Posted on 3 February 2015 | 1 response
Our culture is keen on building up competitiveness, status-seeking, and individualism. These qualities are useful for easily encouraging people to consume. What we need now more than ever is for people to learn how to cooperate and to share. These skills will help us to live in a more balanced, peaceful, and sustainable manner.
Successfully forming and maintaining a group is also a skill. Simply turning up, banging around, then disappearing when things don’t instantly go your way is a recipe for disaster. You have to give yourself time to learn. Then you have to learn things such as flexibility, listening skills, creative problem solving, empathy, resilience, and humility.
At some level we all want to get our way and be the important one. At a more mature level we understand that the final goal and the means by which we get there are more important. Every group needs to be clear on its purpose, values, and goals, then remain focussed.
Because of the nature of our culture people have a hard time being forthright and thoughtful. Some people are motivated to use different tactics to manipulatively control a group, rather than collaborating. Understanding the tactics can help to reduce some people unconsciously slipping into these behaviours. They may even take them to a positive place instead.
Some people will not want to learn, because they feel insecure being in anything less than a controlling position. You will want to recognise what they are up to, see if they can be convinced to learn, and if not, drop them. No matter how high-minded you are, keeping some people on board will destroy a group. It’s okay to let people go upon occasion, we seek freedom as well as community.
Too many generals (not enough soldiers)
We do need considered opinions. We do need the voice of experience. We don’t need people who tell the toilet cleaners how to do their job when they aren’t willing and haven’t cleaned those toilets themselves. Those who do the work need to make the rules about how the work is done.
Entourage vs cheer leaders
We need cheer leaders who are good at bringing in new members. Go team! We do not need people who bring in the numbers (their entourage) just to use them as a way to gain personal power.
Working their way to the top
Some people are very good workers and we need that. Some people take on jobs and take on jobs, until their presence is indispensable. They may then hold the group hostage to their desires.
The bountiful parent
We want people who are warm and generous. It’s what we are all aiming to become. Some people will wrap you in their arms and give you things in order to get you to relinquish your responsibilities/power to them and oblige you to abide by their wishes.
Poor pity me
We do need to be there to the best of our abilities when someone is in trouble. We need to recognise when people regularly create trouble or rely on trouble as a way to function on an ongoing basis. These people need professional help. We need to recognise when this is used by people to be treated in a privileged manner.
Late comers and early leavers
Life is messy and we are all late comers and early leavers upon occasion. We need to be aware when this is being used as a form of passive resistance. Why do some people feel the need to protest in this manner? Is it indicative of a problem the group needs to address? Is it a power play?
We need people who deeply care and have the strength to stand for a better world. We need to be careful of people with dominating personalities who silence others and take over agendas.
Sometimes it’s worth dealing with people in a gentle and sensitive manner. However some people will not speak up about their wishes. They can cause people to hop around trying to figure out what they want. They can undercut people through looks and body language, creating an unwelcoming atmosphere. We need to create a space where everyone feels safe to be forthright about their wants and needs, and then be forthright. It’s unfair making people guess.
Is someone simply being difficult, or are they symptomatic of a larger problem? Dysfunctional families classically point to the member who is struggling to free themselves from dysfunction as “the problem”. However, sometimes a person does have a problem with anti-social behaviour. We need systems in place to ensure they are treated justly, but are not allowed to disrupt the group.
Groups and power
Groups are important. We do not live on this planet alone. We cannot survive on our own. A group is more powerful than one person, of course. The larger the group, the larger the potential power. To quote Voltaire and Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Positions of power attract people whose sole interest are positions of power. Such people may support your cause, and are likely to do so effectively, but they are more dedicated to power and therefore will not always represent your best interests.
