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How to use Bitcoin for Stand-up Comedy

Op-ed - How to use Bitcoin for Stand-up Comedy

“Loved your jokes. Here’s some bitcoins.”

That short email was where it all started. Some stranger was sending me some bitcoin because he liked my routine about fiat currency.

It was a short stand-up piece that I’d performed on an Australian TV show and then posted on YouTube. I bashed fiat pretty hard and it must’ve hit a chord because I got quite a few emails.

One of them was from this guy sending me bitcoins…

I was vaguely aware of Bitcoin, but didn’t really know too much about it.

But now someone was offering me some of this strange new currency I started getting curious.

Clicking on the link in the email took me to coinapult. This guy was sending me 0.007 of a Bitcoin, which at the time was about $2. Eventually I figured out how to set up a wallet and accept this small change.

I’m not sure if it was the process of figuring out how to set up a wallet, or the fact I now owned a bitcoin (well, 0.007 of one), but from that point on…

I had bitcoin fever. Bad.

Over the next few months I read everything about bitcoin I could find.

All the problems I hated about fiat currency bitcoin solved: private, practically no transaction fees, no government or bank interference – it was all so perfect.

I knew I had to do a stand-up routine on bitcoin.

If you’re not a comedian that might seem like a strange thought, but all my best routines have been on topics I’m passionate about.

Writing a stand-up routine about decentralized cryptocurrency wouldn’t be easy, but I thought if I could figure it out it might be a really great routine.

I also realised something else…

Even though I’d spent hours researching bitcoin and watching bitcoin related YouTube clips for days I’d never seen a stand-up bit about it.

Stephen Colbert had done a pretty funny report on bitcoin and in a Q&A Josh Blue had said mining bitcoin was a hobby, but as far as I could tell nobody had done what I was trying to do.

Was that because bitcoin is still so new and I was the first to get to the topic?

Or was it because it’s such a complex topic that “writing a funny Bitcoin stand-up routine is impossible?

I perform regularly on an Australian community TV show (it’s called Live on Bowen. Imagine a low budget Letterman).

I realised if I came up with some jokes and performed it on the show, I’d be the first comedian to ever do a bitcoin stand-up routine (on TV at least).

“I have to do a segment on Bitcoin.”

Every Monday the writers and I meet up to plan out the segments for the show. When I walked in and said that things got weird.

Usually one of us pitches a topic, say “iphones”, and the writers will throw out jokes and ideas for the next fifteen minutes.

Not this time.

“What the hell is a bitcoin?” someone asked.

We spent the next forty minutes discussing cryptocurrencies, mining and who Satoshi Nakamoto is.

I think I gave them a good education on what Bitcoin is, but we didn’t come up with any jokes.

These are writers who regularly come up with sketches along the lines of “What if the president of France was a watermelon?” but getting their heads around a decentralised cryptocurrency was too much.

Maybe writing a comedy routine about bitcoin was impossible…

If I couldn’t get the writers to understand Bitcoin in a forty minute meeting, how could I explain it to an audience in a three minute TV spot?

Still, I had about three weeks to come up with a routine about bitcoin and I wasn’t about to quit now…

The race was on…

I started writing jokes about bitcoin and performing them at comedy clubs. At first I got a lot of blank stares.

Imagine explaining Bitcoin to your parents. Now imagine they’re drunk and expect you to be funny.

Other comedians suggested I drop the routine, which is crazy because comedians are a pretty forgiving bunch.

If I was trying to develop a routine about Hitler they would’ve told me to keep trying, but one joke about SHA256 dies and they’re telling me to give up.

In the end this doubt was what pushed me to keep going. Now I had to prove to them (and myself) that I could write a routine about bitcoin.

Bitcoin became my Moby Dick.

I kept performing the routine, rewriting it and performing it again.

I’d go home after shows to read bitcoin blogs in the hope that I’d pick up just one little angle that could help me improve this routine.

I also kept looking for any other comedians doing bitcoin routines. It looked like nobody was.

Apart from a few memes, and some fairly amateur sketches, I couldn’t find any bitcoin comedy.

I just prayed another comedian wouldn’t come up with a bitcoin routine first…

Then as the day when I’d have to perform the routine on TV drew closer, another thought hit me…

I’d rewritten the routine about a hundred times by then and it was getting laughs at comedy clubs, but those audiences didn’t know about bitcoin.

How could I be sure the stuff I was saying in the routine was factually correct?

If only there were some experts I could test my stuff on…

Then, the day before the taping of the show, I was browsing and saw there was a Melbourne Bitcoiner’s group.

They were meeting that night!

It was like a sign from God.

I shot the organiser an email “Hi, Can I come perform a stand-up comedy routine about Bitcoin at your meeting?”

I was fully prepared for them to write back asking if this was a prank, but instead I got a reply saying they’d let me give it a shot.

That night, after a fairly heated discussion about alt coins, Asher Tan (CoinJar co-founder and organiser of the Melbourne Bitcoin meetup) handed me the mic.

“I hope you know what you’re doing…” he said.

“Me too!” I thought.

I walked out to about a hundred bemused stares, but when my first joke got a wave of laughter I knew this was going to be OK.

After the show I sat around with some of the nicest people I’ve ever met sharing bitcoin stories and listening to their suggestions about how to improve my routine.

Twenty-four hours later I was on stage in front of a live studio audience.

The host gave me an introduction, the camera swung onto me, and it was show time.

How did the world’s first ever bitcoin stand-up routine go?

Well, I think it went great, the studio audience seemed to like it, and I’ve had nice feedback from viewers, but don’t take my word for it.

Like Bitcoin I don’t expect you to trust a third party – ">go watch the routine on YouTube and make up your own mind.