What Will Meerkat, Periscope, Etc. Do For Comedy?

Chances are that you’ve probably seen the words ‘meerkat’ and ‘periscope’ somewhere in one of your social media or news feeds recently. If you’re wondering, there isn’t a new meme with Timon from The Lion King or some brand new theme park on a submarine. 

Meerkat and Periscope are two mobile apps designed for live streaming and broadcasting video. For both audiences/fans and comedians, there is a lot of potential for such technology in so many different ways.

The coming months will only show whether those ways are a net positive or negative. 

As an upside, comedy folks of all types can live stream whatever funny thing they’re doing just from their phone. Already you have the likes of Paul Feig, Jim Gaffigan, Judd Apatow, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Hart, and Jimmy Fallon already on Periscope or Meerkat or both.

We’ve even heard of a podcast, Dad Jeans, doing Meerkat broadcasts on top of recording the audio of their podcast for people to download and listen to later.

It won’t be too long before someone uses either app to live stream an entire live comedy show or event. There have been various desktop platforms including methods on YouTube and Dailymotion to live stream shows in the past, but doing so from a mobile device has to potential to be way bigger then all of those. 

However, the ease of this live streaming technology presents a new problem for comedians. 

Already, using your phone to illegally tape a performance can be an issue at many live shows, making many bigger name performers tense to go to shows where they don’t have complete control of the audience. With Meerkat and Periscope, any audience member with the app can live broadcast exactly what’s going on stage. There’s no being able to tell them to delete it later in order to prevent the Internet from seeing undeveloped material or an uncharacteristic subpar performance or, perhaps, a meltdown. 

While that could capture great moments that wouldn’t exist again such a comedian handling a heckler or Bill Burr’s rant against Philadelphia, a line is blurred when it comes to things like Katt Williams fighting audience members or Hannibal Buress making the whispers of Bill Cosby’s rape allegations into something that the whole world can’t ignore.

Are you illegally recording or doing something that you think is a civic duty? 

Imagine how many people would have out their phones out when an audience member went into a disgusting rape story at ASSSSCAT four years ago if Meerkat and Periscope existed then? 

How about someone working out jokes for one of Comedy Central’s roasts that gets taken out of context?

So many words have been written about how comedy needs to cross lines of taste and decency in order to make fun of many unquestioned institutions. That’s just how it works. 

Hell, when comedians start out, they say and do all sorts of awful things because they’re figuring out how to do comedy. It’s one of the most painful things that exists among all art forms. We’ve personally seen and heard so many awful things at open mics that could spark outrage online but were only meant to be tested at open mics. Then, if they fail, they are most likely never done again.

Given how the Internet is always at-the-ready with torches and pitchforks for the slightest hint of something to get mad at, people “Meerkat-ing” or “Periscoping” a bit, again, out of context might make doing comedy live harder and more frustrating than it already is. 

Of course, this is all new technology and maybe none of this will happen. 

Maybe all of it will happen. 

It’s honestly too early to tell.

We definitely would like to see comedians being able to Periscope or Meerkat into a show or festival half way across the globe. 

Certainly, we can be sure that comedians on stage will be a lot more jumpy when they see a phone out for a long time.