Even on the small scale we all seek validation. We can become entangled in our own pet desires and side track ourselves from our own highest vision.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
We will have to remain vigilant of our own behaviour to ensure we are a nexus of compassion. Ask Mohandas Gandhi: compassion is not for wimps. We must withstand bullying that can come from within as well as without. Fear and paranoia are not the answer. Wisdom and discernment are called for. Patience and strength are a must. We must treat one another fairly and with kindness. We must also trust in our ability to face contention and controversy. Together we can change the world.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 31 January 2015 | No responses
Geena Davis makes some excellent points in her article Geena Davis’ Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist. I would make one more point: you are more likely to have fair representation of people in media when those who are doing the storytelling come from a broad range of genders, ethnicities, ableisms, etc. I attended a lecture held by Women in Film and Television (WIFT) which provided evidence that though more women are currently in roles of authority such as producer, fewer are in roles such as writer or director. This makes a big difference in what stories are told and how.
Whose stories are told, whose biographies are published, who is represented in history books: these are all important to how we as a culture see ourselves and one another. These reflections upon ourselves, no matter how distorted, inform our decisions and create the future. Take action and tell a story no one has heard before, one with a currently unexpected shape. So long as you are in the box, it’s hard to see that anything else exists outside, but it does. That’s where the blue skies and sunshine exist.
It wasn’t the lack of female lead characters that first struck me about family films. We all know that’s been the case for ages, and we love when movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen hit it big. It was the dearth of female characters in the worlds of the stories — the fact that the fictitious villages and jungles and kingdoms and interplanetary civilizations were nearly bereft of female population — that hit me over the head. This being the case, we are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space. Couldn’t it be that the percentage of women in leadership positions in many areas of society — Congress, law partners, Fortune 500 board members, military officers, tenured professors and many more — stall out at around 17 percent because that’s the ratio we’ve come to see as the norm?
~Geena Davis, “Geena Davis’ Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist“, The Hollywood Reporter
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 30 January 2015 | No responses
I am a peace activist. I strongly believe in the value of peace, and taking action to ensure we all can live in harmony with ourselves, one another, and the planet.
For a long time I felt that most governmental and/or economic systems can work provided the people within those systems are caring individuals who consider the welfare of others. With time and experience I no longer see things in this way. People of goodwill can do a lot wherever they may find themselves. Nevertheless, each political/economic system comes with its own values and those values may or may not embrace the importance of each unique individual and the environment we all need to flourish. Some systems are destructive of our sense of self, our relationship with one another, and our relationship with the Earth.
Our planet is in crisis and the issues of poverty and environmental damage are closely intertwined. Most solutions people are putting forward are the same ones we have tried again and again without longterm success. This is because they are palliative and/or superficial.
We currently live in a society where we have to trade in order to survive. We have to sell our goods, our time, our skills, ourselves in order to be assured of a roof overhead and food on the table. Woe to those who are too young, too old, too busy with children, or are facing any sort of difficulty keeping them from trading.
We have a society that values status. So many people actively seek to have more and actively seek to ensure others have less. This puts us in a position whereby we are all actively participating in buying and selling more than anyone needs. We are actively participating in keeping someone somewhere poor.
If we raise the minimum wage in our own country, companies will find a country where people can be paid less, in order to make cheap goods to sell the people in their own country who no longer have jobs and can no longer afford well made products. That company needs poor people to function in this way. They may justify their methods by saying they are bringing more wealth to the poor elsewhere but the instant foreign workers start asking for a fair wage, you haven’t cured anything, you’ve merely created a situation where the problem gets passed on again.
Without a financial safety net people are going to lie, exaggerate, manipulate, and push to make sure they are getting enough to eat. They will tolerate abhorrent behaviour, because they are frightened and desperate. We need to separate work from the getting of a wage. We need people to participate in their society without the need for coercion. We need people to feel secure enough that they are capable of making fair, sensible, and responsible decisions, ones that place the welfare of this planet above personal concerns.
We must make a consumerist society a thing of the past.
