08 March 2014

The Secret Of Comedy

Tweets from @dys_morphia last night:

Saw “Talkies” at the basement of Lost Weekend Video tonight, a mix of stand up and sketch comedy, really fucking good.
Some of the pieces were better than others, as is always the case.
At their best the sketch pieces were transcendent. I mean they took their concept, explored it, pushed it to it's edge, and went past it.
Commitment was the word of the day. Commitment to the comedic concept, to the awkward moment, to social critique, to being fully present.
This is what I was talking yesterday about with what The Pizza Underground lacked.
The Pizza Underground
a Brief Review

1st you may have heard that the PU sing Velvet Underground songs but about pizza.

Not really true.
The Pizza Underground sing song medlies of Velvet Underground songs but about pizza.
So if you go in, like me, hoping to hear a full version of one of the songs they tantalizingly use in their online promos, you won't.
Perhaps pizza is not a rich enough thematic element to sustain through the length of an entire VU song.
Which is fair enough. I don't really want to hear a true to length 17 minute pizza based Parody of Sister Ray. But why not Venus in Furs?
The Pizza Underground didn't try to go beyond verisimilitude, humor, and fan service. It is just a technically able parody band.
I know I sound a bit like a hater, but any art done all the way, pushed to its edges, can transcend its form. Even a VU pizza themed band.
This Velvet Underground pizza themed novelty band does not transcend its form. I wasn't really expecting it to, but I always have hope.
This is what I was talking yesterday about with what The Pizza Underground lacked.
My favorite pieces were Scott Vermeer's “Sensuous Jazz” and the Imaginary Radio's brother reconciliation piece.
Both pieces dealt with authority, masculine vulnerability, uncomfortable sexual interactions, and heteronormative expectations.
Obviously without those actual words, but that's what was happening. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt and my stomach hurt.
This is how comedy can be when it's good. This is why I have little patience for comedy that relies on bigoted tropes to be funny.
Comedy can tear apart reality and spill its strange guts then paint jokes on the wall with its rainbow blood.

The thing about commitment reminds me of a story.

I took my mother to see Teatro Zinzani, which is a terrific circus arts dinner theatre thing we have in San Francisco.

There was a bit where the “chef” came out and did a clown act with food. He's throwing eggs and knives around, et cetera, dressed like a chef. He takes whole loaves of Wonder bread and squishes them into balls and juggles them. He juggles raw cornish game hens, their wings wiggling comically.

For the end of the act, he asks if anyone in the audience can juggle. Of course some poor guy gets volunteered by the other folks at his table. So the chef teaches him how to juggle raw chickens. This is going to lead to an understanding of the Secret Of Comedy, he promises. To make it extra funny, you bounce the chicken off your forehead. Wiggle wiggle wiggle go the wings and legs. Everybody is laughing. Then the chef teaches the volunteer how to make a Wonder bread ball. Then he breaks out some tubs of butter and they scoop out big balls of butter and juggle those. Then they're juggling all three: chicken, butter, bread.

The chef gets them bouncing the chicken off their foreheads when the chicken is in the air. He says that they are now ready to reveal the Secret Of Comedy. He throws the bread, whoosh. He throws the butter, glop. He throws the chicken, wiggle-bounce-wiggle. Whoosh, glop, wiggle-bounce-wiggle, whoosh, glop, wiggle-bounce-wiggle, whoosh, glop, wiggle-bounce-wiggle, whoosh ...

glop “Are you” wiggle-bounce-wiggle “ready to” whoosh “learn the” glop “secret of” wiggle-bounce-wiggle “comedy?” whoosh “Yes!” glop-splat!

The chef “accidentally” bounces the ball of butter off of his forehead. It doesn't bounce, it just sticks there.

“Commitment,” says the chef. The audience is whooping and laughing.

The volunteer doesn't do it. The audience boos. The chef gives the volunteer a look. The audience laughs. The volunteer still doesn't do it. The audience boos. The chef shrugs in disappointment. The audience laughs. The voluteer puts down the bread, butter, and chicken. The audience boos. The chef says, again, “Commitment.” The audience laughs.


Lesson learned.

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