The best offence is a good defence, right?

Kind of as corollary to yesterday’s post, the discussion with my friend about comedy, punching down and causing offence continued. A bunch of it is too specific to be of use here. One thing that stuck out was my friend saying that in his opinion, being offended is a choice. I disagreed.

“As for “being offended is a choice”. That stance is a luxury that not everyone has. As far as the two of us go, we have enough cultural capital to inoculate ourselves from a ton of stuff. We’re both white dudes from affluent, supportive, loving families. We didn’t have to struggle with issues of inequality in the same way others probably did. We weren’t beaten or relentlessly tormented for who we loved. We never had to fear for being shot because of the colour of our skin. It’s very easy to be unaffected by issues that don’t affect you, y’know?

At the same time, just because I don’t feel personally attacked, insulted or used as a punchline by a lot of comedy that punches down, that doesn’t mean to me that people can’t or shouldn’t be. I’ve got no place to judge how others react to anything based on their life experiences. If someone feels hurt by something, I’ve got no right to say that they’re not allowed to feel that way. I haven’t been in their shoes. For a lot of people it’s not a choice, and I don’t think it’s charitable to judge other people based on our own metrics.

As for being offended, it’s rare that I really am. What does happen though, when I hear lazy, sexist, homophobic, racist, etc etc etc content, is that I get disappointed or disheartened. I feel shitty for the people who feel like their struggles are being mocked by someone who has never lived them. I feel sad that people don’t understand the inherent power structures in our society and care more about trying to get cheap laughs by catering to the uncaring majority than considering how to more adeptly structure what they’re saying. Because that would require too much thinking. That’s lazy.”

The thing is, this is all a learned response. It’s not like most of this would be apparent unless someone pointed it out. Has anyone ever done that to you? Made you aware of something that you then couldn’t ignore? A friend once told me that Matt Bellamy, the lead singer of Muse, inhales sharply while singing. I couldn’t help but notice it every goddamn time after that. I’m not gonna say it ruined their music, but it definitely changed how I experienced it. This desperate gasp at the beginning of every sentence. How could you not?

Look, I’m a big ol’ loudmouth know it all. It sure is fun to spread your opinion all over the world wide web in a feeble attempt to get Internet Points. I’ve also, as I’ve aged (rapidly), learned a lot more about what feels worth speaking up about. Comedy, language, and progress are important to me. I’ve put a ton of effort into recalibrating my views on the world and figuring out where the disparity between my perspective and others’ lies. I know that there’s a heap of animosity between polarised political ideologies and, while I’m generally heavily left leaning, I don’t think anyone is totally right all of the time.

There’s a phenomenon we see in progressive circles quite often, where someone will learn something, then turn around and chastise others for not knowing what they themselves just learned. I don’t know what part of this is tolerance or progress. It directly feeds into the notion of holier than thou, ivory tower academia and it’s serving nobody. Learning isn’t always a one way street. Having conversations enables us to teach one another by sharing perspectives the other may not have considered. For this to work though, we have to be open to our own fallibility and view this as a strength.

The thing is, that’s hard. So much of society teaches us that to succeed, we need to be confident. For many of us, we take that to mean steadfast obstinance. If you don’t believe in yourself, your growth will wane. In reality, confidence includes openness to criticism. If you’re confident, you’ll know not to take it personally. That adaptability is a huge strength. That criticism is not an insult, but an opportunity. It’s difficult to hear that you’re not always right, y’know?

Be pensive, not defensive.

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‘Vais the music

One of my friends posted the following Ricky Gervais quote on Facebook:

“Please stop saying “You can’t joke about anything anymore”. You can. You can joke about whatever the fuck you like. And some people won’t like it and they will tell you they don’t like it. And then it’s up to you whether you give a fuck or not. And so on. It’s a good system.”

I have issues with this and I want to try and articulate why. I don’t think everything he’s saying is wrong, and on some fundamental level, I agree with him. There’s just something about how he’s saying it that rubs me the wrong way. Mostly though, because it takes something that’s complicated and nuanced and presents it as simple.

