Interview with Jessica: Comedy in Missoula

We think conversation is one of the most fun parts of language learning. On Thursdays, we switch languages and ask each other questions to learn more about Tuesday’s topic. Today, Rober interviews Jessica about Missoula’s comedy scene. You can read Jessica’s original post here.

Rober: Are there any well-known comedians in Missoula? How did they get started with these types of events?

Jessica: There are several people who are well-known in the comedy community, many of whom have been involved for a while and participate in as many shows as they can. John Howard started the Thursday open mic 8 years ago. That was a jumping off point for some of the other comics I talked to, like Sugar Bush who went with a group of friends. Charley Macorn said they got their start by “crashing a music open mic back in 2006.” A lot of the comics had a background in acting improv and that led them to try jokes in a more planned setting.

R: In Spain there are often controversies when someone makes a bad joke about groups of people. How do Americans manage these kind of jokes in bar shows?

J: In my experience, comedy shows tend to be closely monitored because comedy often walks a fine line between funny and uncomfortable and the best comics mix those feelings and know how to play with that balance, but it’s easy for things to go off the rails or for someone in the audience to get too rowdy. So the clubs always have ways to either talk to the people discreetly, or often the comedians will take charge by making fun of the person who said something disrespectful. Of course, at an open mic where the organizers don’t necessarily know what material people plan to use, they have methods for keeping people responsible for their actions. Sometimes they rearrange the order so that somebody rude is followed by a comedian who can roast them, often a comedian directly targeted by the joke.

R: Are there any issues with freedom of expression in your country with comedians, musicians and artists in general? Is there any kind of censorship?

J: They U.S. is very protective of free speech, so the government can’t persecute people for what they say or sing on stage. This is why it surprised me when we talked about Dani Mateo, that he faced legal repercussions for blowing his nose on the flag. Of course, nothing protects an artist from twitter mobs.

R: Which of the shows you talk in your post have you attended and how was it?

J: I went to a showcase at the Roxy a few years ago, so I was familiar with some of the comics I talked to over the phone. I wasn’t sure what to expect since they had a fairly long lineup and the sets were 5 minutes. I think 5 minute sets are super hard. You have to set up your jokes and get the punchlines out faster than if you have people’s attention for a longer time. At any rate, it exceeded my expectations, I laughed and that’s really all you’re looking for. There were some really polished and well delivered sets and there were others who seemed like they were newer to comedy. My conversations with the comedians this week made me appreciate how much they are doing to facilitate new faces on the scene and I’m looking forward to supporting some of these in the future. I will have to arrive earlier, though! The reason I wasn’t able to attend a show for this article was that the one I went to was sold out.

R: Who is your favorite comedian or comedy show in your country and why?

J: When I lived in Sunnyvale, California, south of San Francisco, there was a club called Rooster T. Feathers. We used to go there quite a bit because they were close, had really reasonably priced shows, and most importantly, brought in comics who were quite good, but not the most famous. Sometimes they were well-known in other countries or other parts of the US, so it was a good way to learn about people I wouldn’t otherwise have come across. We saw Wil Anderson, an Australian comic, twice at this club. He tells a lot of stories that are fast paced, he almost kind of yells them. I always think that one key component of comedy is how you set up and break expectations, so I think the fact that he is from Australia sometimes makes him funnier to me because he uses words I wouldn’t think of with intonation I’m not accustomed to.

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