Friday, April 04, 2008
I don't think you understand humor.
That's not a knock on you, of course. I'm not sure anyone understands humor.
Let's say you go to a comedy club. There's a guy saying silly things or behaving obstreperously or whatever. He throws out a few tidbits, you begin to laugh a bit, then he begins the next joke while the first one is still reverberating. You get up on a sort of wave and ride it. That fellow? He doesn't understand humor either.
Jokes are not humor, really. You go to the doctor; he hits your knee with a little rubber hammer; your leg jerks forward. That's the medical equivalent of a joke.
Medical school for the comedian consists of hitting you with the hammer in the head, then the kidneys, stomping on your toe, eventually trying a shovel or an ice-pick instead of a rubber hammer, until he gets the desired reaction. When all else fails, he starts waling on himself. Finally something works, mysteriously to all involved. He writes that down, then does it every night, three shows, until he's dead or you are. If you think I'm exaggerating, how else do you explain sitting on the couch at Oprah's or Letterman's weeping and begging for forgiveness for your sidesplitting comedy routine? You know, just blue-skying here! The one that was sidesplitting in the mirror and career-ending in the club. You get tired of talking to Al Sharpton or the police and you think maybe if you're not allergic to white greasepaint, perhaps a nice mime act might keep you in booze and cigarettes for a few years.
If the audience is lucky, the comedian has a little sense, and like a farmer searching for truffles, he doesn't waste his time looking for valuable things in places they are unlikely to be. If you see a truffle hunter having his pig sniff around a paved road looking for the beastly little things, you've just seen a bad comedian. The majority of bad comedians try to tell you that looking for humor where it ain't is absurd, and so is funny. Well, Carrot Top has to eat too, but I'm not interested. A true humorist would have the farmer, when queried, say he searched for truffles in the road because he's just read a Steven Covey book and realized he could double his output by using the light from the streetlamps to search at night, too. In the woods, he had to go home at dusk.
True comedy is telling a story in an amusing way. You put jokes in them like diamonds in a tiara, and have the actors apologize for telling them. But never forget it's the broad wearing the tiara that's the real story, folks. If she's not a princess, she might as well be wearing a bucket on her head.
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. Book it. Done.