There's a thread lauding the wonderful comedy eps recently released on AST over in the News subforum. Thanks, perhaps, to sales via iTunes...a particular bit featured on the Dan Telfer ep has gone viral on YouTube--so much, that Dan may be considering retiring the bit.
It's a fair assessment of the situation. Comedy depends on surprise. If a significant number of people have seen or heard the bit in question, that surprise is lost.
On the other hand...comedy is also about recognition. If you became a fan of a performer thanks to a comedy album or a comedy special...and you went to see that performer, you're likely hoping to see them perform the bits that you're familiar with...after all, that's why you like them. And fans have no problem with constantly repeating their favorite bits of their favorite performers.
I had the opportunity to work with Jim Gaffigan early in my comedy pursuits. He was very excited about a new chunk of material that he'd been working on...it was the material he really WANTED to perform. However, he admitted some concern...and was leaning towards NOT doing that material, because he felt that people coming to his shows wanted to hear classic bits like "Manatees"--the stuff they'd heard from him on the comedy radio shows he was featured on locally, the stuff from his CCP--and that they'd go home disappointed if he didn't do that stuff.
I don't know if my response had any impact on him--as he was likely just voicing an internal struggle--but I assured him that the people in the audience wanted to see HIM perform...that they'd find whatever he did for them to be brilliant and worthwhile...that they'd be thrilled if they heard material they knew OR to hear brand new stuff they'd never heard before...
(This being a few years ago, the "new" material in question, by the way, was "Hot Pockets" and "Cake"--it's hard to imagine that he was uncertain about whether or not he should do those bits...!!!)
On the other hand (and as documented on the "Believe" DVD)...over in the UK, Eddie Izzard actually had to defend himself against fraud allegations when he audiences going to see him perform early on during his "Circle" tour were given a performance featuring material from his "Dressed To Kill" DVD (as was Eddie's process, he'd begin a new tour by mixing new material into his previous act, so by the middle of the tour, he'd have an entire new set of tested workable material.) NOTE: Eddie never toured "Dressed To Kill" in the UK...but people in the UK had the DVD...
...and then there was the Sarah Silverman in the UK story, where fans were upset that most of her 45 minute show was material that was found on "Jesus Is Magic".
ON THE OTHER HAND (how many hands are there?)--there's the rather frightening thing that was happening to Brian Regan a few years ago...where he'd come back for an encore, ask the audience for requests...he'd start the bit and then, like U2 fans singing "40", the audience would all recite the bit, word for word... The fans, celebrating their communal knowledge (I saw Brian last year, and he had specific encore material...so this weird concert comedaoke wouldn't happen again.)
I've seen performers build new bits on the backs of older popular bits--and using the sly reference to the previous bit as a recognition laugh for aware fans.
There's an irony to the basic truth that the very things that best promote your comedy the best--putting an album out, getting radio play, getting on tv, doing a special--will "burn" the very material that you've used to get those opportunities.
When you do a special or an album, you're pretty much locking that material in amber. You can ride the promotional value of those things for awhile...but with in due time, you're going to have to craft something entirely new and leave what has been documented behind.
That's a very good motivation to ALWAYS be writing...because you can't just ride one group of material forever, unless you manage to avoid any success (or even any camera phones...you know this viral video stuff has no respect for your plans and schemes...)
So...raise a toast to Dan Telfer. Popular enough now to lose ownership of something wonderful.
Break's over...back on your head!
pg--Sadly, I've never experienced having a bit become popular enough to retire. All of my bits are still working 20 hours a day, making athletic shoes.--seattle