If you’re taking this as a straightforward series of words that follow one another, then yes it makes sense. You can joke about whatever you like. There are often vocal dissenters. You have a choice whether or not to take on criticism. There’s still a lot more to it than that.

It’s 2018 and I have less than zero time for comedy that punches down. It’s been done to death. No matter what stage of comedy you’re at, if you’re standing on a stage and projecting your voice to an assembly, that’s a privileged position. Even if it’s at the back of a loud and crowded bar, the fact that you’ve been given a platform on some level implies that you’re saying things that you believe others deserve to hear. If you’re using this time to shit on people who are vulnerable in any capacity, why the fuck are you wasting your breath? If these people are already marginalised, they’re already being punched down systemically. You’re saying nothing. These things have already been said on some level, and if you’re adding fuel to the fire, you’re part of the problem. You’re also wasting everyone’s time.

Comedy doesn’t live in a vacuum and neither do any of us. Comedy changes over time and so do public opinons, circumstances, etc. Things that are and aren’t acceptable change with them. Whether or not I like Gervais and his comedy, I want to be charitable and assume this is his way of saying “don’t be a dick. Or do and suffer the consequences.” I’m not sure that the base notion of “say what you want and things will even out” is a level playing field, because the effect of saying things is not equivalent for all parties hearing them.

Some things are easier to shrug off than others. If you’ve gone through something traumatic, for instance, hearing about those topics can cause you to relive trauma. That doesn’t mean that they’re not gonna hear about those things over the course of their life, or that these things shouldn’t be talked about. To me though, what this means is that if these things are gonna be talked about, they deserve appropriate consideration. Why are you saying what you’re saying? Do you have a new take that they won’t have heard? How is an audience likely to receive or respond to what you’re saying? Could it dredge up uncomfortable things for them? Or alternatively, are you saying it in a way that subverts expectations and challenges concepts that punch down? Is the humour at the expense of the victim? Or is it empowering them against unjust systems that take away their recourse to personal rights?

If you’re not considering what you’re saying and thinking deeply about what your words mean within a wider societal context, then you’re putting the burden of processing onto your audience. You’re saying “it’s not my fault if you’re offended, you just thought about it wrong.” But you’re the one in the privileged position, the onus should be on you to consider the impact of your words. Not doing so is straight up inconsiderate.

Why I don’t think that this system is as “good” as Gervais proclaims, is that not everyone has the same access to power in our society. You might be saying something that shits on vulnerable people, but the people who are unaffected by what you’re saying won’t see an issue with it. They may not (let’s be real, likely won’t) understand its impact or the nuances of it. It’s also likely that their voice will be louder or come with more societal clout. If they’re repeating your words, that happen to be shitting on others, it’ll probably further punch down on people who are already marginalised. You’re exacerbating the problem and that’s on you.

Say, for example, a comedian did a joke about trans people, and the joke was making fun of the concept of non-standard gender identities. Maybe these people are using non-standard gender identities because they make them feel more accepted or at peace with who they are. Maybe they’ve felt unwelcomed or made to feel like an outsider their entire life, but this makes them hold onto some modicum of pride. But to the comedian, they’re not considering that. They’re just looking for a cheap shot to get some laughs. Maybe in the audience they’re performing to, a couple of people are offended by this and take it personally, but most of the audience doesn’t get the nuance. They just hear a joke, so to them it’s totally acceptable. Then they repeat the jokes, or tell it to their friends, disseminate the punchline. To them, these trans people’s concept of belonging is a joke. To them, trans people are a joke. How do you think these trans people, who’ve likely been torn apart their entire lives, feel about themselves? If say, the comic was someone they looked up to, and they found out that this person they looked up to doesn’t consider them worthy of respect? What if it’s enough to send them into an emotional spiral? Or self-harming behaviours? Or worse? Cool man, that’s on the comic. That is directly their fault. Was that worth getting a couple of laughs? As far as the comic’s concerned, more people liked it than didn’t like it. They probably think it’s fine.

