Family of Stand-Up Comics Reveal What It's Like To Be The Butt Of A Joke

The direct, in-your-face nature of stand-up comedy is one of its most notable features, however, there are times when people get offended by the surprise of being the subject of a joke. It's all well-intentioned, of course, but for some, that's doesn't make up for momentary jabs.

ZBeebs asked, Family/friends of stand-up comics: How do you feel when they tell stories about you as part of their act? Did they ask permission? Does it affect your relationship?

Submissions have been edits for clarity, context, and profanity.

Sometimes asking for permission is better than asking for forgiveness.

I do some stand-up but it's not my main focus. When my wife does something I think would make for a good bit I immediately ask her if I can use it for a joke. If she says no, I'll typically let it go. If I think it's really good, I'll prep the joke and run it by her again a few days later to see if actually hearing the joke will change her mind. If she's still uncomfortable, I don't use it.

Hey, if you can't laugh at yourself, where's the fun in life?

My husband is a comic. He always asks me before turning a bit about me or our kids into part of his act. I assume he may say things while he's working out material at open mics, but we always talk about it before he uses it during a "real" show. Overall, it doesn't affect our relationship much. If anything, we are able to be more open and honest with each other about our quirks and habits that are annoying. It also helps that we are both capable of laughing things off and are not easily offended. The bits he has that involve me are all in good fun and are embellished for a better punchline. We both know the truth about our lives!

Cons: it can be uncomfortable when I'm at a show and everyone stares at me, and I'm asked personal questions. People tend to assume that his jokes are the truth, but really they are a version of it.

Pros: A few years ago Chappelle was in town on my birthday. My husband (then boyfriend) opened for him, and he had the entire auditorium full of people wish me happy birthday and I got to hang out in the green room with all of the comics afterward. It was cool.

Seems like a totally normal relationship.

My ex is a stand-up comedian, and I would attend everyone one of those open mic nights in support. All his fans knew who I was, so when he made a joke about his sex life, they all knew it was about me.

I turned bright red, but it wasn't anything other than a tad embarrassing.

I guess it helps that it was a funny joke.

Why not go to have a good time in addition to showing up to be supportive?

My SO is a DJ. Not exactly the same but still the whole performance thing. I've been to all his shows. Some have sucked. I'm not going to be entertained though. I'm going because I love and support him.

No one wants to be a research subject on a date. Unless they're being paid.

I went on a date with a guy who was a stand-up comic (no-one notable) and the way he asked questions about my past relationships made it sound like he was digging for material. I should have invoiced him.

Talk about having arbitrary "lines in the sand..."

I'm a comic and a large part of my act is based on things I've experienced in my relationships, with women or my dad. I have about 15 minutes just about how my dad is an abusive criminal that made my childhood a living hell. We don't talk much but he called me one day to say he saw a video of one of my sets and he thought the bits about him were really funny, that was a surreal moment.

I've written material about most of my serious romantic relationships including my wife (now ex-wife), and only one woman has ever gotten mad at me and it was the strangest thing. I wrote a joke about a very personal aspect of our sex life and it alludes to her being dumb. Obviously, the first time I did it in front of her I thought that would lead to her being upset but SHE LOVED THAT JOKE. She used to ask me to do it anytime she would come to a show. A few months later I riffed a throwaway joke about how she replies to simple questions with Snapchat pictures of her dog, I get off stage, she tells me she doesn't think the joke is funny and is going home alone. The next day she Snapchats me a picture of her doing a peace sign and I never hear from her again. It taught me you can never tell what is going to offend or upset someone.

This is what having a brother is all about.

My brother is a stand-up comedian, he isn't a big name (yet), but as far as I know, he hasn't made a joke about me. He often asks me for advice for jokes or editing when he tweets jokes. He makes plenty of jokes about my parents, but they think it's funny.

However, if I am at one of his shows, he'll tell the other comics that I'm there and encourage them to heckle me, which is always entertaining.

Getting a random weighted blanket in the mail might not fix that anxiety right away...

My sister does stand up. She has a bit about the time I gave her a weighted blanket for Christmas a month early. I had just heard about them--they're designed as a coping tool for anxiety. She was having a tough time, so I was seized by the belief that she needed a weighted blanket ASAP.

So basically, she got this random package and was like "WTF is a weighted blanket and why am I receiving one in the mail???"

She didn't ask permission about the bit but did warn me ahead of time. I watched her perform it and it was well received. I was mildly embarrassed, perhaps, but mostly thought it was funny. As far as sister material she could use for comedy, it's pretty harmless. She does have sets that make other family members come off comically badly, and I just sound like an eccentric gift-giver. So I think I've gotten off easy so far and am very proud to have a badass comedian sister.

And yes, she has warmed up to the blanket!

At least give a shout out to your source of material...

