their work than they would get by just taping themselves and listening to the crowd reaction to various parts of their routine. How much study have you done about how repeatable the results are (i.e. the same material performed the same way with different crowds) or how well differences in PAR scores coincide with independent measures of a routine (audience surveys, ratings from other comedians, self-assessments, etc.)? And even if your software measures PAR accurately, and PAR is in some way an objective measurement of how successful a routine is, why should any comedian care if they get a 28 or a 32 if they already know what bits of their's got big laughs and which ones bombed?
posted by burnmp3s at 7:38 AM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Bookers and agents don't remain such for very long booking stand-up acts from a purely "artistic" perspective and especially those who can't deliver the goods.

Nobody's challenging you on this. We've all seen bad acts (I once watched a headliner bomb so badly, he just...left. Like, we all sat there for three minutes, nervously laughin g, waiting for him to come back. It was the most laughter he got.)

What we're saying is that yuks-per-minute ain't enough. Your guy, funniest ever, ain't that funny. Nobody's going to be quoting him, a la Chris Rock and Tossed Salad Man, or Louis CK's Everything's Great and Nobody's Happy. (At least not with that piece.) Those pieces didn't become memes because of advertising. They become memes because they're genuinely hilarious.

Again, should anyone dare to read the instructions for the software, this is covered.

I signed up for your site, and went looking for instructions that would tell me about minimums and the like. Couldn't find anything. Recommendations?
posted by effugas at 7:56 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Steve, here's what I'm wondering:

What's the substantive difference between running your program and simply taping a routine?

"Huh, they didn't like the elephant bit as much as I thought they would. Maybe I should take that out."
vs.
"The elephant bit only got a 6.2 PAR. Maybe I should take that out."

Is there any professional stand-up comedian who can't tell when he kills? Even if he or she gets caught up in the rhythm of the act and doesn't exactly know which bit worked best, wouldn't listening to a tape be just as helpful?
posted by Etrigan at 8:17 AM on August 20, 2010


Great question.

If a comedian is completely satisfied with their stand-up comedy material and the laughter it brings...

My software is a completely moot point. It only matters from a performance improvement stand point and only if a comedian cares to have a minute-by-minute analysis of their performances.

That is purely a personal choice and I don't care to interfere with that for obvious reasons.

I am not trying to dismiss anyone's point of view. My apologies. Just like you, I don't care to be attacked.

As far as repeatable results go...

While audiences may vary in a number of ways, a comedian's consistency as far as laughter generation will largely remain constant despite the obvious variances from performance to performance.

Some common sense must be still employed here. A comedian who performs for 500 people is not going to usually get the same "size" of response as performing for 50 people.

The best way I could characterize using the software for those who choose to do so is this:

Little cars have a small fuel tank. Bigger cars have a bigger fuel tank. Both have a fuel gauge which is relative to the size of the tank. Both will tell you when you are at half a tank, but the miles remaining until empty is relative to the size of the tank.

And while a fuel gauge is not required to drive a functional vehicle...

It sure would suck if it wasn't there.

Again. great questions.
posted by steveroye at 8:24 AM on August 20, 2010


I'm a DJ, not a standup, but it's PAINFULLY obvious when I'm bombing. I really don't think a performer needs software to be told this.
posted by empath at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2010


I'm kind of curious what Bill Hick's PAR score was.
posted by empath at 8:26 AM on August 20, 2010


Hicks's
posted by empath at 8:26 AM on August 20, 2010


A MetaTalk post has been created for this thread.
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on August 20, 2010


Maybe it's because I was just at an open mike, but JR Redwater's not a bad comic.

I do think that what the PAR score represents is useful for some people. People always tell new comics to ruthlessly cut from their act. Repeatedly telling an audience that 'man, this is the weird sort of stuff I think about'? Probably wasted time. There's one guy who keeps telling this awful racist joke which never gets laughs. I think it's because he wants to be 'edgy'.

An unbiased computer program might get people to cut stuff from their act that's not working. I mean, my personal favorite joke doesn't always gets the most laughs.

I see where the doubt is coming from, though. Laughs are dependent on so many different variables. Is the crowd warmed up? Are you at a bar where nobody is really listening to you except for this one nice couple who accidentally sat in front of the 'stage' and are too polite to leave?

I am incredibly self-critical to the point that I don't think I need the PAR system, but I see how some people might find it useful.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:39 AM on August 20, 2010


Just go to comedyevaluatorpro.com - there's a link called software information center. That's where the details about the software are at.