YMMV, of course, but I personally thing that this shit is important. It’s too easy to be lazy and inconsiderate. Being edgy for the sake of it is not clever. Does all this consideration make comedy more difficult? Of course it fucking does. Comedy isn’t meant to be easy. It’s hard to work through your material and figure out if what you’re saying has a point. If it doesn’t, kill it. You can do better. If your comedy comes at the expense of someone else, make better comedy. You’ve lost nothing of value. Punch up or punch out.

Space Odyssey 2100 and one?

It’s funny. I never expected that I’d make it to 21 posts. Over five years ago, when I was younger, sharper (but more blunt), more arrogant, naive and immature, I thought it’d be a good idea to start writing every day. It was not a well-contemplated notion, but after building up momentum I surpassed 21 days. I kept rolling on past 100, 200, 1000, and yesterday I penned (metaphorically. You wouldn’t like my handwriting) my 2100th entry. I used to have this little recap tradition every hundred entries, but I’ve long since forgotten to keep them going. It’s been some time, let’s catch y’all up.

Career:
I’m in a rough spot. I’ve stayed in the same routine job for the past four years. I’ve been trying to leave, but it’s hard getting that propulsion behind me. Each time I get rejected (and those hits keep coming) it leaves a crater sized rut I then need to crawl out of. Motivation comes in rare bursts, and the hard part has been latching on to pull myself up. My job is uninspiring, and it’s been detrimental to my mood. Out of desperation, a new kind of creativity has come to the fore. I feel synaptic connections forming that didn’t exist prior. A greater understanding of narrative, storytelling and structure. I know I want to harness this in some fashion, but I’ve yet to find an outlet that comes with compensation. Half my trouble is having vague ideas of what I want to do, but lacking the wherewithal and commitment to pursue any of them boldly. My fingers are perennially crossed, but it feels like I’m reaching out with both hands tied behind my back. I’ll keep treading water, and hopefully it’ll bring me in sight of land.

Health:
2018 was a weird year. I fractured my wrist and it’s been slowly recovering. I have most every function back, but I still get mild pain from many activities. It sounds worse than it is, and eventually the bone will grind down back to normal and I won’t even notice. The accident gave me a ton of perspective. Oh, if the wrist wasn’t bad enough, I sprained both ankles at the same time. It involved a ton of hard work and perseverance to build strength and mobility back up. I went from struggling to eat a bowl of cereal, to completing Tough Mudder once more. After the accident, I gave my ankles two weeks off, then slowly built up my running distance and speed. I went from running two days a week to four. I saw athletic therapists to work on safely increasing flexibility. I did all the exercises like a gold star patient. At the hospital, my doctor told me I wouldn’t be ready for Tough Mudder two months later. My physio disagreed. I proved my physio right. The whole ordeal gave me a quiet confidence in my ability to rebound that I know will pay dividends as the years pass.

Concurrently, my mental health has taken several blows this year. I’ve had bouts of depression before, this year they hit harder. I had a couple of panic attacks, dissociated a few times. I had trouble staying tethered to reality and held fast to therapy to try and bring me back. The therapy is helping slowly. It’s giving me tools to unpack and diffuse times of struggle. I’m taking ownership of my needs and control of my symptoms. I’ve been in a vulnerable state, but I know there are lessons to learn here. Things will get better. I’m in an upswing at the moment, and hoping an aerial view will help me see a path forwards.

Comedy:
Oddly enough, my therapist recommended that I get back into stand-up. She said I needed an outlet that also played into healthy narcissism and ego. To get an appreciation for my own creativity and ability, she said stand-up would bolster confidence and recharge a part of myself that’d been lacking. It’s honestly been tough to push myself back into it, but she was right. It’s making gears turn that ground to a halt for some time. I’m thinking from angles I’d never considered, and my perspective is shifting accordingly. There’s a clarity to the world that I haven’t been able to access, and a sense in the murkiness that’s helping me through the mire. I didn’t realise what I’d lost, but I’m excited to find it once more.