We need to focus on raising people’s awareness concerning the issues and their solutions. We need to live those solutions in our own lives, modelling the change we are seeking, so people do not fear the change. If we seek peace and harmony within the world, then we must move forward in peace, harmony, and the strength of compassion.
Peace is not simply a cessation of violence. Peace is living in a world where we need not fear for our existence, where we need not fear our thoughts or their expression, and where we need not fear one another.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 23 January 2015 | No responses
I didn’t say “Laugh! Track suit!”, I said “laugh track suit”. This is genius! Awesome way to be a geek AND a comedian.
Posted on 22 January 2015 | No responses
Once upon a time a tribe of monkeys lived in a fruit tree. The fruit tree was large, and since the weather had been clement for many years, it bore much fruit. So much fruit dangled from each long woody branch that the entire tribe had all they needed and more to feed themselves.
Most of the monkeys would eat until sated and leave the rest of the fruit to whatever other birds, animals, and insects had need of it. A few were greedy and hoarded more than they could possibly consume. However, since the tree was so incredibly fecund and the monkeys were only few, it didn’t really matter. The monkeys lived in peace with one another.
Then one year a giant storm blew through the the little monkeys’s forest. The branches of their tree swayed and whipped around until most of the fruit was shaken to the ground. At first they still had enough, since the fruit on the ground continued to be edible…yet, only enough if they agreed to share. The greedy monkeys could no longer take more than necessary.
At first the greedy monkeys screamed and wailed at having limits put onto their gathering. “This is unfair,” they cried, “We have always taken this much.” Or grunts and hoots to that effect. Some came to realise that too much for them meant suffering for the other monkeys. Some found they could not live without the grooming and companionship of the other monkeys, keeping food from them meant loneliness and suffering for the greedy as well. Some would not cooperate and had to be chased from the tribe.
As fruit on the ground rotted and the fruiting season was nearly done, the monkeys had to live with less and less. One day one cunning monkey had the good fortune of coming upon a hole beneath a bush where many good fruit had rolled and were as yet undiscovered. A couple of the cunning monkey’s siblings wandered over to see what the monkey had found. They were very hungry.
“You have found fruit! Can we have some?” ooked the furry creatures.
The cunning monkey thought about it and asked, “What will you do for me if I give you the fruit?”
“We will give you extra grooming!” said one monkey.
“I will give you my favourite shiny pebble,” said another monkey.
The cunning monkey didn’t care whether it had one piece of fruit or a hundred pieces of fruit. Just so long as it had enough to fill its belly. Nevertheless, it liked the idea of being able to tell the other monkeys what to do. So the cunning monkey agreed to the trades, but only gave each of the siblings one fruit each and kept the rest in order to make other such trades.
The cunning monkey knew that soon the nut bushes that fed the monkeys when the fruit tree became dormant would have ripe nuts. When that happened the cunning monkey could no longer tell the other monkeys what to do. The cunning monkey liked its position of power too much to let that happen.
The cunning monkey found the strongest monkeys in the tribe and gave those monkeys extra fruit to do as they were told. The cunning monkey had the strong monkeys build fences around the nut bushes. When the nuts on the bushes were ready for eating, the cunning monkey gave the strong monkeys first pick. When the rest of the tribe came to the bushes eager to once again know what it is like to be satisfied, they were surprised to find they could not get to their bushes: the bushes they had all planted in previous years.
The strong monkeys were at first happy to keep away the rest of the tribe. They were receiving all they needed and more by following the cunning monkey. When the other monkeys found they no longer had the strength to take back their bushes, in desperation they were willing to do anything, anything at all, that the cunning monkey could possibly want.
The cunning monkey at first had the self control to give the other monkeys enough to keep them coming back for the nuts it now owned. The monkey also came to realise that the other monkeys no longer liked it. The monkey found that whenever the others had a chance they would steal a nut or throw a pebble at its head when its back was turned.
The cunning monkey moved to a nest in a high tree and set some of the strong monkeys around the bottom to guard the nest. Others of the strong monkeys brought the cunning monkey everything it needed, so that it never had reason to leave the tree.
