Kubrick @ LACMA
makencheez asked: But couldn't the comedian share the authoritative position that other artists are in, say, painters or musicians? My point being, the art is free of socialization?
**Note: I wrote this like a week ago, but for some reason it didn’t post until last night. Anyway, it’s part of an ongoing mental discussion I was having with myself on Twitter while I was drunk in a hot tub. In other words: not important.**
Well other mediums don’t have the same rhetorical construct. Music has a similar structure, live music that is, but songs aren’t the same as comedy. Visual arts don’t carry the same weight because they’re abstracted from their creators.
The structure of a comedy club has its roots in the principles that influence the design of classrooms and political buildings. It’s a little tenuous, but I’m only supposing a mild authority on the part of the comedian. They’re not in a position to dictate any actions, yet there’s a tacit force to their words not shared by the audience. It only exists when they’re on stage. What it does is it makes them more accountable for what they say because they’re performers, not civilians having a conversation.
And I’m not saying anyone should restrict what they’re saying because people won’t like it. I’m saying they should be prepared for the consequences of what they say. If they express something that normalizes negative actions against a person or a group of people they are actually in a position to make a significant impact against them. When a comic says “it’s just a joke” they fail to understand their role. “Just a joke” is a private thing.
I hope I don’t sound too humourless. I love comics and dark, inappropriate jokes, but there are some attitudes so prevalent and unchecked that it makes me worried what I might be getting into.
makencheez asked: You recently were tweeting about the relevance of the position of authority to the comedian. Do you let that influence your work? Did that influence work differently between a digital audience and a live audience?
Oh, those crazy drunk tweets from the hot tub.
I was blending two ideas, Foucault’s “panopticon” and JL Austin’s performative and constative speech acts. What I was supposing is that since comedy, in a club or a theatre, elevates the comic to a position of focused attention that their words actually take on an authoritative weight. Many people are going to try and disagree, I’m sure, but all I’m trying to highlight is that things you can say to your friends in private contain no authority (or “performative” element), and that the things you say to a crowd are given authority by the way the rhetorical environment is structured.
Fancy terms aside, I don’t think anyone can say afterwards “just kidding.” Some jokes are hyperbolic and ludicrous (I laugh at some of Patton Oswalt’s darkest jokes, and they work because they’re way out of the realm of plausibility) whereas some comics stick to less imaginative territory, and their exaggerations and conceits are plausible and normalize certain negative trends in our society.
ANYWAY… I think the digital realm has the same issue for different reasons. The record is permanent, and you can be harshly judged for one comment out of context (arguably a problem creeping into stand-up comedy, given that anyone can write a blog about a show or take a video of a comic without their knowledge).
I always try hard to make jokes that don’t add to anyone’s burden. Women, LGQBT people, minorities of all kind, all don’t need any antipathy towards them perpetuated by people like me. It’s possible to make great jokes and be funny in a way that makes life better, it just takes more work and a lot of people don’t care.
I saw a comedy show yesterday where 4 male comics relied heavily on dick jokes and objectifying women to get by and make jokes. They perpetuated pre-existing attitudes of how men and women are supposed to behave and it was kind of hacky and not really as funny as the comics I truly love.
So in my own humour, be it digital or on stage, I hope my jokes don’t make anyone’s day worse.
This is why I try never to enjoy anything.
If you enjoy seeing me on television I recommend tuning into Conan tonight.
Anonymous asked: I miss your poetry. It seems you're becoming more of a professional funnyman/standup guy/TV guy/scripty guy/etc and I know that's the dream, but I miss it anyway. Just throwing that out there.
The poetry has been really, really hard to do for the last 18 months or so. There are a ton of factors, but mostly I just get really hesitant about it. In the meantime I think the other kinds of writing I’m trying to do will bring me back to writing poetry. Writing is a very modal activity, and once you get into the mode of one kind of writing you can actually easily slip into the other kinds. Wasting a lot of time on things like Twitter has been good for me but it means nothing at this point unless I focus on long-form writing.
Sorry for the messy answer.
It goes that way. That’s the way it goes.
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