Stand-up Comedy is the Reality Television of Broadway

When the American Theatre Wing went so far as to create a category at the Tony Awards for recognition of the season’s “Best Special Theatrical Event” in 2001, these stand-up comedy shows, like Cantone’s Laugh Whore, became eligible for Broadway’s highest honor. Despite the ill-advised award category being “retired” after only nine years, a show like Long Story Short, directed by Jerry Seinfeld, continues to earn the moniker of a Broadway show, including having a traditional Playbill printed for its run.

If any form of entertainment can so easily join the ranks of theatrical productions, what’s to stop a band from renting out a theatre on the Rialto and playing a concert under the guise of a Broadway show? Obviously, nothing, as the ’80s band Duran Duran proved in 2007 when they put up shop in the Ethel Barrymore Theater for a brief stint, which included those recognizable black and yellow Playbills.

Passing off stand-up comedy as a Broadway show, intentionally or not, does nothing but confuse the terminology of theatrical standards, whatever those might be. The next time someone bumps into Stephen Sondheim, why not ask him if he thinks Long Story Short should be up on the shelf alongside A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg.

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