As the cunning monkey started living further and further away from the other monkeys, it forgot what their lives were like and how the tribe functioned. It decided to keep more of the nuts, believing that the new level of desperation the monkeys would feel would convince them to stop throwing pebbles.
The little monkeys did become more desperate, but also realised that appealling to the cunning monkey was no longer going to work. They had to look past their fears and their desperation. They had to stop doing what the cunning monkey said. They had to find food they could once more share.
The monkeys put together what little they had and left their beloved fruit tree to find another equally fecund tree. The strong monkeys, missing their mothers, their fathers, their sisters, brothers, and children, soon decided it was no fun hanging out with the cunning monkey and left to find their families.
In the end the cunning monkey was all alone.
Peace and kindness,
(originally published 2014 January 14)
Posted on 15 January 2015 | No responses
This is a lengthy video of Cory Doctorow giving a lecture at CopyCamp 2014. I have been on panels (dressed as Groucho Marx) with Cory. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I am a lifetime member of Electronic Frontiers Australia.
The content of this video is important to artists, all types of artists. You will have to put your thinking caps on, but it includes information crucial to your future. It covers issues to do with your ability to make a living and your ability to live in a free society. I strongly suggest taking the time to consider what Cory has to say.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 14 January 2015 | No responses
I was about to write this article. I am deeply concerned about the rise of world hatred, whether it is about ethnicity, age, religion, or ideology, etc. People are scared and scared people make poor choices. Scared people are easily herded for a time, until the whole thing explodes. We should not be feeding the hatred. We need to be finding ways to cross divides. The below article says pretty much what I had in my head when I was taking a shower this morning. It’s also Creative Commons, so I thought I would publish the whole thing.
I am a satirical writer. On my good days, I find comedy in the contradictions of daily life, using humor to illuminate larger points about race, class, and the undeniable musical genius of Justin Bieber.
So when I heard about last week’s tragic murders at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, my first reaction was: Oh God, don’t let this be real.
Don’t let this disgusting, heartbreaking thing be real. And please don’t let this inevitable tragic backlash to Charlie Hebdo be real either.
Which led to my second reaction: Wait. Who the hell is Charlie Hebdo?
As I saw many of my Facebook friends (and even more of my Facebook enemies) taking up the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, I wondered, Do we really know who we’re claiming solidarity with? Is the enemy of my enemy necessarily my friend? Or is this a situation not of righteous heroes and evil enemies, but bad jokes and even worse policies?
Murder is murder. That line is clear. The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris were murder. We should all grieve the twelve people whose lives were stolen, as well as the four people who were taken hostage and killed at the kosher market. We should also stand against the Islamophobic reaction from Western governments and media, from old douchebags like Rupert Murdoch to young douchebags like Don Lemon.
The definition of murder is clear (to everyone outside of NYPD internal affairs, that is), but other terms are more malleable to political calculations. According to mainstream media, the mass killers in France are “Islamic terrorists,” while the American generals who order drone strikes on children in Pakistan are “heroes of war.” Printing anti-Muslim cartoons is “freedom of speech,” while Holocaust jokes are “unacceptable” to a civilized society.
To which I say, as a Jew: it just depends on the Holocaust joke.
And that gets to the heart of what makes Charlie Hebdo such a problematic hero. Since the attacks, the American media has taken to calling the French publication a “satirical” magazine. To Americans, satire is something that is fun and harmless that you watch at night on Comedy Central. Here’s the thing, though: Charlie Hebdo isn’t the French version of Jon Stewart. It is closer to the bastard lovechild of Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh, with all of their nastiness and even worse jokes.
