As a comedian, it was not only a show for me but also a seminar on comedy. Witnessing the best of our craft do it is a tremendous learning experience. And I learned what exactly it is to be a comedian, and how you do it.
I have been suffering from writer’s block and almost felt like I don’t know what to make fun of. Not much is happening in my life and working is pulling my brain into a logical and unfunny state of mind. I felt dull and dead inside. It is especially jaw dropping to think that Louis CK can generate top level special on a yearly basis while doing TV shows. So I entered MSG with a top question in my mind: How did he do it?
How does he write? Do you just sit there and write as hard as you can? Or do you go live a life and story happens to you? Quarantine has made the second option unavailable, and the first option is very painful to do too. So, what will he talk about? We just went through the same year, and how would the best of us deal with it? What did he do in the past year when he didn't have kids to raise any more, and had to quarantine like the rest of us. Time to learn from the best student.
While waiting in the Hulu Theater at MSG, I felt that people are coming in because something worth witnessing is about to happen, they are here to watch comedy at the highest level. The show was as good as any of his specials, very funny with topical, thoughtful, and observational jokes. He is still at the very top of the game. And this is what I learned:
To be a comedian is to keep wide open eyes and be curious about things that don't make sense, and try to make sense of them. That’s how you write material.
For example, he covered topics like why are we not doing more to stop the pedophiles? Why did a lot of child molestation happen in the boy scout? What does a dog think of an elevator? Why do people look better with masks on? What if Good Will Hunting was written by a different person, etc. These are the starting points for some hilarious jokes. If you really dig into his jokes, the starting point is almost always a question.
Another example is from Eddie Izzard, one of my favorite comedians of all time. Here is one of his bits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOtXlj4_rfk
This set basically consists of series of questions:
- Where did the idea of dressage come from?
- Who wants to watch dressage?
- Why are people doing it?
- Why does the horse look so suspicious?
- What if we let the horse do burglar things with dressage skills?
- Are there other animals that can do dressage? What would it be like?
So being sensitive and alert to things around and within you, while trying to understand them (whys and hows), and maybe even trying to come up with solutions (what ifs), comedy will emerge.
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P.S. People say comedy comes from pain, and I think not understanding is a fundamental pain we have.