When Americans go to the movies, a concert, or a gallery opening, they look for their favorite actor, band, or artistic genre. So, why is it that when choosing a comedy performance, the decision is often based on which venue is closest? Julie Seabaugh, a Doer at Brown Paper Tickets, is trying to change the way America devours comedy with the new book The Best of The Spit Take: A Compilation of Professional Comedy Criticism, released today by Paradisiac Publishing, and available for $11.99 at www.amazon.com/2012-Best-The-Spit-Take/dp/0985316861.
"Comedy is an artistic endeavor on par with music, film, literature, or visual art, and it's about time that Americans developed a more sophisticated palate for what they think is funny," Seabaugh says. What's the missing link? "Professional critical analysis that helps audiences actively seek out, appreciate, and respect the comedic talent that makes them think, makes them laugh, and makes them fall in love with thinking and laughing at the same time."
The world's first comedy-review compilation is based on work published on The Spit Take (www.thespittake.com), Seabaugh's website of professional comedy criticism, which features timely analyses of albums, DVDs, specials, films, books, and live performances from a comedic gamut of relatively unknown talent, respected workhorses, and living legends.
Most major newspapers in the U.K. employ a comedy critic, whose work is given the same weight as professional reviewers of music, film, theater, literature, visual art, etc. In the U.S., print comedy coverage tends to be limited to an annual Comedy Issue, or rote and shallow, in a manner akin to a glorified calendar listing. Explains Seabaugh, "Very few publications take comedy reviews seriously, and none publish them very frequently. We are doing both."
The reviews in the book are contributed by some of the most respected comedy-loving journalists in the country. "I've always frowned upon the conflict of interest inherent when performers write about other performers," Seabaugh says. Unlike many comedy-news websites, The Spit Take's list of contributors regularly contribute to publications including Variety, New York Magazine, GQ, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Time Out NY, Las Vegas Weekly, The Denver Post, The Boston Globe, and many, many more, and they are all paid for their efforts. "The enjoyment of comedy can be subjective, but The Spit Take's contributors show not only why some material is inarguably of higher inherent quality, but why it matters. We prefer to provide context, insight, and unbiased honesty."
A reading event to celebrate the book's publication and the one-year anniversary of The Spit Take will be Thursday, Feb. 21, 6:30 p.m. at Manhattan's The Stand Comedy Club. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased by calling Brown Paper Tickets' 24-hour customer service at 1-800-838-3006, or online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/324330.