Influences: Comedy (part 2)

I felt my previous post on comedy went long, so I am writing a “Part 2” to delve more into stand-up.

I love stand-up comedy. Absolutely LOVE IT! I’ve been a fan since the age of nine. I appreciate the art form. I respect those who do it. I admire, and am blow away by, those who do it really well. It’s entertainment at the most bare bones level. One person, with a mic, on a stage, in front of an audience, making them laugh. That’s it.

A film actor has a director, lighting, make up, special effects, sound effects, music, and multiple takes to help them deliver the goods. Stage actors  have sets, lighting, sound, costumes, props, and often fellow actors to fall back on if things go awry. Bands have fellow musicians. Not so with stand-up comedians. They stand alone. They may kill or they may die. The victory or defeat will be theirs and theirs alone. That takes guts, and I respect that.

Side Note: If you want to do some additional reading on the subject, two great books to start with are Born Standing Up by Steve Martin and Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow.

I once heard it said that the type of comedy one enjoys reveals the type of person they are, exposing their underlying worldview. I believe that may be true.

I’m a fan of raunchy humor. Not exclusively, as you’d know if you read my previous post. I think Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan are funny, and neither is considered “blue” by any measure. Their material is clean and their subject matter seldom if ever controversial. I enjoy their work, but my go-to comedy drug of choice is rougher, edgier, and definitively adult. I want the R rated stuff. I want to hear someone who’ll get graphic and in-your-face about the mountains of crap in life – Louis C.K., George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Denis Leary, Lewis Black, Sam Kinison, Greg Giraldo, Bill Hicks, and the like. I’m drawn to comedians who will say anything – Anthony Jeselnik, Jim Jefferies, Zach Galifianakis, Lisa Lampanelli and others – no matter how offensive, off the wall, or inappropriate. I jones for comedians who fearlessly point out bullshit and manage to make it funny.

Why? Because, after 40+ years on Earth, I’ve come to believe that life on this planet is far too absurd to ever be taken seriously. If you do take it seriously, you’ll quickly be confronted with the endless dichotomy and disparity that is life; unimaginable wealth and indescribable poverty, hideous barbarity and breathtaking beauty, blissful love and heartbreaking loss, boundless joy and needless suffering, life and death. To retain your sanity, you must laugh to keep from crying.

There are truly awful, horrible, sickening, terrifying, depraved things occurring every moment of every day all over our planet. We Homo sapiens prove time and time again just how un-evolved and unenlightened we are. For that reason, I appreciate comedians who share my intense frustration with a world gone mad, who rant, rave, and curse the heavens, dropping F-bombs and hurling expletives in a valiant shock-and-awe effort to wake us up and thwart our seemingly inevitable destruction.

So, yes, I believe one’s taste in comedy does reflect – to a significant extent – one’s view of the world. Adult life is often harsh and graphic. Hearing another human being note that and explore it in all its ugly grotesqueness without shying away from the seamy, impolite aspects is cathartic. When those human beings, those brave, “blue” comedians, manage to take that harsh reality we all share and find humor within the absurdity, it’s healing. And that’s wonderful. And often very damn funny.

Tim Wardell is a deep thinker, gardener, husband, father, would-be science fiction sex comedy novelist, and margarita aficionado. When not doing any of those things, he reads, studies, practices, and blogs about sustainability.

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