Relationships:
My girlfriend and I have been together for four and a half years, and living together for two of them. Things have been comfortable, easy, routine. At least, as routine as a couple of weirdos like us could manage. None of that is meant to come off as undesirable, but it has involved us sinking into patterns. We’ve talked about it, and it feels like there’s change on the horizon that’s trending positive. I know I’ve taken steps to try and look closer into how things work, and how they could work even better. Just because I so often feel in a rut, that doesn’t have to spread to the rest of my life. There’s no reason not to keep things exciting and sometimes that involves work. Relationships are work, and good relationships are so worth it. I’ve got one of them, and I intend to hold onto it.

In terms of poly dating, I’m gonna put more effort into it next year. 2018 was pretty sparse for new dates. My girlfriend has a wonderful partner who seems like they’ll be a positive force for her. I’m ready to find a person(s) that complement(s) who I want to navigate the world as. I feel like there are valid parts of myself that are rarely accessed, and could stand to be shared with others. Will 2019 be that year? I’m here for it.

Pop Culture:
It’s the end of 2018. Disney has entirely taken over the blockbuster market and I find myself slinking back from it. Then again, I just watched Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and it feels like there’s hope for the relentless super hero onslaught. Also Marvel, please don’t do the Onslaught saga. It’s a mess. 2018 was the year I fell in love with Paddington 2: the cinematic antidote to the venom in our world (and maybe the Venom motion picture Sony released). Paddington 2 is a perfect film, proving that even in darkness, there’s always light.

Then again, we’re still swimming in peak TV. The Killing Eve was phenomenal, I’m holding a candle for the next season of Catastrophe, The Good Place and Atlanta are pushing genre boundaries in exciting new ways. I’ve heard Barry aligns pretty well with most of my tastes. We’re spoiled and nobody should be complaining. Except broadcast television. That industry is sinking year by year. Dare I go down with that ship?

This was a pretty dense info dump. I feel like I’ve just finished catching up with an old friend. Let’s do this more often, y’know? Don’t be a stranger and stuff. I’ll try to check in with y’all in a hundred or two entries from now.

Oh yeah, it’s 2018. I say “y’all” now.

I may have only etched the outline, but it might be some kinda sketch?

I was having brunch with a friend earlier today. She’s a comic, and we were chatting about bits and whatnot. I told her about an idea I’ve been sitting on. It’s something, though I don’t know exactly what it is. She told me to write it down. “Oh” I said, gesturing to my head, “it’s all written down up in here.” She shook her head “Your brain is an Etch A Sketch. Write It Down.”

She’s right. I don’t need to nail it, and the pressure to get it right first time will kill its potential. If I just get it down, I can take and tweak ideas later. So here. I’m getting it down.

It starts with a couple of guys hanging out, watching internet videos on their phones. One guy shows another guy this video of a dude mashing people’s food as they’re trying to take photos for Instagram (excessive link size, I know. You kinda need to watch some of the 55 second clip to get this idea). They chuckle and go back to work. They’re on the set of some kind of high profile food magazine shoot. Think the equivalent of Vogue, but food. They’re crew members working on a massive project. Something like an ornate croquembouche, gilted and everything. It’s almost threatening how magical it looks. Everyone is gathered and they’re just about to get their shots. The talent is in place. The director/DP, etc are all around. They’re gearing up, and the video flashes back into this dude’s head. It’s silly, he shakes it off and looks back to the shoot. He looks at the cake, the video flashes in his brain. He can’t shake it. He’s trying to concentrate, but it’s not going anywhere, it’s just getting more insistent. Everybody else fades into slow motion as he looks back at this cake with the video throbbing in his skull. Everything’s set, and at the last moment before the cameras click, he yells “SMOOSH”, reaches out and squashes the cake. There’s silence. Everyone’s stunned. He’s stunned, looking at his hand, the now ruined exquisite pastry, the director/DP and talent.