What's the substantive difference between running your program and simply taping a routine?

"Huh, they didn't like the elephant bit as much as I thought they would. Maybe I should take that out."
vs.
"The elephant bit only got a 6.2 PAR. Maybe I should take that out."

Is there any professional stand-up comedian who can't tell when he kills? Even if he or she gets caught up in the rhythm of the act and doesn't exactly know which bit worked best, wouldn't listening to a tape be just as helpful?


Now we're talking...

Professional comedians KNOW when they kill -- they can feel it and are on an incredible high for hours afterwards.

But when a comedian is on stage, they aren't in performance evaluation mode. They are in performing mode (as they should be).

Taping a set will only tell you what actually happened for that particular performance. Every comedian will tell you that sometimes bit will work at higher levels than others depending upon audience make-up.

However, the goal is to reach -- with the greatest possible consistency - a 30+ PAR (18 + seconds of laughter for each performing minute). That is usually reflective of 4-6+ laughs per minute.

Some minutes may be less. Some minutes may be more.

A 6.2 PAR is bombing if looked at from overall performance. A 6.2 PAR for a single minute may be due to a number of things:

- Was there a heckler?
- Was the wait staff collecting the bills at that time?
- Was there an interruption or distraction in the room?
- Did the mic go out or the lights go out?
- Did the comedian max out and the audience was exhausted from laughing hard for the last 25 minutes (which can and does happen)
- Was the set-up too long (which means more time to get to the punchlines)

Here's the way I handled my own stand-up comedy material once I knew how to develop it without writing jokes the hard way:

If I took new material on stage that didn't get at least a minimum level of laughs, it was tossed.

If I took new material on stage that did get a minimum level of laughs, I would rework and take it out again. Usually, it got wanted I wanted. If not, it was tossed.

And I wouldn't even try to evaluate my material uless there were at least 20 people in the room, properly seated close together and paying attention to the show.

What that minimum is for any comedian is subjective, but...

Headliner level material is usually comprised of 4-6+ laughs per minute, no matter what size the audience is. The duration of that laughter (and subsequent PAR Score) will be directly influenced by audience size.

You can count that from any headlining stand-up comedy video from YouTube, whether you personally like their material or not.

I hope that helps. Great question!!!
posted by steveroye at 8:52 AM on August 20, 2010


What we're saying is that yuks-per-minute ain't enough. Your guy, funniest ever, ain't that funny. Nobody's going to be quoting him, a la Chris Rock and Tossed Salad Man, or Louis CK's Everything's Great and Nobody's Happy. (At least not with that piece.) Those pieces didn't become memes because of advertising. They become memes because they're genuinely hilarious.

This is an apples vs. oranges approach. Check out my first post re: individual viewship of recorded stand-up comedy - audio or video.

How "funny" is determined from that perspective is 100% subjective and is not reflective of a comedians actual performance for any live audience (laughs from a recording do not carry over in individual viewership).

It is this same condition that all but killed stand-up comedy on TV (and killed a ton of comedy clubs) once TV's became cheap and group viewership went away in the mid to late 80's.

Several years ago I was talking with a Comedy Central producer who revealed something interesting...

The stand-up comedy segments there work in the red as far as revenue goes because of the low and highly segmentalized viewership.
posted by steveroye at 9:08 AM on August 20, 2010


The stand-up comedy segments there work in the red as far as revenue goes because of the low and highly segmentalized viewership.

This personal anecdote seems to be made of 100% airtight logic.

A half hour special is made for, let's say anywhere from $100K - $500K. It is aired multiple times on the network. Let's say 10 times/year. VHS and DVD copies are made and sold. No way would they be able to recoup their investment. On top of that, television producers are in the business of producing and distributing content that loses money. Once they find a product that they are certain will fail to make a return on investment, they produce those types of shows over and over and over again.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2010


steve--

I'll buy that reactions live are different than reactions on YouTube. I'll also buy that you're able to provide a far more objective measurement of skills than a comedian checking his own stuff. (Among other things, do many comedians get the idea to record and measure the acts of others?)

But you've got things like this, and they cause you problems. I don't care how much you insist, Redwater is just not funnier than Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, Bill Hicks, or George Carlin. It's a great set, and he's killing that audience, but -- and here's the key -- all those guys can be hilarious, even with some guy sitting alone in front of YouTube.

