Illuminated Chronicles: Talking Funny

Sammy Younan

Girth Radio Presents…

Back in 2011 HBO aired a Ricky Gervais produced comedy special: 49 minutes of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K. analyzing comedy and breaking down stand up. If you’ve seen Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee it’s sorta like that only stationary. (You know…Comedians in Cars aired in 2012 and I can’t help but wonder if Talking Funny sparked or even influenced Seinfeld’s new show).

I laughed…this special is outstanding…it’s so different than when comedians get together. I’ve witnessed the ball-busting, one-upmanship, ego, insecurities etc. when comics get together. Somehow…maybe it’s friendship or their status…the comics in this room don’t feel the need to compete. Comedians in Cars effectively works the same way.

These gents come off like funny people following a creative path…that line from Se7en describes their comedy well: “Even the most promising clues usually only lead to others.” You get an idea, a spark of a bit and you tease it out…flesh it out…follow it to its hilarious conclusion. All creativity works that way…movies have a The End conclusion while jokes, of course have punchlines. So really creativity is about asking where you want to go today?

I deeply appreciate 2 early moments in this conversation: the debate about going to a see a comic vs going to see their act. I dunno that it’s either or…I side with Seinfeld and C.K. I want to see/hear new material yet I treasure the past bits that connected me to the comedian in the first place.

Few years back I saw Bill Cosby at Just for Laughs in Montreal…excellent set: all new material. For his encore though he came out and performed Dentist a classic hit I could recite with Cosby almost word for word. U2 does this well too…they open their concerts with all new material forcing the audience to put their energy into the new stuff; later on they’ll drop hits like One or Where The Streets Have No Name. So I paid for Cosby the comedian and I paid for Dentist…the comic and the act.

The other key moment was so Hallelujah: near the 5 minute mark Ricky says: “when discussing things like what do the audience expect or want do they want…I don’t care it’s not up to them. I do exactly what I want and if you didn’t like it I don’t care: don’t come and ever see me again.” Amazing statement; necessary philosophy. And he’s right!

This is how you deftly circumvent political correctness or any ridiculous morality the audience subject performers too (Twitter is constantly on Shame Patrol).

Coming from comic books and nerd properties it’s why demanding a female Doctor Who for example is embarrassingly juvenile…it’s not up to the audience: you don’t write or produce Doctor Who nor could you do as good a job as what’s currently airing. Your selfishness doesn’t make the show better: your demand only makes you feel better: it’s passing off a temper tantrum as a rational request. It doesn’t matter what the audience want or worse thinks they want.

Creativity and business are linked by that classic Henry Ford truth: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Audiences don’t know what they want so there’s little value in listening to them. That sounds harsh while revealing a beautiful freedom: unfettered creativity is how we get the best stories, jokes, movies etc. That unfettered creativity makes our lives better and richer.

The creators who excel at their work (like Steven Moffat over at Doctor Who and Chris Rock to flow back to this video) are the ones I continue to invest in; my investment gives them this incredible life to create and experiment and fail and succeed. I dunno where they’ll take me; I’m happy to belong for the ride: there’s no value in being a backseat driver. Complaining about comedy is like being on a ride along and yelling from the backseat instructions on how cops can do their job better.

Other favourite bits:
Chris Rock at 15 minute mark explains his repetition…you ever noticed that? Go back and look at Rock’s comedy specials he’ll repeat the same phrase a lot while fleshing out a joke. What he says here I finally get it.

Seinfeld Swears! 36 minutes in a joke he used with fucking (yeah…an actual curse word) and what happens when he removes the curse. He’s right about language and rhythm.

Much like Comedians in Cars I enjoyed this special…I’m a fan of comedy as much as I am a fan of comedians as much as I am a fan of jokes.

Sammy Baltic Web

Sammy Younan @ W • T • F

Ziggy Was Here January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016

Also published on Medium.

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