Oscar Wilde quotation.
Oscar Wilde quotation.
Jerry Seinfeld, of course, just may be the most well-respected comedian of the last 25 years. Respected among his peers which, I have alluded to, is the highest form of praise a comic can receive.
He is a ‘clean’ comic, that rarest of comedians. Jim Gaffigan and Brian Regan are among the few comics who can hold that revered title. It takes a special skill to craft material that can be appreciated by all ages. These are observational comics, a bit of a throwback, in terms of style. This is the comedy I grew up on, and which informed my writing, and drawing.
Comics these days, I find, mine their own personal stories for material, as Pryor did, back in the day. (Patton, Maron, Robin Williams, Jen Kirkman, even Gaffigan, in his latest special, and many more) Often, a painful, but funny narrative can emerge through workshopping material at clubs etc, seeing what works, what can be emphasized for humorous effect. The end product may not be as polished and tight, but therein lies the organic nature of this style of comedy – it is no less valid than the ‘old timey’ observational style.
Happy days! Jerry is coming to Vancouver this October – I am taking my mother. (my wife and I went years back) She is such a fan that she STILL quotes lines and scenes from the show. I took my wife last time he visited here a few years back, and he did NOT disappoint.
Nobody could make a one-liner sing like Rodney Dangerfield. Truly one of the all-time greats. His headstone reads ‘ Rodney Dangerfield . . . There Goes the Neighborhood’.
I guess this will be a place for me to post some personal passions, as it relates to comedians and comedy, an industry I am fairly conversant in, though have not performed (nor plan to in the near or distant future, balls of steel I do not possess). I will try not to cull from Wiki but, instead, try to personalize a said comedian’s influence on me and my overall take on that comedian.
It is hard to say why I love Garry Shandling so much. It is hard to say, in that, there are so many reasons. I devoured the Larry Sanders Show back in the 90s. It won 24 awards, incl. Emmys. It is an acerbic and highly caustic look at a fictional late night TV show. Influential and a landmark does not begin to describe the show. Many of the actors played exaggerated versions of themselves in the show at a time when such a conceit was unheard of. This, of course, included Garry, who played the titular character, Larry Sanders.
To a man (and woman), fellow comics and actors have described Garry as wise, kind, generous, and, above all, funny. It is significant that his fellow comics unanimously give him such acolytes. Intensely private, neither married, or with children, his stage persona was of an anxiety-ridden man, on the verge of losing control. Perhaps it is a sad pity that is makes Garry so appealing to me, as he plays the put-upon Everyman. His self-deprecation is reminiscent of Woody from his stand-up days, minus the overreliance on psychiatric analysis as a comic thread.
If you don’t know Garry’s work, I would highly recommend the Larry Sanders Show. 6 seasons, 90 episodes. When I watched it in the 90s, I knew I was seeing something magic and unique. The TV landscape at that time was dominated by shows like Seinfeld, Friends, Home Improvement, Fresh Prince, and Frasier. I hope that that will give you an idea of context, and how out of left field, was Garry’s show.
They only aired it after midnight where I lived, so profanity-laden was the dialogue, especially to comic effect with Rip Torn. Most, if not all, his comic work is on YouTube, no surprise.
Perhaps you will find his fumbling, wincing, grimacing nebbish persona unappealing. How supremely uninteresting life would be, if we all liked the same thing. However, I would not be the first to describe him as on a different plane than the rest of us. Like a radio, it is as if he is attuned to a transmission only he can get, or understand. And combined with that face, it is like the stars suddenly aligned.
There are a small number of famous people I would enjoy sitting down with, and picking their brain. In fact, that can be a criteria here. Garry Shandling is definitely one of them. Check out Marc Maron’s interview with him on the WTF podcast, the respect he shows him colours the entire interview.
I will leave you with an atypical Garry joke. (paraphrased)
Garry: Yes, I’m in the dating scene. I’m out and about. I gave eHarmony a go. (beat) They matched me up with a gun.
Here is a stand-up comic we saw the other night. Jen Kirkman is a favourite of mine, her style being of an acerbic quality (not for everyone), with a less joke-based set, but more of a narrative-based one, culled from her life. Like quite a few performers and comics, she has a podcast that enables a listener an opportunity to get into the head of the performer which is never not a cool thing. There are certain people whose brains are a wonder, and it is fascinating to hear reality distilled through their filters. One thing, though. Never refer to her as a female comedian (at least within earshot or on social media). Or a (gag) comedienne. She likes to be referred to as a comedian/comic who just happens to be female. If you want to go the extra mile, and have a lot of spare time, a stand-up comic who identifies as female. There is a lot of things that bother her, in fact, and it is the anger that is the engine of her bits and act.
One of her more famed bits is how she gained 40 lbs after getting married (now divorced). Her friends told her that it was normal to gain weight after marriage. She was ‘settling in’, or ‘you’re nesting’. She retorted with, ‘Oh great, I thought that it was because I was sitting in front of the TV every night eating a brick of cheese like a sandwich.’ (she is very candid about her bouts with depression)
I don’t think that I have written extensively about one of my passions, stand-up comedy. Comics/cartoons and stand-up comics have always been a through-line in my life, since I was a teen. I remember listening to material from Robert Klein, Steve Martin, George Carlin, Pryor, Cosby (favourite of my dad’s), Newhart, Dangerfield, Woody Allen, Lily Tomlin, Eddie Murphy, et al. I would typically listen on FM radio late at night. Or on LPs. Those were my guys.
In the late 70’s, early 80’s, babysitting (can’t believe families were actually desperate enough to seek MY childcare skills: early to bed, so I could get on the boob tube, was my mantra) to the wee hours, I would get to witness the brilliance of Saturday Night Live. There was no way on God’s green earth I was going to be allowed to watch THAT at home. And we didn’t have cable, since the show was on the American feeds. We had CBC, CTV, and KVOS out of Bellingham. We had a manual antenna on the roof controlled by a gizmo straight of a 1950s sci-fi movie.
I try to take in as many comics as possible but given that we are out here on the ‘Wet Coast’, the picking can be far and few between, especially the big names. I took my son to see Jim Gaffigan earlier this year. We both think he is hilarious, and he is one of few comics performing today whose material is mostly clean. Brian Regan is another big name whose material is not only funny but devoid of expletives. We (my wife and I) have been lucky enough to see Newhart, Seinfeld, and Todd Glass (not so clean) in recent years.
There is something quite extraordinary and courageous about a performer walking on the stage and trying to make us laugh. It is a position fraught with peril, to say the least. To make a blanket statement, it takes a certain kind of strength (or masochism) to get back on that stage again and again (esp after bombing). It is a drug for many of them, like the ‘inside drugs’ that compel some to leap off buildings and bridges with ‘chutes, I suppose.
I am not positive that I might be able to pull off such a counter intuitive move, as performing in front of an audience who is there with the unspoken demand: make us laugh. I was a class clown in school, which is an early indicator (of failure in life?) of a possible stand-up comedy career. Of course, it did not pan out that way (thank the great cosmic muffin for that).
And though you did not ask, here are a few more comics (living or passed on), who I think are brilliant: CK, Marc Maron, Bill Burr, Patton, Birbiglia, Robin Williams, Hedberg, Bamford, Norm MacDonald, Sarah Silverman, and of course Rodney! Believe me when I say that I have left out a few.
Thanks for reading.