The director looks him right in the eyes and lays him out bare. “What are you doing? Why? Why would you do that? Do you know how many people work on this shoot? That cake? That cake was twenty hours work from a team of the world’s most exclusive patisserie. We have been putting this shoot together for DAYS. Have you got any idea of the total hours that went into getting the shot that you just ruined? Have you even thought of the cost? That was real gold. The cost of materials alone runs in the thousands. The wages for everyone on this shoot? There were tens of thousands of dollars involved in getting that one shot. That one shot for the Christmas issue, the biggest issue of the year. It’s printing tomorrow. This all had to be done by 10am, and it’s all gone now. Did you even think of your own family? They needed you to have this job. You have a sick wife and your benefits are the one thing keeping her health above water. How are you supposed to pay the bills now? Can you comprehend the magnitude of what you’ve done here?

It cuts to a wedding. He’s standing with his wife, watching his daughter about to cut the cake with her new loving wife. Everyone is smiling, they look so beautiful and happy. He looks into his wife’s eyes and it’s obvious, no matter how hard the past months have been, this is a bright light in the darkness. Staring right into her teary blue eyes, there’s a flash in his brain. The same video. He gasps, but you know the score. It’s in there and not going anywhere. We know how much this all means to everyone, but some things are inevitable. At the moment just when the photographer’s about to take the shot, he yells “SMOOSH”, reaches out and squashes the cake. Gasps and dead air across the room. We’ve been here before. His daughter dresses him down this time. She talks about the work that went into the cake, how much time it took them to find just the right bakery, especially after that emotionally gruelling experience with the homophobic bakers. All the financial hardships her and her wife had, and how the wedding almost didn’t happen. The guy knows he’s fucked up, but he has nothing and she keeps barrelling into him.

Cut to the hospital. His wife is in bed and he’s sitting by her side. She looks very frail. They’re talking, she says something like “I talked to Jane earlier. They’re struggling, but they do love each other.” He asks “did she ask about me?” His wife shakes her head “she’s not ready for that yet. It’s still too soon.” A doctor walks in with a chart and nurse. The doctor starts explaining how fortunate they were to be living in Canada with the healthcare system. How if they were in America, there’s no way they’d be able to afford this vital medicine. The doctor goes on about all manner of stuff pertaining to treatment, while the guy’s eyes look towards the bag of medicine the nurse is holding. We can hear the doctor going on about how severe the wife’s case is, how they were lucky that they managed to catch it when they did, etc. The guy is still looking straight at the medicine. We all know where this is going, the video flashes back into his head. The nurse plugs the medicine into the IV, the doctor is droning on. We see a shot of the wife’s hand bareknuckling the husband’s own. It’s obvious she’s suffering. She starts talking about how emotionally taxing it’s all been, etc. We get the picture. The dude steps up, yells “SMOOSH”, reaches out and slaps the medicine out of the IV. Silence all around. The medicine bag is just pissing out on the floor, going everywhere. Total shock. The room is stunned. In the background the bag continues spraying everywhere. There’s silence, aside from the sound of the medicine shooting out. The doctor starts talking, laying the dude out. Something like “Why would you do that? Your wife is in a critical condition. This is vital. Do you know how much that medicine was worth? In America, people go bankrupt over life saving medicine like this. I mean, you’re SO lucky we’re in Canada and your wife will be able to survive, but there will be severe consequences. There will be an inquiry. At this level, there is a high chance of jail time. You’ve lost so much, why would you cause yourself to lose even more? There are tears streaming down his wife’s face. Hurt and anger in her eyes.

