My theory: Good writers are usually analytical types and can have a tough time tapping into right-brain loosey goosey stuff. And it's that weirder side that can lead to captivating performances.
I was talking to another comic the other night about this. I think he is a really strong writer. But I said I'd like to see him be weirder onstage.
See, he's already got a kinda geeky persona and I think it'd endear him to audiences if he went even further with it.
His response was something like "I've got some far out jokes that I don't tell because I'm scared they're too weird. So maybe I'll try them."
I explained that I wasn't talking about weird jokes, I was talking about acting weird. Embracing silliness. Dressing funny, talking funny, moving funny, whatever.
I think he got where I'm coming from but I'm not sure. The thing is when you're a writer, you always think writing is the answer: "If I want to be weirder, I should write weirder jokes."
But sometimes there's only so far writing can take you. I wasn't talking to this comic about writing weirder, I was talking about acting weirder.
I mentioned Zach Galifianakis as an example. The beard, the illfitting polo shirts, the random temper tantrums, etc. They're all there for a reason. Zach is a brilliant writer. But he also acts and looks really funny too. Emo Phillips is another example of a great writer who looks and sounds kooky.
Standup is two trains: writing and performing. If you're not using both of them effectively, you're doing it with one hand tied behind your back.
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing isn't always the answer
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