My last performance got me thinking a little about what I like the most about stand-up comedy and what I discovered is that I like the truth. Wow, right? What a concept. But follow me… I like the raw, embarrassing truths that all human beings have in common. Set aside dick and masturbation jokes and enter Thursday’s “Awkward” show at Comedy Bar. It was a series of performers, mostly comics, telling real-life stories that happened to them. They varied in nature, but one thing they had in common was this notion of “this is the kind of thing that happens to us all.” The only difference is, most human beings try to forget these events ever occurred, whereas we comics like to recount the tales over and over and over again, to make people laugh and just for a second, as a friend of mine at the show put it, to make people feel like their lives are pretty damn OK in comparison.
One woman shared some of her writings from when she was pregnant, another read from her grade school and high school diaries. One gentleman recounted his experience with a panicky first kiss, well into his twenties! For me, it was an unfortunate bicycle accident. (Which to some of you who have heard the story, know that that’s somewhat of an understatement.) The stories were great, and they even inspire me to write some more personal/embarrassing tales, but with this brings along a certain amount of emotional baggage, unfortunately.
One of the guys mentioned that the Awkward show was like a therapy session, except instead of speaking to someone comforting, you’re on stage with bright lights shining in your face and rest of the room is so dark you wouldn’t know there was anyone in the audience, except you DO know they’re there… and most of them are strangers. So, to tell a group of strangers some of the most intimate details of your life…not so therapeutic. The bicycle story doesn’t really bother me, despite its private nature, because there wasn’t much emotionally involved…apart from the ridiculous amount of crying that took place and the bonding with my roommate that occurred as a result. (I miss you, Steph!!)
I’ve been trying to think of some other tales I can tell, of a personal nature, with which many can sympathize, and a lot of what’s surfacing carries with it much emotional baggage. I wonder if my colleagues in the Comedy program share these kinds of moments?! Can one becomes able to separate emotions and feelings of say; sadness, loneliness, pain or fear in order to produce comedy. It seems like a question of extraction. For all the suffering you endure, there’s a tiny amount of funny you can squeeze out, and if successful, it’ll hit everyone else precisely where you want it to; on a level they all understand and that they can feel.
That’s what I want to do. I want to make people feel.
Numbness and apathy can suck it.