Cut to a shot of a book cover. The title is “how to build a house out of books” or something. The book is lowered and we can see a house made out of books that looks like the one on the cover. The man inserts the book itself as the last book required to make a workable door. It’s hidden away at the back of library and, from the outside, just looks like a shelf. It’s very silly. The guy has lost everything. He’s been kicked out of home. He’s living in the library in secret, none of the staff or patrons know. He’s exhausted and gaunt. He’s using the computers and secretly masturbating under his track pants. We’ve all taken a Greyhound bus, we know what that looks like. It’s very obvious. He’s scrolling through porn forums, etc. He’s getting there, when suddenly the video pops into his head. As before, he tries to push it away, but it’s not going anywhere. Cue clips of his thoughts flashing between porn and this video, when all of a sudden he sees something, yells “SMOOSH” and cums right on the screen. A librarian sees/hears this and is shocked. Other patrons look. The librarian starts dressing him down, while the whole time he’s also extolling the virtues of the public library system, etc. The point is to really drive home how scummy it was for the dude to do it. As he’s saying all this, the camera cuts to a shot of the cumstain dripping down the screen, directly under something that says “Bread Face”

Cut to a shot of a table. It’s a bright area, well-lit and colourful. A really pleasant vibe. An exotic cake sits in the middle of the table. The dude comes in and sits down. He looks healthy, happy. “Hey guys” he says cheerily “this week we have a Dacquoise. It’s a type of meringue from the French village of Dax. I know ya’ll are big fans of the cream based cakes. Okay, here goes. SMOOSH.” He smooshes his face right into the cake. It’s a live stream. The screen cuts to the comments coming in thick and fast. A bunch of “SMOOSH”es, cheering, smiley faces, “GOOD SQUISH, SIR” and that kind of thing. It’s evident these people adore the guy. There are too many comments to track. The view counter keeps going up, it’s over a million. The guy pulls his face back up, huge grin from ear to ear. “Well that was fun. Remember, if you have suggestions for new cakes or breads, send in your requests via Patreon. I just wanted to say once again how much I love and appreciate you all. You know I had hard times and having your support really pulled me through. This community is amazing, and I’m so proud we managed to pull together and set up that scholarship for underprivileged inner city students. You’re astounding humans. Geez, I’m tearing up here. I need to go, but until next time, “SMOOSH”.”

Fin.

Let’s hope it all comes out in the wash

If you wanted to know how my day’s going, I pointed to a dishwasher with an “out of order” sign and said “working hard, or hardly working?”

I expect that was as clear as it needed to be.

Felt a little raw today, so of course I watched my go-to short film that reduces me to a pile of emotional rubble. It just felt apt, y’know? It’s a wonderful, self-contained short story that epitomises show don’t tell. Gorgeous music, sans dialogue, preciously fragile animation and a slow beating open heart. No matter how many times I watch it, I still choke up. The pacing is phenomenal, a slow build that adds layer after layer. The best part is how it gives you as much as it needs to in order to hint at depths beneath the surface. It’s bittersweet, cute and heartbreaking simultaneously. So, perfect Tuesday fare, I guess?

Speaking of stuff that was good for the heart, I’m glad I went out to the open mic after all. It wasn’t precisely an open mic, but it was a terrific showcase of the kind of creativity inherent to Toronto’s alt comedy scene. The general notion was that of a late night talk show, but completely improvised. As it was a benefit (ish) show, performers and viewers alike were encouraged to bring a can or two to donate. The hosts had a couch and invited people to take part. People could write anonymous “monologue” jokes for one of the hosts to blind read (which resulted in maybe eight “Baby It’s Cold Outside” jokes. “Have you heard about this” certainly loses its lustre after the fourth “Baby It’s Cold Outside” joke in a row). This in itself was a riot. People had all of five minutes to write their jokes before the show started. Most of them were pretty terrible, and the host had a great time ripping on the underdeveloped punchlines, but it was all in good sport. Nobody was taking anything too seriously, and the douchebaggery was altogether limited.

