Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The worst job in the world

What is the worst job in the world? Flipping burgers or picking up garbage usually tops the list for most people. I read once that lumberjacking is pretty bad. I think it would be cool to introduce yourself as a lumberjack. Then again, there’s probably more to being a lumberjack than introducing yourself as a lumberjack.

My nominee for the worst job in the world is TV show warm-up guy. Unless you have been inside the sausage factory that is a TV show taping, you might not know what a TV show warm-up guy is. Let me explain. Before the taping of a comedic television program, the TV show warm-up guy comes out and gets the crowd ready to laugh by performing a short set of jokes.

For shows where multiple takes are filmed for each scene, the TV show warm-up guy fills the down time with more jokes.

Apparently, it is dangerous to make people laugh without preparation. It’s like running a race. You have to stretch a bit before hitting the track.

Last week I was in New York City and caught a taping of the Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report.” This is the second TV show taping I have attended. (More on the first in a second.) As you would expect from a spin-off of “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” is a consistently funny take on current events. I came ready to laugh, and I wasn’t disappointed. Still, the “Colbert” people felt it necessary to begin the taping with 10 warm-up minutes from a hacky stand-up comic whose act consisted of (1) already tired jokes about “Brokeback Mountain” and (2) jokes about the appearance of audience members.

If anything, Colbert’s TV show warm-up guy made me want to laugh less. Now I wonder whether he was actually TV show warm-down guy, a comic so lame you will laugh at anything that comes after.

The first TV show taping I ever attended was for the awful, awful, stinky awful Kelly Ripa sitcom, “Hope and Faith,” also in New York City. Snarky fools that we are, me and my friends thought it would be funny to go behind-the-scenes of an unfunny sitcom nobody in the world seems to watch and yet still stays on the air. (“The King of Queens” and “According to Jim” must have been booked.) Four and a half hours later, we weren’t laughing. After sitting through countless cringe-inducing jokes and not-so-hilarious situations that couldn’t even be enjoyed ironically, I felt like I had just endured my first shower in a maximum-security prison.

The only guy who had it worse was the TV show warm-up guy, who pulled out all the stops to keep the audience alert during the ordeal. He was part Robin Williams, part O’Brien from “1984.” Because “Hope and Faith” isn’t funny, he coached us on how to fake laugh. After a while, our laughs got a little too fake sounding, and he scolded us.

I used to think that being a stand-up comic would be hell on Earth, because making people laugh is incredibly difficult and a humiliating process if you fail. But coaching people to fake laugh at a fake funny sitcom makes stand-up comedy seem like a full-body massage from Brooke Burke. This is your curtain call, TV show warm-up guys. Take a bow.


Anonymous richard dent said...

they had a dude at the donald driver show for that.. but instead of telling jokes he'd just start clapping before they'd return from break to clue us in... so what's he called? i think intern or something.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Mike De Sisti said...

Come on! You can't lump Kevin James in with Jim Belushi. James is funny. The only thing funny about Belushi is (was) his brother.

3:49 PM  

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