Unfunny success

In a piece on slow comedy, Matt Shafeek relays some advice UCB instructor Michael Delaney once gave him.

“If you create a world with ridiculous characters, you may discover something funny in your scene. But I believe the stronger decision is to play real, grounded characters that are vulnerable and affected by the world around them. You take your time, perform at the top of your intelligence, and react realistically to what happens. Now, this won’t always lead to a hilarious scene. Sometimes you’ll have a scene that won’t be funny at all. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful. Sometimes you’ve just made some interesting theater. And if that sounds awful, know that the audience will not hate you like they will if you try to force something funny on them and it falls flat.”

Sometimes as a standup, I feel like laughter is holding me hostage. Like there's stuff I want to be talking about but I can't because it doesn't get laughs that are as big/frequent as stuff that I don't want to talk about. Should I talk about my mom's illness which can get tense or should I talk about sex stuff which hits hard? Your job is to get laughs and things can go south if you try to get to deep so it's tempting to take the path of least resistance.

Finding that balance between "interesting theater" and big laughs is a challenge. I guess it also depends on how you define success. Is it by laughs per minute or is it how engaged an audience is or is it how much they remember what you said afterwards or something else?

The ideal is to have it all. To create funny and interesting stuff that's deep, soulful, or whatever your ideal is. But if you do fail, it feels a lot better to fail talking about what you really want to talk about. There's nothing worse than selling out without ever actually selling anything.

1 comment:

myq said...

"There's nothing worse than selling out without ever actually selling anything."

Put that on a T-shirt and sell it!

(Or put it on a shirt and DON'T sell it.)

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