Comedy can be Brutal. I mean its tricky. Some comics can make me want to go outside and scream “Why?”, repeatedly, others to shake my head in awe of their lack of humor, and still others might, if I’m lucky, engender a chuckle or if I”m lucky, more.
Last night I joined four other friends to a standup night at our local Brentwood Social Club, a great coffee/tea house with activities galore to appease those of us who would rather talk, sip and nosh than watch ESPN, drink copious amounts of booze in order to lessen our inhibitions and hookup with a wanna be Gates or Bezos.
We had just dined at a local Thai restaurant, chatting amicably about all sorts of stuff, politics included. To say we were game, especially after the banter about politicos, for something to laugh about, is an understatement. I for one, additionally wanted to make my core muscles have a workout with a major guffaw – I seek out indirect exercise as much as is available, also better than 20 reps of sit-ups. Can I say, it was difficult?
Most of the young (under 30) comics were painful, embarrassing and even without their chronological deficiencies, juvenile. I mean how much do we really need to hear bad rants (that’s being charitable) about pot, bodily functions and hookups -straight or LBGTQ matters little to me, its just so droll. Was it a generational thing? I, don’t, think, so. But maybe.
I must confess that I too have, in the past, been up there, on the stage, standing, ranting, about an assortment of things, ex: dating when over 50, shopping for shoes, being an environmentalist at Home Depot in the pest control section. I observed, I stood, I entertained, earning much laughter and applause, though never money. But who’s counting? I understand well the nerve it takes to get up there and bare my comedic soul in front of complete strangers, some who might want to throw ripe produce at me, for my ineptitude, were it available. That is a comic’s cross to bear, which for a nice Jewish girl from LA, was awkward. But back to last night.
There was one African American comic who attempted to work jokes about race – which if I could give him kudos for playing to coffee house whitefolk in “hip” Austin, I would. His humor, though I got it, cause I’m old and wise, mostly didn’t work for that audience – even though later I considered how he might’ve done otherwise, and still I was unable. The last guy, whose jokes were intelligent, mostly funny, and reminiscent of Seinfeld, gave me at least a trickle of giggles to keep the standup evening from being a total loss; then again it might’ve been from the pent up energy I had stored in deep anticipation of wanting my cheek and belly muscles to hurt.
During my long ago six month foray into the standup world…and my many years presenting expressive arts to trauma survivors in enclosed spaces: jails, schools and shelters, I learned the major rules of engagement: KNOW your audience. Granted, our senior group of five was a dingy in a sea of younger souls, but shit, we count, don’t we? And funny should translate, if its…funny.
I realize I might be hypercritical, which comes with having seen a lot of decades and being the utter and completely unabashed snob that I am. Comedy is a tough game. I got out because I refused to bomb, and I did the last two times I went on stage. That was enough. Hopefully the standup kids we saw last night will mature along with their material, or they will go do something else creative that doesn’t include possible repeated ridicule which also means few laughs or applause. Comedy can sometimes be really funny, but mostly it is just brutal.