Stand up comedy’s second boom feels less driven by punchlines, and more by comedians’ introspection and vulnerability.
Nearly every week, another special comes out that mines the personal narrative and struggles of another comics. While some comedians have managed to make this kind of vulnerability funny, others... have made it easy to forget you’re watching a standup show. And that tone change has led to style and format shifts as well.
The traditional format — the laughs/per minute structure, on-stage-every-night, and the need to appeal to the masses — is all but dead. Taking their place? Comedians as TED talkers, as performance artists, as prophets and pundits.
And while what’s shared on stage is more varied than ever, some think the form is being constrained. You can say anything, but you can’t just say anything.
So, what are comedians trying to do other than make us laugh? How is this trend of vulnerability and experimentation changing standup’s tone, format and purpose? And what complications arise?