The Vice Precedence: An Observation and Comparison of Audiences


I’m Spring Day (real name, hippie parents)

Moving back to the United States after having lived in Japan and traveling the world for 16 years has been a bit of a head fuck. My blog “The United States of Shock!” is where I give my brilliant and bitter two cents, pence, yen and euro on my experience with culture shock and current events. If you have any questions you would like to have answered in a snit, email them to

The first difference between America and the rest of the word that struck me was that in Japan and the U.K., alcohol is the primary and often only lubricant used for both social and sexy intercourse. Americans  simply don’t drink as much. Americans see ourselves as morally superior to the pull of booze or anything else vaguely European. Plus, we prefer prescription pills— pills so strong that heroin is the only under-the-counter generic alternative.

Prescription medication makes you feel good but it doesn’t really contribute to making a roomful of Americans at a comedy show feel connected or part of a group the way alcohol or mushrooms do. (FYI, magic mushrooms were legal to use, buy and sell in Japan until 2001. It was a hard decision for the country to make. How does an island full foodies outlaw a vegetable used in a literally mind-blowing salad? ) The two-drink minimum in most American comedy clubs is enough to set off a biochemical landslide in the brains of the average mainland pill–popper that will launch them into a distant and isolated mental space.

Doctors in Japan are extremely reluctant to prescribe anything stronger than an Aspirin for chronic or severe pain, because they assume you are self-medicating with several bottles of your favorite brew or sake anyway.  (On a side note, if you want to impress a Japanese friend or client, don’t tell them about how successful and accomplished you are, tell them a story about how you got wasted with your boss, punched him, stole a bicycle, fell off and broke your jaw on the curb. (This happened to a Japanese friend of mine, an elementary school teacher. Soon after, she became the principal.)

Societies where the social lube is primarily alcohol are arguably easier to do gigs in. The attitude being that people in those countries were going to go out and drink copious amounts of beer anyway. They might as well do it front of some people who are trying to be funny and if the comedian isn’t funny, that’s kinda funny cause it’s awkward and awkwardness is really funny when the audience is drunk.

In places where nearly everyone is on medication that prohibits operation of heavy machinery or driving, a comedy club or a or a bar show isn’t often on the itinerary. These people are often pulled in off the street by a barker promising a magical night of hilarity if they forgo their dinner, shopping or sightseeing plans. Often the shows go quite well and everyone is happy, but a bad gig is particularly painful. The audience, not drunk enough to see the humor in a failed gag, ends up feeling sorry for the performer and (often) having no idea when the show will end, is too busy thinking about the best way to leave the venue without causing attention to themselves and is unable to pay attention to the show.

I’m not saying one vice is better than the other. I’m saying they are both pains in the ass when it comes to audience members. The nice thing about an audience member being drunk is that you you know what that looks and smells like—you know not to give the person in question too much attention or your real name. (Especially if you suspect them to be your real dad.) Being drunk is a temporary state that most people have experienced and recovered from.

If you meet someone who is on some heavy pharmaceuticals for a chronic condition, how are you supposed to know his/her tremors aren’t because he/she is excited to meet “famous” you? How are you supposed to know short-term memory loss isn’t just a neg tactic used by awkward software engineers to get laid? (“Wow! You were so funny! I don’t remember what you said, but it was hilarious.”)

How do I deal with this? When I’m on stage, I just assume everyone’s drunk. Offstage, I find it best to assume anyone coming up to talk to me after a show is on a pill regimen strong enough to gag Elvis. It gives me the ability to find the grace I need to have when an able-bodied pill-popper tells me they liked my show because they have identified as “disabled” themselves ever since they chipped a tooth bungee jumping. It always helps me to remember that nobody enjoys comedy because they are emotionally healthy or whole. Comedy is a balm applied to both an emotional scrape and bullet wound. That said, chipping your tooth while bungee jumping does not make you disabled. It just makes you a rich dumb c#nt.

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