Your guy does "OK".

As I think you've noted with PAR scores, people will laugh when they hear other people laughing, and the more people they hear laughing, the longer they'll laugh for. (This is the principle behind laugh tracks on TV.) YouTube is just the extreme case where there's an audience of one and the performer can't tune to him.
posted by effugas at 9:21 AM on August 20, 2010


Arsenio--

To be fair, they may air standup as its the absolute cheapest stuff they can put on, that they only do when its either that or dead air. They can still lose money, but maybe not as much money.
posted by effugas at 9:23 AM on August 20, 2010


Actually, Payeso Entertainment is producing many of the Showtime stand-up specials now for around $50K a pop.

And you hit the nose on the head...

The bucks are not in ad revenue - they are in the resell rights to other networks and DVD distribution, which unfortunately the comedians don't usually share in - they get a flat fee of somewhere around $1000, and the exposure of course.

That I don't care for, but that's how the biz really works.
posted by steveroye at 9:23 AM on August 20, 2010


To be fair, they may air standup as its the absolute cheapest stuff they can put on, that they only do when its either that or dead air. They can still lose money, but maybe not as much money.

You'll have to walk me through that. Producing and airing a stand-up special, though it loses money, is cheaper than airing one of the thousands of licensed works they already have in their library?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2010


You'll have to walk me through that. Producing and airing a stand-up special, though it loses money, is cheaper than airing one of the thousands of licensed works they already have in their library?

*shrugs* Depends entirely on the licensing. Remember, there's all these weird rules around royalties.
posted by effugas at 9:30 AM on August 20, 2010


granted, it is not Stand Up, but some of the funniest movies (for me) are Christopher Guest movies, and paradoxically I laugh rarely while watching them.
posted by edgeways at 9:33 AM on August 20, 2010


I think the point, as steveroye points out in his most recent comment, is that obviously the networks are making money off of these cheaply produced stand-up specials. It would be nearly impossible for them not to make money from them. I don't really get what he was trying to say in his comment previous to that.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:33 AM on August 20, 2010


There's usually a huge difference between ad revenue (companies who advertise during any show) and distribution of recorded entertainment.

Movies at the theater have all but become "lost leaders" for the most part because unless it's a blockbuster...

That's not where the bottom line is affected most. DVD distribution has steadily overtaken that.
posted by steveroye at 9:41 AM on August 20, 2010


What's your point, steveroye? Originally you said that Comedy Central produces these specials and goes in the red doing so. But that's nonsense. Comedy Central makes the money regardless of how they distribute the material. They get their own copyrighted product for next to nothing and showcase it in myriad ways. On television. DVD. Netflix and iTunes. And they make a damn good deal of money doing so. That's why they keep doing it over and over and over again.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:46 AM on August 20, 2010


Now I have a question...

I believe that the future of stand-up comedy one day lies in a "virtual" entertainment setting where...

The viewer actually experiences the close proximity of "virtual" people, capitalizing on the shared response of laughter in a way that mere individual viewership from a TV or online video will never do (and that one can only truly experience now in a "live" setting).

In other words...

A seemingly realistic comedy club type of group dynamic experience -- only with a "virtual" group.

Thoughts? Too far fetched?
posted by steveroye at 9:50 AM on August 20, 2010


What's your point, steveroye? Originally you said that Comedy Central produces these specials and goes in the red doing so.

That's only from an TV AD REVENUE perspective - not from other means of capitalization. Sorry I wasn't clear.
posted by steveroye at 9:52 AM on August 20, 2010


Your comments are essentially worthless and little more than hollow rage. But hey...

Uh-oh. Welcome to MetaFilter!
posted by ericb at 9:52 AM on August 20, 2010


Oh, okay, I think I see where a lot of the friction in this thread is coming from. Comedians, like people, are different (gee!). There's the business side of the craft, and the art/expression/fun side. Both approaches are totally valid, and different approaches land all over the spectrum. Steve's more on the business end, but I don't think he's completely without an artistic bent- or else he'd find a different industry to get into.
posted by maus at 10:03 AM on August 20, 2010


Even more basic: no comic -- even the most commercially minded -- needs software to tell how much people in the crowd are laughing. They're right in front of you. You can't miss 'em.

The real question comics might want to answer is, HOW do I make them laugh?
posted by msalt at 10:20 AM on August 20, 2010


Even more basic: no comic -- even the most commercially minded -- needs software to tell how much people in the crowd are laughing. They're right in front of you. You can't miss 'em.

