Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Death and Comedy

People are people and types don't change no matter what profession you find yourself pursuing.  I don't know much about the politics and personalities of a corporate board room, but I have navigated my way through a green room full of comics and novelty acts.  I assume the personalities are similar even though the business is different. 
We all know people who are "always on".  In the business world this might be a person who is always talking about their job, or their possessions or their status in a company. There maybe a disproportional number of comics with this type A personality for a logical reason.
Comedy is complicated and so close to the edge of tragedy and depression, they sometimes mask themselves with comedy. I don't think there is a standard psyche for a comic although it may attract more than its share of damaged personalities.  They are "always on" because they might not like who they are if they are not always funny. 
When you think about the courage a person must conjure when they go on stage, alone and face a crowd of strangers, you understand that ego issues might develop.  You have to believe you are the funniest person in the room or you would talk yourself out of being in the room. Don't let the audience see your insecurities, hide behind the laugh.  It is a comic's only shield of protection.
Years ago I was on a bus going from a ship in the bay at Ocho Rios, Jamacia  to the Montego Bay airport.  That is about a two hour drive along double lane highways with no traffic rules.  I have made the drive several times and survived.  It is not a public bus but transportation for the "fly on" entertainers aboard ship.  
On one particular trip there was four of us in a bus that could hold 12, a comic, a juggler, a ventriloquist and a young lady no one seemed to know.  I didn't know the comic very well, but the juggler and I had already spent many hours trading stories on the deck of the Navigator of the Seas.  We were having a nice conversation when the comic inserted himself into the discussion.  It quickly turned into a comedy routine for the comic and he began to dominate the chit chat.  
Either he ran out of material or took a breath but either way there was finally a welcomed lull in the one-sided conversation. I could see it in my juggler friends eyes. He was thinking the same thing I was thinking... "How do we wrestle the conversation back to anything except the Comic and his career."
The young lady had not said a word.  I assumed she was an entertainer so I took that moment to introduce myself.  She seemed sad.
I found out that she was not an entertainer but a passenger going to the airport to end her cruise early. Just as a conversation starter I asked her why she was leaving. She teared up and said there was a death in the family and she was called home. 
The juggler and I expressed our condolences. I was flying from Jamaica to Los Angeles that day... I asked her how far she had to go to get home.  She said, "I have to go to Cleveland."  She said it with a tragic tone in her voice. Whomever it was that died was obviously very close to her.
In that tender moment the comic said, "Cleveland, huh, I am going to be performing at Yuck Yucks in Cleveland next week, you should come by for some laughs."  It was extremely insensitive and inappropriate.  She turned to look out the window and did not speak to any of us for the rest of the trip. The comic went on to tell stories from his favorite comedy clubs. Nobody was listening.
Comic, actor, singer or zither player you have to get past yourself and understand when a group of people is or is not an audience. 
As you were,

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