“I have no problem if someone says ‘I don’t think you’re funny.’ I do have a problem when someone says, ‘You’re not funny.’”
~Comedian Mike Toomey
Right now, Amy Schumer is on top of the world.
Adam Sandler, not so much.
Amy’s movie Trainwreck is a bona fide hit; Sandler’s Pixels was being called a bomb before it even opened. I cannot fire up my Interwebs without seeing a story about one of the two of them.
Because I’m a comedian, people ask me why someone popular, is popular. As stated, today that’s Amy Schumer. Last year it was Kevin Hart, and before him Daniel Tosh. Long ago, it was Adam Sandler.
I usually sidestep the question, because there’s no point to it. Everyone listed is funny to someone, just not to everyone. Which I think people tend to forget; opinions are personal, not universal. You can agree with an opinion, and an opinion can be prevalent and popular, but it’s still an opinion.
Being liked by some and disliked by others is a good thing; it’s impossible to be everything to everyone. If you try, you end up with an act so vanilla it’s not worth watching. Which isn’t to say you don’t try to win over as many people as possible, it’s just better to do so using an original voice than to pander in the hopes of succeeding.
Consider the breakdown of an average comedy club audience: you’ll have fans of hip-hop, country, and pop music. Someone might like opera, and one person might even like polka.
(Doubtful, but possible.)
Though it is expected people have diverse tastes in music, it is believed comedians should be universally amusing. I disagree. While it is a comedian’s job to speak to all of those diverse tastes, it doesn’t make them “bad” if they don’t hit 100% of the populace.
There are two ways to approach the task of winning over an audience: be generic and forgettable, making sure you say nothing that could ruffle even a single feather, or be unique in a way that draws people in to your point of view.
When you do the latter, you start to become a better comedian. Not everyone will enjoy your act, but you won’t be basic. You’ll be finding your voice, and your audience. You’re no longer hoping you’ll make people laugh; you trust in yourself. You look for that Malcolm Gladwell tipping point, where more people are with you than ambivalent.
That’s where Amy Schumer is. She took her point of view to the top, and fair or not, being there makes her a target. It happens all the way down the line, though. I’m nobody, and I have critics.
I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and had a series of great shows. After each performance people shook my hand and told me how much fun they had. I recorded my sets, and heard laughter and applause on each one. I went home happy, feeling I had done my job well and entertained those who wanted to giggle.
A couple weeks later, an anonymous person felt the need to jump online and tell me exactly how un-funny he thought I was that weekend. Which startled me for a moment. I had memories of happy audiences; I had video proof of happy audiences. But while I hit with the majority, one person didn’t like me.
Which is what it is. Some people enjoy jokes with a little bite, jokes that take you by surprise. Others want loud noises, manic gestures, and everything handed to you on a plate. If you went out looking for the latter, sorry, you’re not going to enjoy my set. Cheap laughs aren’t my thing, and you know what? If they were, then someone out there would dislike me for being too simple.
If you don’t think Amy Schumer is funny, I’m sure she is OK with that. You’re not her audience, and she’s doing just fine without you.
Same with Sandler.
His problem seems to be he played out the infamous Dark Knight line: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
With The Wedding Singer, Sandler was a hero.
Now he’s a villain.
C’est la vie.