Why would you want to do that?

by Brian McKim & Traci Skene on June 28th, 2011

Did you Louis CK on Kimmel last night? He was talking about how, as a father, he constantly finds it necessary (and somewhat entertaining) to explain things to his daughters. He draws on his experience as an adult to explain the complex and the mundane. (As Kimmel characterized it, a parent is essentially his/her child’s “tour guide for life.”)

We’re piecing this together from memory. We recall that CK then goes on to say that he was driving around with his daughters and they spotted a cruise ship. He explained what a cruise ship was and he also added that comedians perform on cruise ships. When his daughter asked if her daddy performed on cruise ships, he said no. She asked why? It sounded so exciting, after all.

He then addressed that matter of why he (and so many other comedians) avoid performing on cruises. He explained that comedians have a “mean hatred” of comedians who perform on cruises. “We call them ‘boat acts,’” he said. He added that the cruise ship circuit is filled with comedians who “want to please everybody,” and that he wasn’t into “pandering.”

At this the daughter was puzzled. She asked, “Why wouldn’t you want to please everybody?” CK replied that, when he performs, he often upsets the people in the audience. The daughter then asked, “Why would you want to do that?”

CK was bemused. Kimmel was quite amused and said that it seemed that, in her naivete, the daughter was offering “clarity.”

The only reason we bring all this up is because we happened upon the interview quite by accident– we were scrolling through the channels on the television… in our cabin on a cruise ship. We’re performing on the MS Ecstasy this week.

A few years ago, such an exchange might have made us feel bad about ourselves. We might have taken umbrage at the characterization of comedians who work cruise ships as “boat acts” and the charge that they “pander” in their attempt to be all things to all people. But CK’s rant (if you can call it that) was funny, and his points were somewhat valid and he spoke some truth. But we couldn’t really work ourselves up over it.

Since we’ve plunged into the cruise ship milieu in the past six months (and since we started preparing for it in way back in July or so), we’ve gained some perspective.

It made us laugh.

We had been discussing these very issues with a group of comedians not 72 hours earlier.

We could go on to defend cruise ship comedians and say that there are actually a lot of great, honest, creative comedians who do cruise ships “under the radar” (out of necessity, for fear of being labeled a “boat act”). We could say that doing cruise ships has made us better comedians because it’s forced us to write and break in more material (both clean and dirty)– in a very short period of time. And that such an accelerated program has sharpened our skills and made us more versatile. We could also say that there are plenty of comics– in both the club scene, the alt scene and in college gigs– who pander like crazy in their attempt not so much to be please everybody but to survive and make a living. And we could also point out that “being all things to all people” presents its ownsignificant, unique challenges. (Trying to please a broad range of people or a diverse demographic doesn’t automatically lead to blandness or a lack of originality. Ask Brian Regan.)

To be sure, there is some justification in calling some cruise ship comics “boat acts.” (Stereotypes are often stereotypes for a reason.) But that is tailing off as more and more 20- and 25-year comics– many of whom have a more modern sensibility and perhaps a different work ethic– enter the sector. So we could present a fairly good argument against it.

But we realize that, as long as this meme persists, we’ll benefit personally. As long as the rumor exists, it will limit the number of comics who attempt to work on the ocean and will therefore limit the competition. More work for us!

We are sooo over caring about being labeled. What our fellow comics think of our approach to performing is none of our business.

And now, we shall shut the door behind us or, more appropriately, we shall draw up the gangplank. No more cruise talk, ever again. (Unless something funny or weird happens.)

Posted from poolside at No Name Sports Bar at the Barracuda Hotel in Cozumel, Mexico. It’s currently 79 degrees with overcast skies and winds out of the east at 20 mph.