1. Miriam Katz - “The Art of Stand-Up”

    (Photo credits: Images: (The Art of Stand-Up, from top left:)  Chelsea Peretti, photo by Evan Sung. Jerrod Carmichael, photo by Mandee Johnson. Morgan Murphy, photo by Bradley Meinz. Eugene Mirman, photo by Brian Tamborello.)

    I’ve been seeing a lot of live comedy over the past few years and am excited to see that others have been tapping into the especially vibrant stand-up that’s happening right now. In that vein, this Sunday, curator and writer Miriam Katz presents The Art of Stand-Up at PS1. The show starts at 4PM and features Eugene Mirman, Chelsea Peretti, Jerrod Carmichael, and Morgan Murphy. Get your tickets here.

    ALSO look out for her new podcast, Breakdown, which will feature both artists and stand-ups.

    SEE my interview with her below:

    JL: From what I can tell, there is not a lot of overlap between the art audience and the comedy audience. For the most part they are very separate and sometimes even skeptical of each other. How do you take this into consideration in presenting a stand-up show like The Art of Stand-Up in an art venue?

    MK: I’m still figuring out the differences between art and comedy audiences, and whether or not they are actually fundamentally distinct. I’d say it is especially difficult to take the pulse of the comedy audience because it is so huge. Are we talking about people who like improv, sketch, stand-up? People who read The Onion? People who watch 30 Rock? People who like Will Ferrell movies? You get into mass numbers pretty quickly and I would certainly not make an overarching assessment of the people in the world who like funny things.

    But if we are comparing, say, the visual art world and a group of people who regularly watch live comedy, I could at least hazard a guess that the mediums themselves say something about the types of audiences. Visual art requires time and often information. In order to fully grasp it viewers will frequently engage in a dialogue about the work— whether with friends, teachers, or professional colleagues. On some level contemporary art demands, or at least, is prone to, contemplation. And so its audience consists of people who like to reflect and probe and dissect.

    Comedy, on the other hand, does not require, or at least, has not engendered a great deal of critical discourse. When a comedian is good, you’re laughing before you have time to mentally assess the merits of the work. Comedy can have a harsh message or mode of delivery, so I’d say that die-hard comedy-goers tend to be able to withstand a bit of abrasiveness in the service of exposing truths.

    Although we may make some general distinctions between art and comedy audiences, I think at core both are interested in encountering new ways of seeing the world. Part of the endeavor of my podcast is to introduce audiences of both mediums to work they may never have seen before. In terms of the MoMA PS1 launch event, I love the idea that I am exposing the visual art audience to some of the best comedians I know, and the comedy audience to one of the best contemporary art centers I know.

    JL: Is it important to make a distinction between art and comedy? Why is it valuable to bring them together?

    MK: It’s hard to answer this question because there is a distinction between art and comedy, at least at the structural, institutional level. I’m not sure if there should be distinctions between anything in terms of medium. Overall I’m less interested in categorizations than I am in great work, whether it be dance, music, comedy, literature, or art.  

    JL: Do you think there is a lack of sense of humor in the art world? What can stand-up offer it that it is perhaps missing?

    MK: I do think there is a lack of a sense of humor in the art world, but more importantly, I think there is a lack of cross-pollination. The art world tends be somewhat insulated. This makes sense because, as I said earlier, art often requires a kind of expertise and immersion in order to experience it fully. So of course people devoted to making and supporting art would want to become connoisseurs in their field. But at the same time, other non-art worlds that I have delved into have richly informed my understanding of art. They are essential touchstones to my experiences in galleries and studio visits. So I guess in general I am in favor of showcasing interesting work of whatever type to audiences that may not have seen it.

    While there are plenty of artists, curators, and critics who have a sense of humor, overall the contemporary art world is rather serious and polite. This might in part be due to its financial structure. Extremely wealthy collectors keep the market afloat, so members of the art world need to constantly negotiate their branding and behavior to please a certain class of benefactors. What impresses me about comics is that nothing is sacred or untouchable in their jokes—not the high-level industry executives nor even fellow comedians. Comics can remind the art world that work needn’t be serious or academic in order to instigate change. At the same time, there are aspects of the much more “serious” art world that are incredibly fruitful. Thinking carefully about work is a great joy, and comedy could certainly benefit from contemporary art’s model of rumination and reflection.

    JL: Your podcast, Breakdown, will feature interviews with comics and artists. What kind of programming do your listeners have to look forward to?

    Each episode features individuals who identify as either visual artists or comedians, but whose work possesses characteristics common to both. In episode four, Cory Arcangel and I discuss the distinctions between art and comedy audiences, since he’s performed for both. And during my Montreal Comedy Festival edition of Breakdown, I talk to podcasters/comedians Marc Maron and Pete Holmes about whether or not stand-up is art.  Every episode is unique but I think there is a through line of genuine exploration in each.  

    JL: If you had to name one comic that artists should know about (besides Louis CK), who would it be?

    The comedians I feature on my podcast as well as those on the lineup for the MoMA PS1 show can definitely serve as a starting point. Jenny Slate, Jeffrey Joseph, and John Mulaney all totally blow my mind as well. For those who live in New York, you can have a pretty solid (and free) weekly comedy experience at Big Terrific at Cameo on Wednesdays and Comedy as a Second Language at Kabin on Thursdays. People can check the podcast website or email me at miriam@breakdownshow.com for further information/suggestions.

  2. Tig Notaro on Fresh Air

  3. Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Phyllis, 2009, c-print, 24 x 20 inches, edition of 5. MORE HERE.  

    Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Phyllis, 2009, c-print, 24 x 20 inches, edition of 5. MORE HERE.  

  4. Jackie Vernon, 1981, slide show

  5. Reggie Watts TED talk

  6. John Dore and Rory Scovel on Conan

  7. Stewart Lee.

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