The performance slots they offered were divided into two options. You could either do a stand up set for three minutes, or sit on the couch and riff with the hosts for five. Most people opted for the increased time, which led to a series of wonderfully phoned in “interviews”. A bunch of people had pre-written bits they tried to weave in, but primarily people were wanking around, so to speak. Someone bought his phone onstage and watched the first three or so minutes of Inglorious Basterds with the hosts. Another guest tried to teach one of the hosts how to have “attitude”, mostly trying to goad him into saying “bitch” sassily, to the host’s constant protestations. The majority of the couch segments were straight up dumb and half-arsed, which honestly fit the show to a tee. I got entirely taken by a prank phone call bit in which the comic “called 911” and said there was a fire at the venue, then hung up. He had an actor friend at the back of the bar pretending to be the respondant and, honestly, I was totally suckered. It was a pretty mean-hearted joke, but goddamn if it wasn’t provocative.

You know what? I did fine. With three minutes, I didn’t do all the jokes I’d prepped, but I felt good about it. No jokes fell flat, every one of them got a response and the audience was warm. The vibe was friendly all over, and while I was pretty nervous, I was chuffed to be able to stand up without bombing. I’d spent the day stressing out. I’d spent the previous night lying awake with my eyes closed, trapped in circuitious thoughts. I was a total wreck, but performing felt like a release. I can’t say that I’m gonna dive in head first, heart full of fire, but I’m gonna get up again, sooner rather than later this time.

It’d be downright selfish to waste my best material on kitchen appliances, after all.

Stand up for your mics

I’m doing the open mic tonight!

I think. I hope? I read on the site that the show was at 10pm, sign up was at 5pm. Weirdly, the bar opened at 6pm. I happened to be home today, so I jogged down and got there around 5.10pm to be early like the bloody nerd that I am. It was closed. I looked in and there seemed to be someone inside, so I knocked. A bartender came out and was like “we don’t open until 6pm”. I was like “I know and this feels really dumb to ask, but the website said 5pm sign up so I came down to check it out.” She stared through me and said “well you read wrong, signup is at 9.45pm, so come back then.”

Cool. So now I feel nervous, insecure and that I’m a fucking idiot. Seems fun. It’s also a different format tonight and I’m kind of confused, which isn’t helping anything. I thought it was 5 minute sets, but it might be 3 minutes? But also maybe that’s just for the 8pm show and there’s an open mic afterwards? Who knows, maaaaan? My brain is kind of fixating on doing a set, since it’s been a long time, so maybe I’ll just write out the jokes I’d like to tell.

I go to see a bunch of standup and I’ve seen comics do this thing.
They’ll be all “how’s everyone out there feeling tonight?” and the crowd is like “WOooooOOOOoo.”
Which is fine in a group.
But if I saw a friend on the street and was like “hey bud, how’re you doing?” And they went “WOooooOOOOoo” I would maybe think they were a ghost.

I work in an office. Does anyone else here work in an office?
[hopefully one or two WOOs] – A couple of ghosts. Cool. Spooky, but cool.
If you haven’t worked in an office before, it’s basically just saying hi to coworkers as you pass in the hallway until one of you dies.
Then you get to do their work too.

At our office they play some of the oldies stations and TLC is now considered “oldies”.
I was listening to that song “No Scrubs”, and it’s kind of ambiguous.
You know the one. “I don’t want no scrubs.” It’s confusing.
They’re all “I don’t want no scrubs. A scrub is a guy who can’t get no love from me. Hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.”
So either Lisa Left Eye Lopez and Co don’t know how double negatives work, or No Scrubs is an ode to their terrible taste in men.

I listen to a lot of music, and honestly, I’m fascinated by 50 Cent. For a while I thought that he was super clever.
He’s got this song “PIMP” and his has this line “A bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.”
Which is great, right? Of course a “bitch” can’t get a dollar out of him. He’s 50 Cent. He’s only half a dollar.

And y’know, that’s not even the most egregious part of the song. So he’s all “I don’t know what you heard about me. But a bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.” And his reasoning is cause he’s “a motherfucking P.I.M.P.”
The thing is, pimping by its very nature is transactional. You’re a business owner who employs contractors to serve clients. Those clients pay you and you take compensation for facilitating the transaction. So if “a bitch can’t get a dollar” out of you, you’re not paying your contractors. You’re not a motherfucking P.I.M.P. You’re an illegal sex trafficker.

