From the Club to Twitter

I may not like David Friendly’s movies very much—Big Momma’s House is not exactly my jam—but this is an interesting essay on where the next, nationally dominant, black comedian is going to come from, particularly as the internet has challenged the comedy club scene:

In the world of comedy, whether it’s movies (Pryor’s classic Here and Now) or HBO specials (Lawrence’s You So Crazy) or series TV (Sanford and Son, The Bernie Mac Show), the stars honed their acts for years on the road before they reached the big screen. Well before he could legally order a drink, Murphy got his chops at clubs like the Comic Strip in New York and Lawrence at places like L.A.’s Kings Wood. Saturday Night Live became a launchpad for everyone from Murphy and Chris Rock to Tracy Morgan and Kenan Thompson.

But how relevant are those clubs today, and how much do they influence the pipeline that leads to stardom? With the advent of YouTube, Funny or Die and Hulu, the living room can become the main room. And in this attention-deficit, quick-fix world, they need to be funny fast. Take a look at Jay Pharoah’s Will Smith imitation, and you quickly get the feeling you’re watching a future superstar. But will the suits bet the millions necessary to make and market a Jay Pharoah studio release? Trust me, in this environment, It’s not an easy call. Even in this hyperspace world, the process is gradual.

One thing I’d be interesting to hear him address, though it’s unlikely given that he has Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son coming out, is whether the end goal for black comedians is changing, or should change. I think that’s one of the things that 30 Rock has been very effective at parodying. But if people want to be Donald Glover, or whatever Donald Glover’s going to turn out to be, the means of getting there may be different than the means of becoming Martin Lawrence.