TUMBLR

A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "comedy"

Aug 15, 2014
Permalink
Because we are laughed at, I don’t think people really understand how essential [comedians] are to their sanity. If it weren’t for the brief respite we give the world with our foolishness, the world would see mass suicide in numbers that compare favorably with the death rate of the lemmings. I’m sure most of you have heard the story of the man who, desperately ill, goes to an analyst and tells the doctor that he has lost his desire to live and that is seriously considering suicide. The doctor listens to his tale of melancholia and then tells the patient that what he needs is a good belly laugh. He then advises the unhappy man to go to the circus that night and spend the evening laughing at Grock, the world’s funniest clown. The doctor sums it up, “After you have seen Grock, I am sure you will be much happier.” The patient rises to his feet, looks sadly at the doctor, turns and ambles toward the door. As he starts to leave the doctor says, “By the way, what is your name?” The man turns and regards the analyst with sorrowful eyes. “I am Grock.”
— Groucho Marx, Groucho And Me

Aug 12, 2014
Permalink
Robin Williams’ extraordinary friendship with Christopher Reeve


  ‘I lay on my back, frozen, unable to avoid thinking the darkest thoughts,’ wrote Reeve.
  
  ‘Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist and that he had to examine me immediately.


(via NextDraft's wonderful roundup)

Robin Williams’ extraordinary friendship with Christopher Reeve

‘I lay on my back, frozen, unable to avoid thinking the darkest thoughts,’ wrote Reeve.

‘Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist and that he had to examine me immediately.

(via NextDraft's wonderful roundup)

Permalink
From Watchmen

Aug 11, 2014
Permalink
The core of all humor, the reason for it all, is unhappiness.

Oct 21, 2013
Permalink

Richard Pryor, Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences

Huge fan of Pryor, and had been meaning to read this for years. Finally picked it up after reading this Dave Chappelle profile in The Believer:

Another book you should buy if you can spare twenty bucks is Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences, Richard Pryor’s autobiography. In it, he tells of a dinner party thrown in his honor by Bobby Darin. Pryor is seated across from Groucho Marx, who told him “that he’d seen me on The Merv Griffin Show a few weeks earlier, when I’d guested with Jerry Lewis.”

It hadn’t been one of my better moments—Jerry and I had gotten laughs by spitting on each other, and Groucho, it turned out, had a few things to say about that.

“Young man, you’re a comic?” he asked.

“Yes,” I nodded. “Yes, I am.”

“So how do you want to end up? Have you thought about that? Do you want a career you’re proud of? Or do you want to end up a spitting wad like Jerry Lewis?”

The man was right… I could feel the stirrings of an identity crisis. It was coming on like the beginning of an acid trip. Groucho’s comments spoke to me. “Wake up, Richard. Yes, you are an ignorant jerk, pimping your talent like a cheap whore. But you don’t have to stay that way. You have a brain. Use it.”

The next sentence? “The thing was, I didn’t have to.”

Unfortunately, it’s a terrible book. Not terrible in that it’s poorly written or structured or bad, but in the fact that everything that happens inside its pages is terrible. Pryor was a really tortured man—he grew up around pimps and whores, was sexually abused at a young age, snorted and smoked insane amounts of cocaine1, and chased “pussy” his whole life like a maniac (he often uses the word “bitch” to refer to many of his half dozen wives).2

And yet, in his own terms, he was one funny motherfucker. The very best of him is in his comedy, and I highly recommend That Nigger’s Crazy (YouTube) for an introduction to his work. (Most of his stuff is out of print, though you can get it in a box set.)3


  1. A previous book borrower did the math—literally! on the last page of the book—on Pryor’s cocaine habit: comes out to $20,833 a month. 

  2. You also won’t learn anything about the craft of stand-up comedy here. For that, read Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. 

