Recently, the Miami New Times published the results of a study from The Humor Research Lab and the authors of The Humor Code, Peter McGraw and Joel Warner, the findings of which claimed Miami as the 48th least funny out of America's top 50 largest Metro areas.
As the head writer of the Front Yard Theatre Collective, a sketch comedy/improv group born and grown right here in the Magic City, I read the study with interest, only to find that the methodologies used by the study and, therefore its conclusions were -- wait for it -- a joke. And a bad one at that.
When it comes to comedy, we're no New York, L.A. or Chicago, but we're certainly better than # 22 Lousiville-Jefferson County, Kentucky, or even #38 Albuquerque, New Mexico, (a city whose sole claim to comedy fame seems to be that Bugs Bunny always makes a wrong turn there). It seems the reasons we are ranked so low can be easily discerned by a reading of the study itself.
Buried on page 11 of their report, they reveal the methodology behind the rankings. Data collected by the researchers was weighted in the following order:
1. Traveling stand-up comedians favorite cities.
Why does it matter what comedians think of us as an audience? So not enough people laughed at some hack's riff on how bad airline food is, and that makes Miami "unfunny?" Local stand-up legend Daniel Reskin has been putting on comedy shows at various local venues for years. Our shows at the Front Yard Theatre Collective have shown me how much audiences love and appreciate comedy, and what a great crowd Miamians can be.
2. Number of comedy clubs.
The researcher's used "publicly available business listings" to assess how many comedy venues there are in a given city. ("Kids! Want a great career path? Can YOU use google? You too can be a researcher for a major American university!") A quick Google search shows the Improv (as "closed"), Jokes on the Beach, the Comedy Inn, and Just the Funny (the last one being the only venue that seems to currently showcase local talent on an ongoing basis).
The thing about Miamians, though, is that we are a determined, headstrong city. Venues? We don't need no stinkin' venues! Reskin has promoted comedy shows at Sweat Records. Otto Von Schirach, local music legend, headlined a Valentine's Day comedy show at Gramps. (I hate to think how Juleisy u Karla will react when they're told they're 48th best at anything.) The Front Yard Theatre Collective started at a stage built in a friend's front yard in Wynwood, and we've graduated to such venues as the Garrett, Time for Wine, and a bike theatre event, "Alice in Wynwoodland," that took place all over our fair city. (We're planning another bike event in the fall that will focus on Miami's own history.) That's not counting Comedy Central's South Beach Comedy Festival. So, merely looking at comedy-specific venues ignores where we Magic City comedians actually bring the funny.
3. Visits to funny websites.
Really? So we're less funny because we have shit to do besides go look at the LOLCats website ten times a day? Call me crazy, but wouldn't a place that has enough funny to satisfy its local needs be funnier than a place that has to outsource its cat-meme industries?
I'll stop going point by point as the criteria just breaks down into inanity. (They rank Google searches for comedy far higher than funny people who are from here, or funny people on Twitter who live here.)
Miami has a wealth of comedic talent. Life in the 305 borders on the insane every day, with frequent day trips across that border. If we didn't laugh at all the craziness, our murder rate would be much higher. It's why our major authors tend to be comedic (Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry), why our musicians tend to incorporate humor (Otto Von Shirach, Marilyn Manson -- he is joking, right?), even our sports-talk radio tends toward the absurdist (Dan LeBatard and Stu Gotz). We have a bunch of young talent, and there are stand-ups and Improv groups (Front Yard Theatre Collective, Just The Funny, Impromedy, Short Round, Sick Puppies, etc.) all over South Florida worthy of your time and money.
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So don't worry about what some eggheads think of us, Miami is a pretty great place for Comedy. Go check out a show, and don't murder anyone. Thank you.
-- Errol Portman