Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weak End Edition: An Ode to the Stand Up Comedian

Rodney Dangerfield, in his autobigraphy made a great point about how Stand up Comedy gets no respect. He asks the reader how many comedic movies get nominated for awards. He also makes a good point that when they host the Academy Awards, they frequently hire a comedian to host the event. In other words, the comedian is summoned to entertain but isn't given the respect that is deserved. I think that the reason for this is the missconception that comedy "comes naturally" and is therefore easy to do. I think of the movie "The King of Comedy". There is a scene where a young Robert De Niro (playing Rupert Pupkin) sneaks into the limo of Jerry Lewis who plays a successful comedian that Rupert admires. Robert Deniro's character is obsessed with being a comedian and begs Jerry Lewis's character to give him a shot because he's funny and just knows that he can do stand up. Jerry Lewis tells him the following:
"It looks so simple to the viewer at home…those things that come so easily that are so relaxed and it looks like it’s just a matter of taking a breath. It takes years and years of honing that and working it.’
That quote says it all. Stand up Comedy is an art and like any art, it takes time do develop and get good at it. I've dabbled in it and believe me when I tell you, it's not easy. Even top comedians that seem to be naturally funny have been working their craft for years so by the time you see them being "naturally funny", their craft is already perfected. I was watching a top comedian's Comedy Central special from several years ago. It was good but it wasn't spectacular. Then he did another special in 2010 that was excellent. His overemphasizing of certain words is now more exagerrated and is hillarious. BUT you could see in his earlier special that aspect was only staring to develop. I read that the great Mitch Hedgberg used to not get laughs when he first started! So it's humbling to know that the great comedians actually have to work at it. This is why I'm a big fan of good stand up. When done right, it is an art, it is a performance, it is a social commentary disguised as jokes. I don't think that the average person fully appreciates the hard work that comedians put into their craft. They are like Rupert Pupkin, confident that comedy isn't that hard to do. This is an ode to comedians everywhere that are busy working premises, punchlines, and trying to find how certain ideas can be combined just like a painter uses colors to paint a canvas, the comedian uses words. Check out this clip of the very funny and brilliant Mitch Hedberg.

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