Then again, 50 Cent did file for bankruptcy. So maybe “a bitch can’t get a dollar” out of him after all.

That might be a 5 minute set, but it’s certainly not a 3 minute set. If that’s the case, I might drop the TLC bit and see how it goes. Wish me luck?

And maybe a better mood?

Any quantity of ducks is an intense quantity of ducks.

Re: Yesterday’s post, I’ve been thinking of the upcoming open mic.

Writing jokes is weird. It’s strange to try and figure out how to be deliberately funny. It’s non-intuitive to put words together in the hopes that they click. There are so many unspoken rules of comedy. It’s rare for us to really understand the ins and outs of where humour comes from. Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle, but mostly if you’re writing jokes it’s more like Twister style storm chasing. And occasionally you luck out and a cow appears in the middle of your tornado. I’m sure there are people for whom it’s effortless. I’m not one of them. If I want to make a bit work, it’s imperative that I understand why it does. If I do, it makes it easier to take the joke further or tweak it. Or maybe I’ve got the outline of approximately which lines I want to draw and/or cross, but I don’t know the specifics that will fill in those outlines. This is not a skill I’ve attained any mastery over. I’m getting better, but it’s still truly years away.

I was reading back over a bunch of old entries today, in the hopes I’d get inspiration. A story popped out at me that I happened to have organically told coworkers the other day. The basics were that I was on a date with a girl in a park. We were feeding bread to ducks. I thought I’d do a nice deed and gave a stack of bread to this little girl who was with her grandparents, so she could have fun feeding ducks too. Maybe 15-20 ducks crowded almost instantly and she was terrified. I felt really bad, not for being friendly, but things obviously didn’t work out. It was also deeply funny.

But that’s not what stand up sounds like, so it needs to be structured in a manner that fits the medium. A lot of the time I won’t everything done, but I’ll leave placeholders to fill in the gaps later:

Do you ever have those moments where you know you changed someone’s life?

I went on a date once. I took a girl to the park and we fed bread to ducks. Very sweet. Like any dumb 20 year old, I was looking for ways to score “points”. I saw a little girl with her grandparents and thought oh hey, here’s my chance to do a nice deed and get some of those aforementioned points, y’know? So I walked over to the grandparents with a couple of slices and was like “here, she can feed some ducks”. I’m a hero, right? They said thanks, and gave her the bread. As soon as her tiny hands grabbed the bread, she was swarmed by an intense quantity of ducks. She was screaming. Her grandparents were trying to fight off the ducks. My date and I turned away screaming with laughter. I looked back and just knew I’d gifted someone a lifelong phobia of birds.

It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there. The thing is, I’d want to have a tag or something. I was thinking about it earlier today and I thought it’d be funny if for some reason I said she’d developed a fear of bread. ‘Cause that’s absurd, right? But how would I make that work? It’d require going somewhere after the joke that hinged on it. I chatted with my girlfriend and told her I wanted to find something in the venn diagram of bread and birds for a callback. We thought about it and she suggested breaded chicken wings. But how could I incorporate that into the joke? Was there another scenario that could have a payoff? Maybe if years down the line something happened that brought it all together. Like maybe she was on a date and found herself surprisingly terrified by a plate of breaded wings? So maybe something like this:

I looked back and just knew I’d gifted someone a lifelong phobia of birds. And maybe… bread?

So anyway, my little cousin was telling me he was on a date with some girl. It was going great. They were chatting and ordered appetisers and everything was perfect, until a plate of breaded wings arrived on their table and she suddenly didn’t know why she was screaming. And he didn’t know why she was screaming. Buuuut, I kind of think I know exactly why she was screaming?

My bad.

Does the end tag add enough? It’s all made up, but is that weirdly plausible? I don’t want to bog it down with too many details, ’cause it’s a big expectation for the audience to a) connect the dots and b) realise that the two stories are linked. I also don’t want to write enough of a story that it feels like I’m reading it out on stage. It needs to breathe and be organic. Writing jokes is weird.

At least this is a start.