In a country (France) and an era (post-9/11) where Muslims face rampant discrimination and often violent exclusion, Charlie Hebdo’s cheap shots at Islam added fuel to the racist fire. I understand the desire to make fun of organized religion in all its absurdities, but it’s possible to do that without graphic cartoons of Muhammad being sodomized. That’s not brilliant satire, that’s pornographic hate speech. And I don’t know about you, but I prefer my porn without violent hatred.
Of course, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo didn’t deserve to be killed for their drawings. Not in a million years. But that doesn’t mean that what they drew or published was worth defending in its own right. I love free speech as much as anyone, but I can separate the right of people to have free speech with my support for their actual speech. When the ACLU supported the right of neo-Nazis to march through the suburban shtetl of Skokie, IL, they didn’t go around saying #IAmHitler.
Let’s be fair: Charlie Hebdo isn’t the graphic novel version of Mein Kampf. In fact, as much as some of my progressive friends don’t want to admit it, it often leans politically more to the left than the right. The magazine ridicules fundamentalism in all forms, from the Pope to ultra-orthodox Jews. It was against the bombing of Gaza. This doesn’t mean they’re not bigots, it just means they’re liberal bigots. (Something that we never have a problem with here in America. Right, Hollywood?)
While Charlie Hebdo mercilessly mocks others, it practices its own religion, a kind of “ultra-secularism” that I sometimes believe in myself. But as we’ve seen with Bill Maher, the problem with ultra-secularism, especially the so-called colorblind version, is that it believes that all targets are equally worthy of derision. And as Saladin Ahmed pointed out, “In a brutally unequal world, satire that mocks everyone equally ends up serving the powerful.” (Note the countless presidents and dictators all rushing to march for free speech in Paris, then going home to suppress their own dissidents.)
From Lenny Bruce to Aaron McGruder, the number one rule of political comedy is to punch up. Make fun of the corporate billionaire who owns a gold course on each Hawaiian island—not the chubby guy who has to work as a caddie just to pay the rent. That doesn’t mean that certain topics are off limits. It means that while in search of that big laugh, we should expose social divisions with the goal of empathy and solidarity — not further division.
As the late great Molly Ivins said, “Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel—it’s vulgar.”
Charlie Hebdo is cruel, vulgar, and what in their eyes would be the harshest criticism possible, just not funny. And as my uncle Jerry once told me: if it’s racist and it’s not funny, then it’s just racist.
So I will grieve. I will condemn the violence. I will push against the backlash. And I will fight and write and laugh in the hope that we can create a political world, an artistic world that is both principled and nuanced. And it precisely because of these principles and nuance that at the same time that I stand against the violence and the backlash, I also make it clear:
I am not #Charlie.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Josh Healey is an award-winning writer, performer, and creative activist. He is currently the Culture Shift Director for Movement Generation, producing innovative shows, comedic videos, and creative interventions from the frontlines of the climate justice movement in the Bay Area and beyond.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 6 January 2015 | No responses
Computer game design, improvisational theatre, roleplaying games, and oral storytelling have a habit of falling into well-recognised story tropes and myths. People are familiar with these sorts of stories, so the creator doesn’t have to fill in as much detail or think as much about the genuine ramifications of certain circumstances. With improvisation especially, since you have microseconds to come up with something, performers may comically drop into a trope as the most readily available tool to move their performance forward.
The problem is many of these tropes and myths need to be re-examined due to their destructive nature. “Five Destructive Myths Perpetuated by Roleplaying Games” is an excellent article on some of the more pernicious myths.
The most important thing to remember when examining these roleplaying myths is that none of them are insurmountable. They don’t mean that roleplaying is a bad medium for storytelling. Quite the opposite. Addressing these issues in your game is a great way to get players thinking, because they can actively participate. That said, not every game has to be about raising awareness or combating a flaw in our pop culture. Sometimes you just want to have a fun night without worrying about this stuff, and that’s fine. But if you plan your game to avoid these problematic myths, you’ll be taking a step towards improving both the medium and our society as a whole.
