Got to see a comic who's normally a one-liner guy break out of his shell the other night. His gf had just broken up with him and it seemed like he was taking it rough and needed to talk about it.
Well, saw it again a week ago. Comic split with his long-term gf and got on stage to rant about it. And man, it was really great. Just a raw, fresh, honest opening up of emotion in joke form. Whole crowd on the edge of their seats. Pain → vulnerability → big laughs. And then if one joke didn't do well he'd just follow up with the truth and get a laugh off that. The pauses and authenticity of what was happening made the whole thing sing.
The challenge: Bottling that up. Keeping those jokes alive as the pain recedes. How do you keep that same energy going after you do those jokes for months? Or is it even possible? Maybe if you're a great actor. But otherwise...
Also, it was interesting that he threw in a couple of older jokes he had about his gf. And they fell flat. Just seemed way outta place with the rawness of the current stuff he was talking about. Those other jokes seemed like playing with legos and the REAL stuff he was talking about seemed like building a bridge.
Was also talking about this with Emily Gordon. She wrote a post about ladies in comedy which mentions some similar stuff. Here's an excerpt:
The difference I see between funny and not funny dating bits is that the comics I like a) aren’t trying to shock the crowd with how vulgar they can be (hey look, she’s just like a man!), and b) are NOT actively processing their love lives onstage.
This means that rather than being like “oh god I had this date with this guy and ended up on the floor of his apartment half naked and he won’t call me but I need to get my shirt back ha ha ha my life is a mess”, the female comics I prefer have had the experience of a messy hookup, processed it with their friends/therapist/whatever, and are now just commenting on their own situation from a safe distance. Watching someone process their own lives onstage is uncomfortable. Men, sadly, often have their processors turned off, so they can skip straight to the terrible rationalizing from a safe distance. This makes for easier joke writing but miserable emotional stability.
Matt Ruby, who I talked to about this, mentioned that he thinks watching someone process something painful onstage can be extremely hilarious, and I do agree with him. To me though, onstage processing of trauma is a heavy, tricky tool that should be wielded carefully, lest you chop your own arms off with it. For me, I need to feel like whatever trauma you’re actively going through onstage is out of character for you, not just another week in your life. And I need to feel like it’s your first time talking about it. Fake, rehashed processing feels a bit like when I saw Korn in 10th grade and had the realization that he writhes on the floor in supposed agony and torment every single night.
Good points. Plus that last thing made me think of Richard Lewis as the Korn of comedy. Which I guess he kinda is.
Permalink | 6/30/2010