Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Thoughts about comedy

In Skagway the weather is overcast and I am a little under the weather myself. So I sit here on deck seven in contemplation. I was thinking about comedy.
A joke always works on the element of surprise. You think you know where it is going but you are shocked by the turn. Comics have to look at life and see those odd turns and find ways of expressing them.
Of course times have changed and what is acceptable to talk about has become more base. Subjects that were taboo once are now fair game.
I am uncomfortable with scatological humor or what would be considered off color. Today it struck me why that is. In order to come up with that style of humor you have analyze it and study it. To write it or perform it I will have to spend my time thinking and observing that side of life.
For example if I wanted to do fart jokes I would have to observer how I fart how others fart when they fart and the detailed procedure of farting. I realize as I sit here, I don't want to spend my time off stage considering that side of life. It is not that a joke might be funny and make me laugh. George Carlin and Richard Pryor could make me guffaw at some very sensitive subjects. But to accomplish that they had to fill their mind with every aspect of that subject. And as funny as they both were I am not sure either would be the poster boy for a stable life. Who knows but could the things they constantly contemplated have created that tortured life? I am certain it shaped their comedy.
It is true that you will see what ever you look at. If you look at only one side of life long enough you will be unaware of any other facets.
As much as I like performing and as much as I get to perform, I am off stage more of the day than I am on. So it is more important to me what goes on in my brain the majority of the time. I don't want to spend moments like this one contemplating how and why and where the people around me are farting for the sake of a two minute bit on the subject.
Life is just too short and some will trade a lot of that life for a good chunk of material. I just don't see it as a fair trade. That's my opinion yours may be different. As you were,


Neale Bacon said...

I love what you had to say on this subject. I had never thought of why I had avoided this type of humour..and now I get it.
I, like you, don't want to fill my head with that kind of material.
Good stuff!

Neale Bacon
Burnaby BC

Dave Robison said...

I characterize my act as "adult" often R-rated, generally a strong PG-13, not so much in language but in subject. I was once chastised by a booker for being "dirty", while the other comics on the bill dropped the F-bomb and talked endlessly about bathroom habits. Never could figure that one out.

I certainly see your point, of course, but I wouldn't say I dwell on the baser things in life. I certainly wouldn't take the time to study farts, but I probably do study at some lengths other aspects of life that somehow wind up "sounding dirty".

Lately, I have tried to write "clean" in order to widen my venue opportunities and to study the same aspects of life with a different perspective and still remain funny.

As always Jay, you give me more things to think about.

David Hoyle said...

As a comedy writer, I am frequently asked to either, help keep comedians from the dark side, or..reel them back. The issue with observational comedy, is that most of the 'everyday' stuff..leaving the light on at home when going on holiday..farting..bla bla.has been done and, you end up simply cloning the act, albeit. in a different voice and character than the other guy / girl. So.. what I think you may be feeling what many other actors and comedians are currently feeling. Take Why should I sell my soul to the man.... or..perhaps..time to reinvent myself???