A friend of mine once told me he used my exact jokes or just told stories about me when he was doing stand up. I don't think I have the ability to get the delivery right as I'm usually a horrific mess when speaking in front of anyone, so I don't mind too much. Don't hang out with that guy anymore for various unrelated reasons but I'm sure if he still does stand up he's probably still using my jokes.

Yelling at your kid after a show isn't a good way of showing you're not trashy...

I'm a drag queen / stand up comic. I do jokes about growing up white trash and realizing it later in life. My mom has no problem with me being gay or a queen (any longer), but after one show she came up to me and yelled at me that we were not W/T!!! ??? :/ We were... and still definitively are.

Being immortalized in jokes? Worth it.

I have been dating a stand-up comedian for about 4 years now. He does ask permission and is considerate of my feelings (especially when he bends the truth more than a little). I wouldn't really say our relationship has been impacted by it. He was already doing stand up long before we got together so I knew a bit more what I was getting into. The few jokes that do feature me I consider to be a small nugget of immortality.

"My dad, everyone... I told you so."

My dad is an unpredictable homeless looking mentally ill alcoholic so it was always gonna be dicey having him ever see a gig. He did once and I did a joke that mentioned him -not a bad one but he stormed the stage and was doing like bows and stuff. Ugh. I was mortified but tried to make it part of the show.

Supportive? Check. Not getting offended by jokes at her own expense? She's a keeper.

So, I was a standup comic for 8 years. Dated one woman who hated when I told jokes involving her, even though 99% of the time they were completely fictional and I just needed a subject for the joke (it's much funnier if it happened to me than to someone else). She had zero ability to laugh at herself but was more than happy to laugh at other people. She wasn't a good person.

My wife started dating me while I was already doing standup. The first time she heard a joke about her I think she was a little shocked, but she thought it was funny so she didn't care, and she liked the fact I was a comic and figured it would come with the territory. I never had to "get permission" on any jokes, though I told her that if she came to a show and there was one about her that made her uncomfortable to let me know and I would pull it (unless it was a DAMN good joke, then she'd have to live with it). She never took me up on that offer though.

There's a reason I married her. :-)

A situation that will never not be funny.

One of my buddies from college is constantly doing stand-up to try to either make it big in that realm or get a writing job somewhere.

One of his best bits involves this time where I shat my pants during class, and anyone that knows me would be able to piece two and two together and figure out it's about me.

If he ends up making it big I might ask him to at least change up the details a bit, but it's a funny story so if it helps him reach his goals, I'm all for it.

I'd be honored if this happened tbqfh...

The husband of a friend is a professional comedian. They had me over for dinner one night with a couple of other friends who are comedy writers. The next night I found out that they had me over for dinner because the writers were basing a character off of me and wanted to meet me in person. I've never asked for any details. I have no idea what my friend's husband had been telling them about me. I never asked if it was for a show they were currently working on or one in development. She told me it was nothing bad, they just thought I was interesting. Not sure I want to know how a comedian sees my life. This was years ago, we've never talked about it. I used to be mentioned in a bit her husband did about his wife's friend's, but it wasn't really about me.

Of course, keeping the wife happy has it's advantages too.

Oh man am I late to this, but what the hell. I'm a comic and married. It's pretty rare that I discuss my wife in my act, but on the rare occasions I do, she's always the hero and I'm the idiot. Just like in real life.

Of course, if you can't come up with original material, maybe comedy isn't for you?

My brother had this notebook he carries all the time. Every time we all get together, he listens and laughs at jokes then pulls it out and writes in his notebook asking people to help him develop the joke further.

He basically no longer live in the moment and turns every joke into an assignment. Can someone be less funny when they become a comedian? Yes, they can.

It's important to keep in mind that stories in comedy acts are greatly embellished.

My boyfriend used to do stand up. Some of the material about me was true or partly true and some of it was completely made up or about a different person and he would just say "my girlfriend" for brevity/relatability. I didn't care at all, for the most part, people understand it's not all true.

Religion may be "low-hanging fruit" but there's certainly no shortage of material.

My brother is a stand-up comedian. I grew very up religious and he... chose a different path.

In his act, he says terrible things about our mother, makes claims about the religion and his role in it that are false and basically takes everything I hold dear and stomps on it in order to get laughs out of people.

He's funnier than that. He's smarter than that. He doesn't have to try for the lowest denominator but he often does.

No permission was ever asked nor even contemplated. Sometimes he will tell me not to attend a show if he knows the material he will use that night would ruffle my feathers. So he at least tries.

Our relationship has been strained for a long time. He's long since mocked me and all I hold dear in public and private so I've gotten desensitized to it.

I do wish him success.

In closing, though, asking forgiveness is probably the way to go.

Stand up comic here.

I never ask for permission. I just tell what I think is funny, and if it works. It works. I might have a time where I'm with family and I go, "Oh, by the way, that one thing you did/said is in my act now."

They're mostly cool with it because they know it's in good fun.

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