I only wish stand-up was that cut and dry - that an audience is either strongly laughing or not.

What many don't know (because they mostly see only the end product) is that there is a usually process of rework --sometimes extensive rework that occurs to take something mildly funny to wildly funny on stage.

I absolutely have an "artistic bent" because it is that part that provides the wide variety of styles and content for just about any type of audience there is.

It is this individual personalization and freedom of expression, coupled with generating big laughs in the process that keeps comedians going.
posted by steveroye at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2010


Bill Hicks - PAR Score 54. The bit measured was Hooligans (3.9 minutes long).

And now that I realize this is a forum of mostly audience members...

I appreciate your perspective and have learned much!
posted by steveroye at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2010


steve--

Well, to be fair, I perform _quite a bit_ on stage, usually at the scale of 500-1500. I'm actually a little surprised you say that the same things get laughs at small (<5>500) audiences. I get very different reactions.
posted by effugas at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2010


Steve, do you know if/how often laugh tracks or the audience laughter is modified for recorded versions? I can imagine that post-production could shine up some near-bombs, or might clip the laughter short if it carries on too long for the at-home audience (especially for visual gags, where the audience is already missing a part of the joke and might feel at odds with the reaction). You mentioned that a lot in your first comment. And what about dry clubs vs two drink minimums? Have you found any rules of thumb for re-scoring reactions based on the chances they might be a bit tipsy? Thanks for sticking around and answering questions.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:16 PM on August 20, 2010


burnmp3s: How would you feel if someone with a PhD in Statistics dropped into the thread and told you that you have no business trying to develop a set of statistical metrics for measuring anything?

Shorter: "I don't come down to where you work and slap the Chebyshev out of your mouth!"
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 12:31 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


For the record, I'm also a performer albeit in a slightly different genre. That said, I interact with stand-up comedians almost weekly on both a social and professional level. I've been on the same bill with a couple of dudes week after week after week.

In the case of a couple of those dudes, they put themselves through exactly the process that Steve is describing here (not using his software). A couple of the other stand-ups I perform with really want to perform and get better, but clearly have no idea how to do it. I believe that those people could genuinely benefit from Steve's software or something like it.

While I was initially quibbling over the use of the word "objective," and then really thought this was an elaborate prank, reading Steve's posts since yesterday has made me realize that he and I actually share a fairly similar philosophies regarding performance. I wasn't understanding what he was trying to say until today's batch of replies.

Not everyone is going to be able to improve on their own. Indeed, not everyone has the skills to step back from their work and rationally analyze what was and was not working about their routine. Most other performance art forms have a person like a director, choreographers or coach who watches from the outside and attempts to give constructive feedback to the performers. There's not really anything like that on a wide scale in stand-up. Yes, there is the occasional class, but for the most part, it's you out there, on your own, with your material.

A lousy stand-up might here a few titters here and there and think they're Bill Hicks. They might also not be aware of what is actually getting laughs. Sometimes, it isn't the joke itself - it is the delivery or the face or the gesture or who knows what.

If getting genuine and frequent laughs is your goal, having a system that forces you to watch yourself and really listen to the responses of your audience could be a tremendous help. For some people, that might just be an internal regulator. For others, they might really need a disciplined system to help them develop the skills they need to analyze their own work.

I suspect that, after a time, the skills that one learns from using Steve's system (or something like it) become something more ingrained. Eventually, an experienced performer doesn't necessarily need to continue using that system because they'll have that internal sense.

---

While there are, obviously, a significant number of successful and well known comics who approach stand-up in an entirely different way, there are also comics who just want to make the crowd laugh. My personal goal when I perform might be to create a mixture of laughter and "a-ha!" moments. My goal, however, is not everyone's goal. I respect my stand-up friends work and recognize that (for many of them) their joy comes almost entirely from hearing peels of uncontrolled laughter.

While I don't think Steve's system is for everybody, I think there's a great many stand-ups out there - some that I know personally - that could really use something like this. Maybe using this system (or one like it) and really having to listen to the response (or lack of response) they're receiving would make the pill of critique a little easier to swallow.

Finally, I came into this thread believing that Steve was advocating the idea that quality of comedy could be measured objectively. I believed this because of the question posed in the first line of the FPP. It's become very clear that this is not Steve's position is that one can improve their laugh per minute ratio by patiently and objectively observing and analyzing the reaction to their work. Furthermore, its become clear that he does not believe having the highest possible PAR score makes one the best comedian - just an especially effective comedian.