  3. There’s also a good New Yorker profile of Pryor from 1999 that’s worth reading. 

Aug 08, 2013
Permalink

Rob Delaney on workshopping via Twitter

robdelaney:

I love Twitter, as much as you can love a website. It has made me a better writer and brought me amazing career opportunities. That said, it is, for me, primarily a tool. I use it to workshop jokes for standup. On stage I tell the same jokes more than once. Why the fuck wouldn’t I? I want them to be as funny as possible, and the more you workshop them, the richer, more detailed, more economic, and more nuanced they can become. So if a tweet that I wrote a while back bubbles up in my mind again, I will often post it. Just because if it was “powerful” enough to stroll into my consciousness again, it means it’s something I might want to talk about onstage that night. I’m more likely to do that if I tweet it again, either with the same wording or, as is often the case, with different, hopefully funnier wording.

Filed under: Twitter, writing

Jun 09, 2013
Permalink

Mar 13, 2013
Permalink
Stephen Tobolowsky, The Dangerous Animals Club

Fun read. Tobolowsky talked about the collection on NPR:


  Where there’s truth, there’s life. … Aristotle talked about something called techne. … There is a little jolt that we get when we recognize the truth, and it gives us a little burst of pleasure. Aristotle said it is the basis of comedy and it is the basis of all drama, is trying to find techne. I think that’s helped me in my comedic acting, and it’s certainly helped me in writing my book, in that I have to have faith in what really happened, and I hope that techne is created in people’s brains as either they read or if they watch me on screen. … When we see truth in someone else’s story, we recognize it as part of a universal story.


Filed under: my reading year 2013

Stephen Tobolowsky, The Dangerous Animals Club

Fun read. Tobolowsky talked about the collection on NPR:

Where there’s truth, there’s life. … Aristotle talked about something called techne. … There is a little jolt that we get when we recognize the truth, and it gives us a little burst of pleasure. Aristotle said it is the basis of comedy and it is the basis of all drama, is trying to find techne. I think that’s helped me in my comedic acting, and it’s certainly helped me in writing my book, in that I have to have faith in what really happened, and I hope that techne is created in people’s brains as either they read or if they watch me on screen. … When we see truth in someone else’s story, we recognize it as part of a universal story.

Filed under: my reading year 2013

Feb 17, 2013
Permalink
With my stand-up now, I’ve realized there are two types of jokes. One type is me talking about miscellaneous topics and getting laughs. That would be how I feel my first two stand-up specials come off. The second type is, you get a laugh, but you also get the feeling that the audience is saying, “Thank you for saying that!” I find the second type way more satisfying.

Jan 26, 2013
Permalink
George Saunders, Tenth of December

Kevin McFarland at the Onion nailed it:


  [T]he most compelling reason why Saunders doesn’t need to bother with a novel comes not from literature, but from standup comedy. Call it the Mitch Hedberg argument: “I’m a standup comedian. I got into comedy to do comedy, which is weird, I know. But when you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things besides comedy. They say, ‘All right, you’re a standup comedian. Can you act? Can you write? Write us a script.’ They want me to do things that’s related to comedy, but not comedy. That’s not fair. It’s as though if I was a cook and I worked my ass off to become a good cook, and they said, ‘All right, you’re a cook—can you farm?”


There’s a touching nod to this in the acknowledgements when Saunders thanks his agent:


  Esther Newberg, for her tireless guidance and friendship these last sixteen years, during which she has given me the great gift of making me feel that all I had to do was write as well as I could, and she would take care of the rest, which she has, with incredible discernment and energy.


Filed under: George Saunders

George Saunders, Tenth of December

Kevin McFarland at the Onion nailed it:

[T]he most compelling reason why Saunders doesn’t need to bother with a novel comes not from literature, but from standup comedy. Call it the Mitch Hedberg argument: “I’m a standup comedian. I got into comedy to do comedy, which is weird, I know. But when you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things besides comedy. They say, ‘All right, you’re a standup comedian. Can you act? Can you write? Write us a script.’ They want me to do things that’s related to comedy, but not comedy. That’s not fair. It’s as though if I was a cook and I worked my ass off to become a good cook, and they said, ‘All right, you’re a cook—can you farm?”

There’s a touching nod to this in the acknowledgements when Saunders thanks his agent:

Esther Newberg, for her tireless guidance and friendship these last sixteen years, during which she has given me the great gift of making me feel that all I had to do was write as well as I could, and she would take care of the rest, which she has, with incredible discernment and energy.

Filed under: George Saunders

Subscribe to my newsletter and get new art, writing, and interesting links delivered to your inbox every week.