I watched a lot of Saturday Night Live as a kid. A lot of the jokes went over my head but I still enjoyed the energy and overt movements to extenuate the comedy or, more likely, draw more attention to the subtext of the segment. None of that mattered to me as I sat inches from the television screen soaking it all in as it, unbeknownst to me, molded my comedy brain and approach to the art of making people laugh.
The maturity of my sense of humor formed quickly and I soon became bored with the good ol’ hand in the armpit so it makes a farting noise joke. That doesn’t mean I was immune, it was still funny but after 12 times in 15 minutes in a bus full of 4th graders it got old quickly especially when everyone would join in to create the armpit fart orchestra.
Some of the more disgusting kids took advantage of the noise.
Since I graduated from mimicking flatulence I moved on to the finer art of slapstick humor that was provided via MTV on their popular program Jackass. I would literally do anything for laughs and they came aplenty at the expense of my body.
I remember licking the hood of a car for a quarter once and no I didn’t grow up in the 1930’s where a quarter could buy you lunch, then a movie, then a cab to a bar, then three drinks, then a cab home and then you still have 13 cents left.
Eventually I had to walk away from slapstick and my severance package was a concussion.
Making people laugh was fun, especially when it was with words because it generally hurt less. I fancy myself as being quick-witted so I could usually get a laugh from a quip but any follow up question regarding my statement would cause me to panic and then that whole group of people would starting laughing at, not with, me. This eventually lead to me making fun of the person who questioned me and then I got the crowd back on my side and also learned that getting punched in the face sucks.
New comedic ventures took precedent because each path before them resulted in pain. That’s when I started performing stand-up which is a completely different experience in the realm of pain. There isn’t a good way to fully describe the emotional toil stand-up does to you when no one laughs. It’s like if you found out there was a surprise party for your 25th birthday only to show up to an empty house because people hate you.
My stand-up is getting better but I need to commit more. I need to go to more soul-sucking open mics that I can’t believe anyone has gotten past ever. They are terrifying and if there was a platform like that for anti-smoking then I would’ve never smoked at all.
In my pursuit of comedic dominance I wanted to diversify my palate which lead me to the wonderful world of improvisational comedy. I’ve heard of improv and sketch comedy and always wanted to dip my toe into that murky water. SNL was really my only insight into the craft until I learned about shows like Kids in the Hall, Upright Citizens Brigade, MAD TV, and other ones that I never enjoyed because I didn’t watch them.
They were weird and alternative and I just didn’t get them. I still don’t get them. I should probably watch them.
A friend of mine from my stand-up class told me he was taking an improv class at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and it peaked my interest. This little kernel was in my head that I too should take a class there to water the seed of comedic curiosity.
I played around with the idea for a while and just never took the plunge. As I sat home watching TV one (or every) night of the week I started to realize that I wasn’t really doing much with my time. I wrote from time to time in 5-minute increments that really added up to nothing more than ink on paper.
I write scripts for pilots that I had ideas for or spec scripts for shows I enjoyed but I was never sure – outside of a few comments by friends and family – if they were good or not. I want to pursue a career in writing, specifically for TV, but there are extremely high barriers of entry into that field. Networking is extremely important and having like-minded people read and critique your work is the only way you improve.
So I signed up for improv 101 at UCB and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve heard rumors of Chris Farley starting his comedy career out in stand-up only to be drawn into improv and I can see why. There is always a supporting environment. It’s not the same isolated feeling you have on-stage where you’re the center of attention and every move you make is literally in the spotlight.
I love stand-up and will continue to perform whenever I get the chance, but improv might be the next move in my comedic evolution. I’ll have to make decisions as they come along, that seems to be a theme for me right now.