The YouTube Comedian

Personally, I like Monday’s paper the best.  That’s when the "New York Times" focuses on media.  You can read the Business section from front to back.  I’ve never really enjoyed the Sunday edition.  It’s too soft, it looks back too far.  The concept of staying home all afternoon turning the pages…I’d rather be outside.

But Felice is a dedicated paper reader.  Not only Sunday, but the weekdays too.  She brews a pot of coffee and starts studying as soon as she awakes.  Which is usually HOURS before I arise, but ever since skiing in Colorado a month ago, I’ve tried to be on an early schedule.  By my standards anyway.  Waking up at 9.

Today, I slept in.  I got out of bed just before ten.  Felice was already digesting the L.A. "Times".  I get that paper, but it’s almost unreadable, there’s no longer anything IN IT!  Music coverage on Sunday is limited to two pages.  I went directly for the "New York Times".  To read Frank Rich, to read "Modern Love".

And after coursing through the various sections of the paper, I decided to do a quick run through the "Magazine".  So I could hand it over to Felice.  So she could take it to the bedroom and do the puzzle.  Looking through the table of contents, I saw an article entitled "Did You Hear the One About the Christian Comedian?"  Being Jewish and raised in an environment of humor, I decided to check this out.  And I became riveted.

So here’s the story.  Christian comedian, a mom, married to a member of the clergy, posts a video on YouTube.  Hell, I’ll just quote the article.

"Last Mother’s Day, at the urging of her kids, she posted on YouTube the film clip of her performance at the Dozier Center for the Performing Arts in Kennesaw, Ga., and promptly forgot about it. ‘I thought it would be a nice thing to do,’ she says. ‘I thought maybe 1,000 people might see it.’

Turns out that was optimistic. Over Mother’s Day weekend, the clip got about 500 hits. But Renfroe never got around to taking the video down, and as the summer progressed, its popularity continued to grow. By Labor Day, it had passed the 800,000 hit mark. Then the blogosphere discovered it: and thought it was hilarious. ‘That’s when it went bazooka,’ Renfroe says.

By Oct. 1, approximately 1.5 million people had seen the video. By Oct. 19, the number had risen to 8 million; the video had gone viral. ‘That’s pretty impressive until you realize that the guy who eats live locusts has, like, 12 million hits,’ Renfroe told me. Then a producer from ‘Good Morning America’ called at 5:30 one morning to ask whether the show could run the clip. The song got even bigger when iTunes put the video on its lineup. After that, Renfroe was fending off offers like a Hollywood starlet."

Before I go all analytical on you, and I know you can see it coming, the analogy to the music business, I’ve got to tell you that this woman is FUNNY!

I decide to finish the article before I write to you, and although I don’t even chuckle at the material that opens the story, when I read the following, I laugh out loud!

"She praised her husband, John – shown smiling lovingly on a big screen – and then confessed: ‘It was easier for me to submit myself to him when I was younger and thinner. . . . But then I got older and gained weight, and it’s harder for me to submit to him. Because basically I think I can take him.’"

Oh, I know, you didn’t think that was funny.  Maybe it was the set-up, involving mammograms and underwire that loosened me up.  But isn’t that what a comedian does?  Punch you enough that you start rolling on the floor?  Weaken your defenses?  I went from being skeptical of this evangelical to being on her side.

Yes, she’s a believer.  Anita Renfroe’s already made it on the Christian comedy circuit (yes, there is such a thing).  Assuming you believe $250,000 a year is having made it.  I do.  She plays these religious events.

And reading about these religious affairs, I realize that this is what music used to deliver, hope.  If you’re downtrodden, don’t think you can make it through…you need a record.  With music that soothes you and lyrics that speak to you.  I know this is not what the machinery wants to hear.  They want something that will succeed in call-out research.  But would the evangelical movement succeed in call-out research?  No, it’s something that’s got to be sold by word of mouth, one to one.  There has to be a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP!  We’re selling vapid, lowest common denominator material at an overinflated price and pissed that the public isn’t buying it like it used to.  I mean really, is the problem the thieving audience, or us?

But reading this article does give me hope for the music business.  Not only that something of quality can be blown up on the Internet, but that we can return to the era of the sixties and seventies, when music was a more regional phenomenon, when it was positively underground.  The Christian comedy circuit is underground.  I’ve never ever even heard of it.  But for years, Anita Renfroe has been plying her trade.  Like a band working clubs, graduating to arenas, not going directly to New York or L.A. to try and get on radio and TV instantly.  Instead of ubiquity, should we be focusing on traction, and the Internet accident that bumps us up to the next level?

Sure, in this case Anita Renfroe ultimately appeared on "Good Morning America" as a result of her YouTube success.  Should you have the same dream?  Well, comedy was always about television.  Was music?

Life is tough.  We need music.  We need hope.

I’m going to leave you with another Renfroe gem.  Because when I read it not only did I laugh, I smiled…because it had the ring of truth.

"Each day you have a choice – hilarity or insanity."

If that ain’t the truth.  Life is hard, complicated.  To put one foot in front of the other is difficult.  Didn’t the "New York Times" just do a front page story on the epidemic of baby boomer suicides

Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers

Anita Renfroe is saving lives.  She likes the money, but that’s secondary to the mission.  We need those same priorities in the music world.

Did You Hear the One About the Christian Comedian?

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