Monday, May 13, 2019

"Lesson Learned, But Not Liked"

I don’t agree with Jerry Seinfeld about this, understanding that in the ascribed category of “Humans” we are equal – both individual humans – but that in other meaningful contexts – money, success and vintage cars – he’s big and I’m little. 

That’s why I prefer the “Humans” categorization.  Where it’s “One man, one opinion.”

Having asserted the belief that my opinion is as valuable as Seinfeld’s, I now readily acknowledge it isn’t.  Demonstrating I can hold contrasting beliefs at the same time – in this case, a right one and a wrong one. 

But in the opposite order.

Jerry Seinfeld is a master comedian, plus the co-creator of, for my money, the greatest sitcom, bar none.  When it comes to comedy, I’d bet on Seinfeld’s opinion.

And I’m the other guy!

Disagreeing with him about what?

(Tediously belatedly) this.

Once again, not knowing I would be writing this, I do not have the direct quote.  I was watching an episode of Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee where Jerry shared a ride with I do not recall whom, when I heard him loudly proclaim, in the context of I no longer recall what, an approximate version of,

“They love the ‘illusion!’  They know it’s ‘jokes’.  They don’t care!

This confident pronouncement, offered by one of the most respected Masters of his Domain, by which I mean comedy, is the exact opposite of the idea underlying my non-existent career as a professional comedian.

Here’s where Jerry Seinfeld and I part ways.

Jerry Seinfeld appears onstage telling a fusillade of jokes, received by his overflow audience with eager acceptance, laugher, and often, applause.  In his view, there is an unspoken understanding between them. 

JERRY SEINFELD:  “I tell jokes.”

JERRY’S  AUDIENCE:  “We know they’re jokes.”

Let me just say something before I say something else.

Neophyte comedians, or unsuccessful comedians, have enormous difficulty scaling the “We know they’re jokes and we don’t care” barrier.  Something about them shatters the illusion, the resulting audience response being,

“We’re not buying this.”

Fair on unfair, some big-time comedians’ laughs are inflated, thanks to their accompanying reputations.  But they are still getting those laughs.  Laughs derived  from the tacit comic-audience agreement:

“We know they’re jokes and we don’t care.”


If I were a comedian – using the subjunctive ‘cause I’m not – I would want to go onstage – not “want to”, I would only go onstage – telling true stories that actually happened to me, chosen, based on my innate comic intuition, because I believe them to be funny. 

Mu unwavering comedic approach:  True stories that actually happened to me.

Oh yeah.  Plus…

Every performance would be comprised of new true stories that actually happened to me.

In my opinion but not Seinfeld’s – or any other comedian’s for that matter –that is the only way to do comedy.  To me, jokes are inherently “manufactured”, rather than authentically real.  Telling contrived jokes over and over lacks the unforced glory of telling true stories that actually happened to you once, and then, gracefully, letting them go.

Now before I say,

“The thing is, you can’t do that.”

Let me first say that, judging from the enthusiastic reaction, Jerry Seinfeld’s audience seems to want him to tell those jokes over and over and they would leave  disappointed if he didn’t.  It’s like seeing Sinatra, and he didn’t sing “My Way.”  Or Coco the Wonder Horse, and “He didn’t count with his foot.”

Now… referring to my fervently believed comedic approach…

The thing is, you can’t do that.

Well-honed material is “well-honed” for a reason.  That material was perfected through assiduous repetition and reworking.  It is a joke, after all.  (And the audience willingly accepts that.)  And the only way to get that joke right – or discard it, ‘cause it’s a dud – is by telling it over and over.  Finding it works, you’d be an idiot not to repeat it.

Realistically, if I based my entire act on funny things that actually happened to me, what if nothing hilarious happened between my last performance and this one? 

I could go onstage, riffing about how I only talk about amusing things that actually happened to me, and that for some time now, nothing has.  That might be funny.


But, true to my mantra,

I could never do that again.

Looking back, there was the fatal mistake in my thinking.

I thought being a comedian was one thing when it turned out, it was another.

One is possible.

The other is not.

But in the opposite order.

Wait, did I say that already?

Man, it’s hard not to repeat yourself.

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