I was talking on the phone with veteran comic Ritch Shydner when he mentioned that he was currently in Mexico taking a daytime break from a cruise ship gig. I recoiled, then immediately felt bad about passing judgment. Ritch is out there, working, making more money from comedy in a month than I see in a year. Plus, he’s self-aware about the whole situation. “It’s okay with me. I’m not working the edge anymore. I’m just trying to stay out of the ditch.” But, like, still.
What is it about being a boat act that puts such a bad taste in a comic’s mouth? Why is “cruise ship comic” a slur in the comedy world? Maybe it’s because of the perception that cruise ship entertainers have either been sent out to pasture or didn’t have what it takes to truly make it on dry land in the first place. Maybe it’s because entertaining a crowd of middle-aged seafaring vacationers requires a healthy dose of pandering and ship-enforced censorship. Maybe it’s because people think cruises are lame and no place for the art of real standup comedy.
But here’s the thing: cruises are rad as hell. After my first cruise I went and got an anchor tattoo to commemorate all of the good times I had. I feel like performing comedy on a cruise ship is like a working vacation. The schedule is light. The money is legit. The audiences are, for all intents and purposes, captive. The drinks have little umbrellas. There are multiple buffets. You’re on a damn boat. And the odds are super slim that your cruise will be the next Costa Concordia.
I’ve made the conscious decision to drop my pretentious attitude toward cruise ship comedy. If it’s good enough for the two greatest comedians of all time, Jay Leno and Jeff Foxworthy, it’s good enough for me.