stand-up comedy and craft

i’ve been working on some drawings lately – which is kind of funny after a month of performance-focused work on time, body, heavy social issues, etc, etc. perhaps it’s my come-down.

anyway, they’re pretty small, laborious little works about hip-hop and whilst i’ve been doing them, i’ve been watching/listening to stand-up comedy hours – specials from HBO by chris rock, eddie murphy, louis CK and george carlin, etc*.

of course, they’re funny. and it’s nice to laugh whilst you’re scratch, scratch, scratching pen across board. but i’ve also really enjoyed learning something from them too.

my friend rob often talks about using comedians for insight. and it’s their particularly warped way of looking at the world that i like, and relate to. these particular comedians are observant – they feed you back ideas about the world in a way that you never would have seen it before. but they’re also master performers – they can embody ideas, convey through mere expression, impersonate others and use their voice –  not just telling stories, but to push your way of thinking in directions you don’t want to go – in a way that is masterful.

i’ve been watching or listening to how they ‘dance’ across their images, and how much control they really do have over an audience, even when they don’t.

i’ve also taken to watching interviews with some of these actors on inside the actor’s studio and a great special produced by ricky gervais called talking funny.

and in these shows, i get to hear about the craft of comedy and comedic performance (which is heavy on the timing, but has halmarks of performing arts). these guys talk about getting out there and doing it. and paying attention to if it’s working – being honest to the bit and their life, but not ignoring that it’s covering a joke – it is artifice and experience in perfect measure (and everyone accepts the measure).

comedy is a tough gig and you suck at it for good while before you have a successful career (like art), which is about longevity and determination. these guys talk about just doing it. and continuing to aim high because they want to ‘be one of those guys’.

i enjoyed the honesty in that statement, because unlike art, it’s ok to want to be part of that crowd;
to have success and reach people and command something. and that obviously in the process of becoming one of those guys – honing their craft, they’ll be good and have something worthwhile to say and it will become honest.

*and i have to thank my friend Bonnie Davies who totally got me back into comedy by being one of those right funny bitchez, but also for giving me George Carlin to listen to during the OK Gallery performance.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

audience are people too

i’ve been going to stand-up comedy gigs a bit more lately. mostly because bonnie ‘fabulous’ davies is really active in the perth stand-up scene and has been generous in inviting me to gigs.

last night i went to chuckles gong comedy, which is quite the hilarious audience-participatory deal. 
the comedy is only as good as its judges and last night i had the fortune of at least seeing the first half with some ruthless judges (i’ve now made it a mini-mission to be a judge next month, ahem).
anyway, in a post-gig discussion about comedy, i found myself up on my soap box about sexism and misogyny in comedy. i know, how unusual.
this came about, not just because i’m a sweary, ranty feminist. 
some of the jokes last night were appalling. so many men using degrading portrayals women as a vehicle to talk about their dicks! i mean, seriously. there are only so many times i can hear about a dick on stage – not even performance art is that bad. 
classics like:
if women were ruled by their vaginas, they’d be freaked out by children’s heads;
ladies, if a guy opens the door, just suck their cock and save time;
when guys get caught checking out chicks…. (serious? never even been done before? wow)
and lots of whinging about being single (no shit, douchey mcdouche)
of course, because the audience was at least half full of blokes (friends with the mostly-male comedians), they get a few laughs. which is why they keep telling the damn things.
although ‘know your audience’ is excellent counsel for stand-up comedy, going for lowest common denominator is like shooting fish in a barrell. 
heard the one about ‘just because you can masturbate on a public bus doesn’t mean you should’?
just because you can be a sexist jerk and get some laughs doesn’t mean you should. 
to be able to make a room full of people laugh at dick and fart jokes is not actually that hard. 
it takes skill, true wit and real intelligence to be able to hold court and make a stack of people all laugh at what is common humour.
c’mon, just be fucking hilarious.
(and this is where i get sanctimonious.. )
i also don’t think a comedian’s role is just to get a few giggles and a bit of an ego stroke. 
most comedians are observant, interested in what makes people tick and on some level believe that a humourous way to look at life is an opportunity to sometimes say something serious. 
i think they can raise the standards of what people find humourous (and by definition, then, not funny at all). they can make the kind of difference on an audience’s perceptions than art can only dream of. 
i just wish they’d take that role and put it to good use.
and to women going to comedy nights, i reckon we should start heckling a little more. sick of hearing jokes about just sucking a guy’s cock when he opens a door for you ‘cos that’s what he really wants? BORING!! GET OFF!
thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx