Saturday, September 8, 2012

I Used To Be Funny

Humor is so subjective. People used to think I was funny. Then I wrote this damn book.
Suddenly I'm not funny anymore.
I've had people start reading the book in front of me, while I'm standing there, which makes me uncomfortable, but I feel awkward saying, "Don't read it NOW! I'm right here!" So they start reading it, and they laugh.
This is true.
This is good.
I want people to laugh. All I want to do is entertain people.
But people who haven't read the book don't think I'm funny. They think I'm a humorless mental illness advocate, and they ignore me. They don't want to read a book that isn't amusing. Sure, there's sad stuff too -- I like to think of it as a well-rounded book, but if you haven't read it or heard about it (which is still most people in the world) you wouldn't think it was particularly amusing. Maybe it isn't, particularly, but at least some of it is.
Of course, there could be people who read the book who don't get the joke and don't laugh. Not everyone finds me funny, even when I was known more for being funny than not. Some people just think I'm a smartass, which I am, because it's an excellent defense mechanism.
I don't laugh at the 3 Stooges, and I don't laugh at . . . other things that rely on physical humor at the expense of wit.
However, I laughed so hard at Cabin in the Woods that I insisted we go see the movie again the next weekend, and I never do that. I'm not a horror movie aficionado -- I like good horror movies that rely upon characterization and atmosphere to show us the things we fear most, which is often ourselves, but I avoid slasher movies and movies that are just about the gore and body count. But this movie was so funny. Blood and gore everywhere, all the horror movie tropes brought into one hilarious romp of total disaster. It's the absurdity that gets me, the over-the-top culmination of all horror movie cliches brought together in all their ridiculousness. I still can't hear elevator doors pinging without thinking of elevator doors opening to reveal scads of movie monster cliches emerging to massacre anyone in their path, then closing, then ping! And then open again with more cliche monsters . . . again and again. We Americans like things over the top -- we have to keep outdoing things, going faster, being richer, creating more outrageous events, and this was a perfect representation of our skewed overachieving culture.
We almost just can't be anymore.
I want to be funny again. I want to stop taking myself so seriously, because my life is pretty damn cushy these days.
I did stand-up a couple of times. Other comedians were relying on stale bits, or exaggerated physical humor. One guy flopped onto the floor and acted like he was having a seizure so the audience could see the bottom of his shoes, on which were written . . . I don't remember what, but it wasn't very funny.
My bit was actually funny. I mean, I can't tell, but the club manager said I had good material, and a good deadpan delivery. It was so much fun, just making people laugh. If I had the energy I'd go do it again.
Then again, if I had the energy I'd go do a lot of things.
And time. Time and energy.
But I'm not sure if I can be stand-up funny again.
But now that I think about it, the best thing about doing stand-up was that I got Stew to go up and do it too. He didn't want to -- he was pretty apprehensive around crowds by then as it was, and then he tried to pull out at the last minute, while we parked at the club.
"I can't do it," he said, "I just can't," and he was shaking.
I told him he didn't have to if he didn't want t o. It's not like it was mandatory. It was supposed to be fun.
"You don't have to, but I'm going, so you do have to come in and watch me."
And so we went in, and after I did my bit and people laughed he decided, "What the hell," and he got up, and he went up on that stage and he performed. Well, I thought he was funny the first time I met him, so I wasn't surprised he could do stand-up well. It took a lot out of him, but he did it. I was so proud.
We were both similar in that way. We just want to make people laugh. I'm a strong believer in laughter for medicinal purposes.
When Andrew and I are together we're always making jokes. Stupid jokes sometimes, but humor is such a part of our daily routine that it makes me happy just being around him. He comes up with the most outrageous things.
Maybe with his coaching I can stop being so serious and start being funny again. Then again, my humor is often so deadpan even I don't recognize it.
Or can I?
We all need things to make us laugh, whatever it is. We have so many options to choose from, if we only know where to look.

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