Wednesday, January 03, 2018

What it takes to be Funny!

We open the Unbelievables in Melbourne tonight, so there will be time tomorrow to talk about Hamer Hall and the audiences of Melbourne.  Although it doesn’t have the legendary status of the Sydney Opera House, I like Melbourne’s Hamer Hall much better so far.  We did one preview last night and although like any theater it takes time to figure it out, this one seems to be more friendly to comedy.
But speaking of Comedy.... Harrison Greenbaum is the “host” of our show. He is a good magician, a funny comic and a very nice guy.  Rarely do you find all three of these qualities in one person.  It usually comes down to a choice of one.  Harrison is also  the hardest working man in show business.  

He is constantly revising his introductions for the acts, finding new local comedy references and doing everything he is asked to do.  No matter what the producers or director require of him, including very long hours and minimal consideration, he always has a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, without a cross word to anyone.  This accomplishment is much more than I have been able to do with only two spots in a two hour show. 
Not only is he working the show he is working his own act.  Every city we go to he contacts the local comedy clubs and books a spot for himself.  After seeing him perform at a club here in Melbourne a couple of nights ago, he can’t be doing this for the money.  He is doing it to learn the Australian audiences. Harrison booked a late night spot after a long day of promotion and our first preview show just last night.  He said he wanted to get up and do some material one more time before opening night.  This was the third night he has been out performing in the area since we arrived. This brings me to the point of the blog.  

Harrison was by far the funniest guy at the bar turned comedy club where most of the cast went to see him. There were other comics filling the bracket and according to Harrison they are examples of the new generation of comic.  There were of course local references lost on an older American like myself, but I do know timing and the structure of a joke, and I know when an audience is NOT laughing.  I understand that most of the comics were working on their act and their stage presence was certainly no where near the professionalism nor polish of Harrison but still....

One wore a stretched out tee shirt that seemed to have been laundered sometime in the last 6 months.  He had a goofy smile and talked about his skinny arms.  He basically said it was hard to get laid with skinny arms.
Another comic said that he was deaf in one ear.  It was apparently the only thing of interest in his entire life.  His girl friend said the “he hadn’t heard the half of it”.  He was repressed because he had an unseen disability, envied those who had more obvious problems.  Basically he said it was hard to get laid because he was half deaf.  
Next there was a Ukraine female comic in a black leather motorcycle jacket and blond bangs that mostly hid her eyes, who did a turn.  Think of Natasha from Bullwinkles Boris and Natasha cartoons trying to do stand up. It was telling that the two Ukrainian performers in our group did not laugh once.  

Finally before Harrison “killed” ending that segment of the evening, there was a guy who talked about being epileptic.  I wasn’t sure if he was building tension with the idea that he could seizure at any moment on stage, or it was me who didn’t find his perspective appealing.  He basically said it was hard to get laid because of his epilepsy, because of the time he went into convulsions during sex, and could never repeat that stunning performance.  

Now to be fair this was an open mic night in a club that mostly featured a DJ and dancing on other nights.  And it has been a very long time since I was in a comedy club.  But as I said I think that I am more than a novice when it comes to funny.  I had a long talk with Harrison the day after.  He said that is the new trend in comedy, find something that makes you unique and riff on it.  It vaguely reminded me of some advice I heard from a comedy writer friend of mine long ago.  He said, “If you can’t think of something funny, think of something that irritates you and make that funny.”  His belief was the idea that comedy and tragedy are so close emotionally that one can lead you to the other. 
There is no doubt that not getting laid because you have a deaf ear, skinny arms or epilepsy is irritating.  But does that translate into something that we all can relate too?  The thing that irritates the comic has to be something that potentially irritates the rest of the audience.  The humor comes from the alternate way the comic deals with the irritation.  

Humor today is much harder than it used to be.  Disjointed jokes are no longer acceptable as an act.  The comedy must be personal, insightful and most of all funny. But political correctness has stiffiled the ability to make satrical insights, and we no longer accept stereotypes as strawdogs to make fun of.  People are no longer willing to laugh at differences in behavior and are offended if they are even pointed out.  It would be too easy for me to walk out of the comedy club and say, Well those comics weren’t funny.  They particularly paled in comparison to a seasoned professional like my friend Harrison. But you don’t look at a house being built and say “That house isn’t livable”.  You have to wait till it is finished. Taking a second look at the comics who were up on stage, knowing the shear courage it takes to get behind that mic, and the barriers they face in acceptable material I wonder how anyone does it.  So, rather than judge and sit on the porch and say, “these comics today...”. I will wait till they get the final coat of paint on their acts and then decide. This job of being funny is getting so much harder. 

As you were,

1 comment:

P. Grecian said...

The job of being funny is getting so much harder...and boy is that irritating.