Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2005-12-02

Make 'Em Laugh

How funny is your library? Stand-up comedy is making quite the big, splashy comeback lately. Is it well represented in your library's collections? And what can libraries & librarians learn from stand-up comedians?

A few years ago, Margaret Cho started releasing concert films of her tours for I'm The One That I Want, The Notorious C.H.O., Revolution, and most recently, Assassins. Then David Cross, formerly of HBO's cult favorite Mr. Show With Bob & David (all seasons of which are available on DVD) and presently of the all-but-cancelled Arrested Development, released his scathing, profanity-laced, and certifiably hilarious double-CD, Shut Up, You *&^%$ Baby! on venerable indie-rock label Sub Pop Records. This Summer, Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame released a gut-bustingly funny documentary about the most disgusting and offensive joke ever told, The Aristocrats. Now, Sarah Silverman (who stole the show in the aforementioned film) has a concert film out, called Jesus is Magic, and she's been interviewed on the ordinarily excruciatingly tasteful Fresh Air. The films usually get modest distribution at art-house theatres and sell well on DVD. The accompanying concert albums tend to do pretty well, also.
(Classic comedy albums by the likes of Richard Pryor, Stan Freberg, Phyllis Diller, Bill Cosby, and Steve Martin are either still in print or are coming back into print, too.)

What's interesting about all of this? The comedians are doing it themselves -- financing their tours with the concert albums & films, getting independent distribution for their work, cross-marketing their shows with their merchandise. They're also using the Internet like nobody's business, both to market their work and to connect with fans and potential fans.

Now, as much as I personally love the comedians mentioned above, the comedian I'm most interested in is one I'd never heard of until I started seeing his name in every magazine I picked up this July and August. This enterprising fellow is Dane Cook. Dane Cook tours relentlessly. Dane Cook is hosting Saturday Night Live tomorrow (note to self: set TiVo to record!). Dane Cook has released two concert albums in the last two years. Dane Cook has a blog. Dane Cook podcasts. Dane Cook answers all of his [incredibly copious] fan e-mail personally. Yes, really. Dane Cook will IM with you if you use AOL IM. Dane Cook has a MySpace account. Dane Cook knows how to work it.

How can we learn from Dane Cook? Let's think about how we're marketing ourselves, about our online and real-world presences. Are we there for our fans/patrons? Are we using their technology to connect with them the way they want to be connected with? What would be the libraryland analogue of a really funny, guerrilla-marketed stand-up comedy concert film? What would be the libraryland analogue of getting interviewed on Fresh Air?

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