Anyhow, long reply here, but if Steve's system is helping some stand-ups achieve their dreams, well, shit, rock and roll man. I can get behind that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:23 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"might here" = "might hear" among many other errors. Jebus.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:25 PM on August 20, 2010


Oh, hell. One more edit. Near the end there? What I meant to write was:

"It's become very clear that this is not Steve's position. As I'm reading it, Steve's position is that one can improve their laugh per minute ratio by patiently and objectively observing and analyzing the reaction to their work."
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:27 PM on August 20, 2010


steveroye: -- you keep pulling rank, putting down people here as mere audience members, including me. I've been a professional comic for 10 years. I headline one-nighters, and feature, MC or showcase at clubs (depending on the club, of course.)

Could you tell us a little more about your career? Because I have never heard of you on the comedy circuit, or seen your name unconnected to PAR. I can't find any clips of your act on YouTube. No hits for your name on Comedy Central. I think it might help us evaluate the effectiveness of your system to see how it has helped your act. Thanks!
posted by msalt at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, [J.R. Redwater] is not funny. I mean, he's literally a standup comic who says things like "And I was all ... [funny face] and she was all [funny face]."

Seems like that's a bias of the PAR system. If you measure the ratio of audience response to performer talking, physical comics will always be overrated, because big chunks of their performance are not counted in the denominator. Also, laconic comics will be favored over ranters. I'm surprised Tig Notaro is not the funniest comic of all time in this system. I'm curious, what's the score for this clip?
posted by msalt at 2:14 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Penn: 50
Teller: ∞
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:22 PM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


The real question comics might want to answer is, HOW do I make them laugh?

Dick jokes.





You're welcome.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:57 PM on August 20, 2010


You're welcome.

WELL, COME DEEZ NUTS.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:09 PM on August 20, 2010


Oh, I got one! How many pieces of software does it take to figure out what the audience is actually responding to? NONE! Ha ha, sorry, tricked ya!
posted by rhizome at 4:12 PM on August 20, 2010


This recent rant by Auggie Smith is a good example of one that PAR would probably downgrade. Actually, I just wanted to share a funny clip. No dick jokes, either.
posted by msalt at 5:46 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, Mr. Roye and his work with PAR have been reviewed before...with similar results to the experience with him in this thread.
posted by jeanmari at 7:49 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


steveroye: -- you keep pulling rank, putting down people here as mere audience members, including me. I've been a professional comic for 10 years. I headline one-nighters, and feature, MC or showcase at clubs (depending on the club, of course.)

Could you tell us a little more about your career? Because I have never heard of you on the comedy circuit, or seen your name unconnected to PAR. I can't find any clips of your act on YouTube. No hits for your name on Comedy Central. I think it might help us evaluate the effectiveness of your system to see how it has helped your act. Thanks!


OK Mr One Nighter Headliner,

Here's a some information about my comedy career. TV was not my focus -- entertaining live audiences and promoting my own shows was.

There was no YouTube during my comedy career. I have clips of my act with my system.

Interesting that folks can find that Skanky Magazine article about my software, but can't seem to find my comedy resume. The part you don't see with Skanky is that I offered them to get on a conference call with me with their audience about CEP or anything else about stand-up comedy. They played stupid and called me names - which I accurately predicted would happen before I made the offer.

Comedy Evaluator Pro was developed by accident at the end of my comedy career. Nothing about me or what I do is hidden except to those who don't look.

Most of the laughter power any comedian has is NOT the words they say, whether they are a "physical" comedian or not. This is one reason why "joke writing" comedians struggle to get the big laughs on stage - their focus is always on the words, not the delivery, much like focusing on the steering wheel of a car without the rest of the car.

Instead of using Redwater as your scapegoat - you may want look at some of these folks, specifically Khulani Malone and Clayburn Cox who use little "physical" comedy.

Nah, don't even bother to look - they will just be called hacks, just like every other comedian who is able to move faster than others in stand-up.

If you reviewed my first post, I didn't come on this forum to attack or "pull rank" on anyone. And I will make no apologies for defending myself or my software. I fully understand that critics are everywhere no matter what one says or does.

So, I will make the same offer to the members of this forum that I made to those lovely folks at Skanky Magaizine...

