Sunday, January 24, 2010

Funny people...

I have had the privilege over the past twenty years of being a comic and watching the funniest comedians in the world. I mean, seriously, the funniest people in the entire world.
I have worked with and laughed with at least a thousand stand up comedians. People that are amazing on stage, but off stage even more amazing. I have spent countless hours sitting around back rooms of comedy clubs talking about traumatic circumstances that have brought these people to a place where the only way their life makes sense is to make others laugh. I have also huddled in corners with other comics and laughed so hard, I have actually wet my pants. Yes, I did. People that are so naturally funny that everything they say either makes you smile, or laugh so hard the club manager tells you to keep it down.

I have not only had a life filled with laughter, I have sought out laughter. You get on the plane, or in the car, or get on your feet, and you go where you know funny people are going to be.
I have seen comics that are so good at what they do that I can't even laugh. I watch, and think, "Wow. I suck."
I have also seen some bad comedy. I mean... bad. Comedy that is so bad you actually feel sick for the person on stage. You feel uncomfortable and if you have a heart at all, you can't even watch.
In the middle of the comics that are brilliant and the comics that shouldn't ever tell a joke, even at a BBQ, there is a beautiful, fascinating process that helps a comic evolve possibly into a genius, but most likely, they become a really great comedian.

They pace the back of the club looking down every now and then at their notes. They mumble to themselves, walking, back and forth. Every other comic in the universe has done it and we all know, leave that guy alone. They know they are almost up so they take a quick glance at the page and up they go. It's going to happen or it's not. They get off stage and take another look at their notes and access what's going to happen with this bit or that bit. As they do this other comics may say, "When you do that one thing, you should try this, or that." Then they have to think about that and if the idea can save the bit, or if it's going to get shoved back in the notebook because most of the time you're thinking something about this is funny but I don't know what. They're dead jokes, but, one little line can bring them back. For me most of them stay dead because of the fear that if I got the same response twice, which is silence, I will have to double my anti depressant. I have found most comics are like that. You can go up and completely tear the walls down, but that one little line doesn't get a laugh? You suck.
Another thing that's common with comics is that you can make every single person in the room laugh so hard their white wine is spraying out of their nose, but that one fucking guy that WILL NOT even smile is the ONLY person you can see.

You come off stage and people say, 'great set', and all you can think is, 'Please. It was not a great set. Did you see that guy?' Now people are saying great set and you know they are clearly lying because if I was really funny that fucker would've laughed. Why am I even a comic? Then you watch the guy and he gives the same dead look to every one that goes up, but that doesn't matter. And you know where the I don't think you're funny guy ALWAYS sits? The front row, glaring you down with those beady, angry eyes.

Sometimes people like this will actually show you how unimpressed they are by you that as your speaking they read menus or literature that is on the table. The only way to handle this is to tell the comics that are going up after you so they can address them during their set, and by the way 'hacky' lines are fine in this situation. Something like, "Hey, man. You're at a comedy show. Tell your face."

For twenty years it has been an honor to work with some of the greatest comics from all across the country. But it has also been an honor to work with really funny people just beginning their journey in to the art of stand up comedy. It's great to see a veteran comic go up and completely rip the room apart. But it is also so cool to see a brand new comic nervously tell a joke, and it works. You can see the almost surprised look in their face while they are still standing under the lights.

And that one laugh begins a life of getting on the plane, getting in the car, and walking to find where the laughs are. Good times.

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