Comedian and current host of weekly New York standup show Whiplash Aparna Nancherla wrote an interesting blog post today about last night’s show, which featured a surprise performance by Chris Rock that quickly turned sour after several audience members started recording his set on their cell phones. Similarly, Hannibal Buress has been making headlines this week over a six-month-old bit he performed in Philadelphia last week calling Bill Cosby a rapist, which would’ve never made the news had it not been for an audience member recording the joke then uploading it to the internet. Unlike Buress, however, Rock’s appearance at Whiplash last night didn’t go viral; Nancherla says he ended up leaving “barely over a minute or two after he got there” thanks to the cell phone addicts in the audience. Here’s an excerpt from Nancherla’s blog post:
Comedy is a rather unique performance art form in that even in its creation, it relies on testing it in front of an audience. Not everything will work, but there has to be an implicit agreement to be there and be present for it. Trying to record things on your phone is a part of the time we live in. Some of us are so mindlessly on our devices all day that you might not even consciously realize how much space they take up in your lives. Nobody experiences anything anymore just for the sake of experiencing it. You know what’s cool about live performance? You were there for it. You got to hear something that was just meant for you. Not for hits or views or clicks. And artists make their living by their ideas. To take them and then get to decide what you want to do with them is unfair and a straight-up violation of another person. And that’s the thing. Chris Rock is a person.
Nancherla ends by advising audience members to “respect art” and “try experiencing a moment without sucking the soul out of it. You can always gasp write about it later and what it meant to you or faint tell it in person to friends so they can relive your experience of it.” More solid advice: “Don’t be a jerk.” The whole post is well worth the read over on Nancherla’s blog.