If anyone wants to get on a conference call with me, I will be more than happy to share what I know and answer any questions anyone has about me, my software or my system professionally and without anomosity. I don't just pull information out of my ass like most so-called comedy "experts" do.

It simply needs to be coordinated and I don't know how to do that. I will gladly provide the conference line.

Fair enough?
posted by steveroye at 5:54 AM on August 21, 2010


Steve, do you know if/how often laugh tracks or the audience laughter is modified for recorded versions? I can imagine that post-production could shine up some near-bombs, or might clip the laughter short if it carries on too long for the at-home audience (especially for visual gags, where the audience is already missing a part of the joke and might feel at odds with the reaction). You mentioned that a lot in your first comment. And what about dry clubs vs two drink minimums? Have you found any rules of thumb for re-scoring reactions based on the chances they might be a bit tipsy? Thanks for sticking around and answering questions.

It's difficult to modify a video without being able to see the mods. What I have seen comedians do is take the best pieces of their acts in a montage. However, most real bookers and agents want to see unedited clips for obvious reasons.

One of the funniest things I ever saw as far as a stand-up video was at the Improv in San Diego (died in 1994). They were reviewing tapes and one guy had dubbed in a laugh track, but it didn't line up with the punchlines. He didn't get hired, but the tape was hilarious.

As far as drink vs. no drink...

Funny is funny and I don't necessarily buy into the "drinking audiences are better" notion, except that it may help the opening act break the ice a little quicker.

If an audience is getting "over served", it can actually draw attention away from the comedian -- contribute to heckling, talking during a show and other things that will certainly affect a comedians performance in a negative way.

You may want to look at Tim Hawkins, who performs mostly for non-drinking audiences. He runs at a 50 PAR (I have measured a performance of his live, with no drink involved and he did straight stand-up - no music like he usually does).

Great question!
posted by steveroye at 6:22 AM on August 21, 2010


Steve's position is that one can improve their laugh per minute ratio by patiently and objectively observing and analyzing the reaction to their work.

That is exactly the case. It's really only useful as a "tightening tool" to help identify and pinpoint which parts of an act may need adjustment or rework.

And there is rework, no matter what method is used for development of comedy material. For example, repositioning a single word or key word phrase in a line can make the difference between an OK laugh and a big laugh.

Thanks for your comment!
posted by steveroye at 6:35 AM on August 21, 2010


For anyone who is interested...

Here is the link and password to a 13 minute encore performance (mp3) that I did when I produced my one and only stand-up comedy CD early in my stand-up career:

The Best Story I Know
Password: story301

It's the most "adult" material I ever did as a comedian. FYI. So, if that's not for you - don't go there. I don't want to be accused of trying to offend anyone.
posted by steveroye at 7:12 AM on August 21, 2010


Sort of no need to justify your experience here, despite the request. Directors, coaches and teachers don't necessarily have to be great actors, you know? Its a different skill set.

Based on the reactions here and elsewhere, I suspect that your software is occasionally a hard sell, but that seems to be more of a result of a reaction to something else (the marketing? A misinterpretation of the purpose of the software?) than to the overall purpose and quality of the product.

As I said before, it appears that some folks have genuinely come closer to achieving their goals through use of your program, so rock on, brother. Wishing you (and they) continued success.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:39 PM on August 21, 2010


Thanks for your comments - they mean much.

What I can humbly recommend is this:

For the active comedians...

If a new thread is started -- "Questions for Steve", I will do what I can to answer questions in that thread.

I don't have all the answers, nor do I pretend to. But I do what I can to help comedy talent get the laughs they want -- the best way I can. I wish I were perfect but...

I have 2 ex-wives who will gladly squish that notion. :-)

This forum has been a great learning experience for me, despite the negative comments, which is actually a good thing because...

I have said before that the only thing I ever got from a great gig is a big head and no sleep. It was the hell gigs that I really learned the craft.

Not that this forum has been a hell gig - not at all. There are some really smart folks here with some valid and important input worthy of consideration. Learning doesn't stop in my world...

