[Marc] Maron’s not the only male comedian who’s been talking about his food issues lately—a topic that’s culturally associated with, well, teenage girls. Louis C.K. talks constantly about his weight...Patton Oswalt talks about his struggles with weight on his latest album, Finest Hour—and on this recent appearance on Conan. Oswalt jokes about getting out of breath when he dances with his toddler daughter—and about joining, then leaving, Weight Watchers, because the meetings didn’t have the same frisson as AA gatherings. “They're very helpful, but all my friends who are drug addicts and drunks, their meetings are awesome—they have all these dark stories: ‘I T-boned a school bus.’” Meanwhile, the stories at Weight Watchers are about being embarrassed in a bathing suit and trying to avoid pie...
It’s still at least somewhat taboo for men to be seen as obsessing about their weight, so talking about this publicly is their way of pushing the envelope. When they were younger, rebelling meant challenging the ruling paradigm or the trappings of middle-class life. “Now the enemy is really ourselves, and the struggle between accepting ourselves or hating ourselves,” Maron said.
Funny to me how this piece describes talking about weight as pushing the envelope. Was it pushing the envelope when Louie Anderson did it decades ago?
(Love this line: "When I go camping, the bears put their food up in the trees.")
I'd argue that "pushing the envelope" and "fighting taboos" is only a tiny part of why comics talk about being fat, single, balding, ugly, or other self-effacing stuff. They do it because 1) it gets laughs since it's the opposite of how people usually present themselves and 2) it disarms an audience.
I think it's tough to underestimate that second reason. I feel like being mean to myself onstage gives me more room to be mean to others too. After all, I'm willing to point the finger at myself so why not at the rest of the world too? Without self-effacing material, you start to seem like a pretentious, know-it-all asshole who thinks he's better than everyone else. Show some flaws and you humanize yourself.
Or, as Eddie Brill put it, get out of "you suck" territory and bring it into "we suck." That helps get an audience on your side. Then you can go wherever you want with them.
Permalink | 12/05/2011