(Source: quietsarcasm, via teamcoco)
Reading “The Associated Press Guide to News Writing” (because I write news and other things for a living, and it’s good to brush up), I came across this point:
“Never treat death, pain and suffering – human or animal – lightly or humorously.”
That’s good advice for news writing. But I think the opposite is true for comedy.
Death, pain and suffering are the only things worth treating humorously, in my opinion. Those things and the things that cause them, like hatred, injustice and chaos.
The best thing that comedy can do is to destroy fear, or at least mitigate it. Good comedy gives us power over our fears. Shitty comedy just distracts us from them, which is what a lot of people prefer, because that’s easier. It’s on the surface. To gain power over fear, we have to acknowledge it, and that’s uncomfortable.
Comedy should be uncomfortable. Sometimes it should be very uncomfortable. Sometimes when people say, “That’s not funny,” what they really mean is, “I don’t want to think about that.”
The point is this: If you’re going to just do a silly voice and a pratfall, get the fuck out of my face. (I say that with my standard disclaimer, which is that I’m as guilty of doing it as anyone, or more so.)
Making people laugh is the lowest form of comedy. — Michael O’Donoghue
I was in Montreal at the annual comedy festival, and they have a lot of street performers in Montreal, a lot of buskers I guess is the proper word, a romantic term for mimes and whatnot.
I was walking down the street and there was this huge crowd in the distance, gathered around something. I couldn’t really tell what it was, and as I got closer I saw that they were all looking up at something, but I still wasn’t clear what it was. And as I got closer I could hear them applauding and saw there, in the middle of the crowd, a guy in a clown suit on stilts, juggling. And people were just ecstatic. It was as if Jesus had come back. They were climbing over each other to put money in his hat. I looked at the spectacle of it and thought, “It’s a fuckin’ clown, you know, do we need another fuckin’ clown?” And then I kept walking down the street and about a block farther on another corner there was a guy playing saxophone. He was just standing there by himself and he was brilliant; he sounded like Coltrane, just blowing his guts out. Huge riffs. His neck looked like it was about to explode. No one was watching. There was like fifty cents in his sax case and a little stack of CDs. I looked up the street and saw a fresh crowd starting to gather around the juggling clown. Meanwhile, this guy’s still blowing his guts out. Then he stops. I look at him and say, ‘Jesus, man, that was beautiful. Was that Coltrane?’ He says, ‘No, it’s an original, and if you like it so much, why don’t you buy my fuckin’ CD? It’s on there.’
‘All right,’ I said. I pick up the CD and look at it.
He says, ‘It’s cut three.’ I turned over the CD. You know what it was called? It was called ‘Killing the Clown on Stilts.’ — Marc Maron, “Attempting Normal”
I don’t care if I’m not on your team, I’d just like to be asked. — Every improviser ever (via jessedontthink)
Etiquette for starting an improv scene
If someone sets a chair for you, sit in it
I mean this both figuratively and literally.
I mean it literally. I’ve lost count of how many times I set a chair or chairs on stage only to watch my scene partners stare like the apes in “2001” encountering the obelisk. I’m not sure how to make that move clearer other than to point and say “Sit down” (which I actually saw someone do once). And I say this as a guy who’s usually really stupid at figuring out what my scene partners want. When someone puts a chair on stage, I get really excited because I actually know what to do.
Untitled: A TOUGH LOVE GUIDE TO INDIE IMPROV -
I will often reach out to established groups, as well as veteran improvisers to participate in special features. These improvisers bring name value to my show and they are doing me the courtesy of performing for free. I don’t expect them to donate and they are welcome to sit in the lobby during their hour.
If you have submitted, you have asked for stage time – therefore you do not meet this criteria. So why are you sitting in my lobby and disrespecting the other teams in your hour? If you think you’ve paid your dues, you’re wrong.
I think I understand Chad’s point here. If a promoter invites certain improvisers to perform at a show while the rest of us are submitting, then yes, those improvisers are doing the promoter a favor by showing up, and the promoter can’t in all politeness ask them to donate, watch other improvisers perform, or do any other “favors.”
But they still should.
They should for all the reasons Chad explained the rest of us should. Because these shows are an important part of the local improv scene, and deserve to be supported, not just used. Because donating keeps the shows running for us beginners and students. Because staying to watch the other performers do their sets is a nice gesture. Because it’s just polite.
If Chad means that he doesn’t feel comfortable asking performers for donations after he’s invited them to do his show, I get that. Asking for that would probably be gauche. But I don’t think they should be encouraged not to donate. I don’t think they should be encouraged to sit in “his” lobby (or, more accurately, the Asylum Lab’s lobby) instead of watching the show. They shouldn’t have to be asked; they should just do.
These performers are literally our teachers, so when we see them behave a certain way — showing up to do a set and then leaving without watching anyone else — it absolutely sends the message that that’s OK to do. And while I appreciate and sympathize with the hard work Chad and all other promoters do to put up their shows, we performers do not see, know or care about who submitted versus who was invited, or any other part of how the sausage gets made. All we see is our role models not staying to watch us or the rest of the show.
Those of us who need the rooms and ask for the opportunity to work out in them owe it to the promoters and the other performers, our peers, to donate, and to stick around and watch them play. But I don’t believe anyone is exempt from those “rules,” which aren’t rules so much as common courtesies.
A true thing that’s often said about long-form improv is it’s beautiful how you get to perform these scenes that, good or bad, will happen only once and then disappear forever. What they don’t tell you is that the vast majority of the good scenes happen in practice sessions.
I watched a Diamond Lion show not too long ago, and the show was flawless. But, there was a moment I noticed in one of the songs, in the middle of a bar, Eliza stumbled a over a word or two. They just came out as non-words. And why wouldn’t that happen? Making up a song on the spot is tough.
No more than four lines later, Eliza INTENTIONALLY stumbled over words and turned it into this kind of scat sounding thing in the middle of her line. She paid off her “mistake.” And, she didn’t do it again. She made her mistake seem like a choice, and then she moved on.
Casey Feigh did this kind of thing last night at Room 101.
Early in a macroscene that took place at a high school, Casey at one point obviously meant to say that a student parked their car in the teachers’ parking lot, but he stumbled on his words and accidentally said “teachers’ lounge.” The mistake got a laugh, but he quickly covered it by saying the car in the teachers’ lounge must be part of a senior prank. After that, senior pranks became a major through line for the macroscene. Brilliant.
Teachers and coaches often say that the best and most rewarding scenes come from the “mistakes” you make on stage. That ain’t no bullshit.
Improv, Fashion, and Puppies: Your Monitor (Stage Fright) -
I was reading Jay Mohr’s book, “Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live” and came across this:
Buddy’s theory was that the first time a comic goes onstage, his monitor is 100. Standing onstage is so foreign and standing in front of a live audience is so frightening that being yourself is the hardest thing to do. Yet in spite of nearly everything in your brain working against you, you still earn applause. Even though you had use less than 1 percent of your natural talent, people still saw a spark in you and wanted you to come back.