Saturday, March 21, 2009

Today's Stock Tip - Invest in Comedy

While channel-surfing the other night, I came across a surly mob of stand-up comedians swapping jokes with each other. It was obvious they had been doing shows together for ages - the personal rapport they shared was terrific. The audience howled their approval. They were hilarious, riffing back and forth, topping each other's lines with the kind of friendly, competitive swagger that only comes from many months of sharing a tour bus toilet.

Some poor audience members were busting a gut so hard they seemed to be in pain. You could hear them gasp as their lungs fought for air against the belly laughs. For a moment I wondered if anyone at a comedy club had ever gone into cardiac arrest, or choked so hard on a pun they herniated something. That would be unfortunate, but imagine the bragging rights for the comedian.

A friend of mine has a strange tradition. Before talking to me at any length, she first insists on using the bathroom. Apparently I’ve made her laugh so hard she’s had a few accidents. In an odd way, I’m proud. If I had a resume for comedy, that gem would be on it. The Excellence in Comedy Incontinence Award, sponsored by Depends.

Sometimes, when she’s around, I push myself, digging for better material in an effort to make her laugh harder. Her bladder challenges me to be better. I’m in a battle of wills with her kidneys.

Making people laugh is addicting. You get that first giggle out of them and you crave more. Laugh again, dammit! Your mind races to find the next bit. You want them to laugh so hard it hurts. Which is weird, since funny is supposed to be, well, fun. But by this time, you don’t care about someone’s pain. You’ve found a rhythm, you’re in a groove, and you don’t want it to end, even if someone gets hurt or puddles a chair.

When life stinks, it is not hard to be funny - it is darn near impossible. While I've never done actual stand-up in a club, I have a comedian's daily routine of writing down jokes, quips, and quirky observations. Every day I force myself to find the funny, dammit. Some days it's simple. Lately, not so much.

It was much easier during the Bush administration, when we all still had some money in the bank and a job. It was so easy, anyone could do it. We could all afford a chuckle and some candy.

But the sweet and easy days of mocking the monkey-eared Decider are gone. Now more than ever, we desperately need to laugh. Even if you're cheery, doing great, with a terrific job, a wonderful spouse, etc. Especially if you're cheery and here's why. Every day, you interact with people on the verge of extreme grumpiness. People who would have no problem thumping you on the freeway, or heaven forbid - throwing candy wrappers on your front lawn. And one thing that can really push a grumpy person over the edge is an excessively cheery person. These grumpy people need a way to blow off steam before they wipe that smile off your dang cheery face with the front bumper of their car.

So somehow we need to find a way to laugh this mess - at AIG, at Madoff, at Congress, before we all go psycho-grumpy on each other. Yes, it’s a challenge. Which is why only the best comedy will do. The fallout of a lousy economy is that only the strong survive. This is true in business as well as humor. There’s a comedic shake-out going on.

Nadir is a funny-sounding word. Nadir, nadir, nadir. It means rock bottom, hitting the lowest you're gonna go. Unlike a roller coaster ride, Life doesn't let you know exactly where and when you're bottoming out. You have to look back over your shoulder after the fact and say, "Yup - that there was my nadir." This is akin to saying, "Yup, I should not have been looking at my nose hair in the rear view mirror and I would have seen the tree." No bonus points for hindsight.

When you’re sitting in your nadir, you usually don’t know it yet. But I’m going to venture a guess and say, hopefully, that right now, we’re sitting in it. It looks like a nadir. It certainly smells like one.

If I’m correct, that means things are looking up. And the best way to get up and out of our nadir is to laugh our way out.

"Tell me a joke. Say something funny. Now."

I used to resent such pressure. What if I didn't feel like being funny? I'm not a foofoo dancing poodle. Hmmph. But it is time to get dancing.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone. Unless you’re laughing so hard you’re crying. Then you’ve come full circle, where bliss meets pain, where hurt is healing, where mirth makes kidneys explode. Maybe not, but close. I'm fine with this. I don't want anyone seeing me cry anyway.
We need funny. We can't sit here licking our financial wounds forever. And I need to be funny as much as you need to laugh.

So laugh, dammit, or I'll throw candy wrappers on your lawn and make your kidneys explode.


VP81955 said...

Some interesting thoughts on these challenging times.

I just did an entry at my classic Hollywood community about what we might expect out of movies in the next year or two, as a reflection of these more cynical days:

insomniac said...

truly a spambiguous comment...

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