Thanks again!
posted by steveroye at 1:18 PM on August 21, 2010


The Best Story I Know

This was a wonderful cocktail party-type story, which went over very well with the audience there because it was specific to their experiences. However, that same story told in a room full of civilians might not register as well using your system. Having an ex-BF who is Navy (and who had a few WESTPAC deployments), I'm by no means unaware of naval life, and I didn't find the story to be as funny as your Navy friends in the audience did. So, what would measuring the laughter of that audience ACTUALLY be measuring? That the particular story you were telling did well with that demographic, or at that period of time in history, may be better if that specific audience had been consuming alcohol, and so on. Also to be considered were the expectations set for the audience, their interaction with the performer before or at the beginning of the act, and their impression of the performer based upon how that performer's dress/demeanor/etc. struck them as fitting with their expectations. (If the performer for that story bounded onto stage wearing a "Navy SUX" or "I CLUB (NAVY) SEALS" t-shirt, he could tell that same story and all you would hear would be catcalls and booing.)

And, steveroye, that is what I think that a few (not all) of the people in this thread were trying to express previously. There are far too many variables involved in determining "what makes someone the best comedian" that the PAR measure does not take into consideration, including the nuanced demographics and history of each audience. And if you are measuring as many variables as possible and mapping them with their PAR score? That might be more useful to booking agents who would then know, "Okay, Redwater does well with audiences who have a history on the reservations, got it" and could pair each act with their appropriate venue. But to take a PAR score out of the very specific context it was obtained in, and use it as a measure across contexts to rank "World's Funniest Comedian"? I don't think that PAR alone can measure that.

This is where you might jump in and smack down my perspective because I am not a professional comedian. Maybe I don't get that you've sunk a great deal of your money, time and self-interest in trying to make the Comedy Evaluator Pro so that hearing feedback about its weaknesses makes you so defensive as to spend quite a bit of your time following around stories about it on the Internet. However, I do know just a wee bit about extracting meaning from data. (I used to frequently "headline" corporate events for days at a time for $2500 a day + expenses as a consultant and researcher before I decided to have a kid and teach at a university because it was more fun! Tip your secretaries! Try the doughnuts in the coffee station! Good night!)

So, I think as long as you are framing what the PAR's usefulness actually is in your market and carefully avoid trying to present it as measuring things that it cannot, well, good luck to you. Stay away from the Nut Crabs.
posted by jeanmari at 2:54 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your comments are spot on and my approach is strictly focused on the art development from the inside, not from the audience members perspective.

What I do know is this:

Respect can never be demanded - it is always earned. You have mine. Dare I say...

Few observers of comedy from the "outside" could even begin to say what you have so accurately.

That's not pandering. I call things the way I see it and try to be as knowledgable and professional as possible.

It can be difficult with sense of humor/comedy issues without a doubt.

Thanks for your comments for sure!
posted by steveroye at 3:13 PM on August 21, 2010


steveroye -- yes, that's a funny story, albeit audience specific as noted. I appreciate you putting yourself on the line here.

With all due respect, sir, I think you'll find more success if sand down that chip on your shoulder. This is a public discussion among a regular community, and you're treating anyone who doesn't agree with you like a heckler, which is inappropriate. You're not on stage here, your position is not privileged compared to anyone else, and it's not helping you in any way to keep insulting people.

Did you know there is another topic (about this topic) in a separate area of Metafilter called MetaTalk, which is devoted to discussions of topics themselves? You can view it by clicking here. Be forewarned though, the rules of politeness that have been restraining people in this thread are not present in MetaTalk.
posted by msalt at 4:25 PM on August 21, 2010


I warmly accept your comments with utmost grace and profusely apologize that I didn't just simply lay down to get savagely butt raped after I posted supplemental information in that first post that I thought may add a little insight to a spirited and intelligent forum disccusion in the most professional way I that possibly could and ask for questions.

That was wrong and I stand deeply ashamed. I'm also deeply moved by your comments, so much so that I am having a tingly feeling -- kinda like those experienced right before a herpes outbreak.

I have to completely agree with your assessment that I was probably suffering from heckler PTSD, which caused me to write that first post much, much faster than I probably should have -- which in turn forced some people to snap like Micheal Jackson at a Boy Scout Jamboree.

Please forgive me.

A bigger person would not have made your comment, and for that I want to thank you. You're the best.

Just kidding! :-) Thanks for the comment (really) and info about MetaTalk. Good advice for sure and will I take note for future posts, topics, etc to be more chipless on shoulder attire.
posted by steveroye at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2010


LURK MOAR!
posted by hippybear at 11:51 AM on August 22, 2010


.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:41 PM on August 22, 2010


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by msalt at 2:21 PM on August 22, 2010


You gave it your best shot, msalt. It was a noble attempt.
posted by jeanmari at 3:45 PM on August 22, 2010


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