~Oren Ashkenazi, “Five Destructive Myths Perpetuated by Roleplaying Games“, Mythcreants: Science Fiction and Fantasy for Creatives.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 5 January 2015 | No responses
Ursula Vernon writes the most hilarious children’s books. In a moment of despair she wrote this blog entry. Don’t worry too much about the entry. This has the most amazing replies to a posting that I have ever seen. Comedians and artists take note what her audience has to say.
There’s this comment:
There’s a lot worth striving for. We have to keep plugging along, fixing what breaks, and putting it back on track when stuff goes sideways. If you feel you aren’t doing enough, change what you do but demanding that you fix all of the world’s ills singlehandedly is crazy. Even the heroes of fantasy novels have companions.
I don’t want stories that prepare me to lie down and accept attrocity or the status quo. I don’t want to settle. It’s inspiring that Tolkein created and held onto his vision of beauty and purity from the trenches of WWI through the bombings and death camps of WWII. Keep writing with a vision of what’s good- we need it.
And this one:
I think you are underestimating the importance of artists. My daughter is a hospital doctor who cares for very ill people; it’s immensely stressful and sometimes rewarding. It feels good to pull someone out from under the wheels of the proverbial ten ton truck, but it doesn’t happen very often; the main thing which keeps her on track is her passion for music. With it she is wrapped up in learning the piece she is going to sing next, or the concert she is going to attend; without it she’s lost. She reads books which interest and amuse her; she looks at paintings and sculptures which intrigue her. Without all of those things she couldn’t do what she does because it would be unbearable.
So, please continue to be a painter and a writer; scientists need people to do that so they can be scientists. On a bad day, when she had lost someone she had hoped to be able to save, your Valentine’s made my daughter laugh out loud; you took some of the burden off her shoulders so she could carry on. We are both grateful…
And if I quote much more, I’ll start crying again.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 1 January 2015 | No responses
As a comedian it’s often worthwhile to make new year resolutions in order to break them. I mean, what could be funnier? What could be funnier is resolving to do things that will improve your performance. If you are serious about your career, the following resolutions should help to increase the laughs.
1) I will look after my voice.
Your voice is your most precious tool. Comedians early in their careers may lazily rely on their microphone, thinking all they need are a venue, some fart jokes, and a good set of speakers. The reality is that even good seasoned comedians can end up in the hospital to have nodules removed from their vocal chords. Non-stop talking for an hour, six days a week, for four weeks during festival time without warm-ups can destroy a voice.
Also crucial to your career are annunciation, vocal variation, and projection. People have to understand what you are saying in order to find it funny. A droning voice puts people to sleep: you have to either create variation in tone or variation in pacing, or preferably both, to ensure you are memorable not soporific. You may not always have a microphone when performing to an audience, and even if you do, projection isn’t always about volume. It’s also about engaging all of your audience whether they are in the front or back row. If you are only playing to the front row, become a bartender and tell your jokes there. Necessary to good annunciation, vocal variation, and projection is breath control. Increase your lung capacity and learn how to take and use long deep breaths.
You can find resources online to help with this, if you are self-motivated. Or you can find yourself a good vocal coach.
2) I will make friends with my audience.
I know far too many starting comedians who see the audience as their enemy. They want the fame, they don’t want to have to engage people. That’s a failed career right there.
As a comedian you have to put yourself forward. You have to be willing to expose yourself. You have to trust in the basic goodwill of your audience. You have to actively pursue a friendly relationship with the people within your audience. How do you do that? How do you make friends?
Introduce yourself to your audience. I would say, do away with the hidden voice introduction. Come out and state your name clearly and with pride. Spend some time finding out who your audience is. Ask them questions, talk with them: just make sure you listen and respond directly to their answers. Comment on things you like about them. Be genuinely concerned about their welfare. Show them that you are willing and happy to do your best for them.
At a storytelling gig I noticed some people who looked like hipsters in the audience. I said, “Are you guys hipsters?” At first they looked a little nervous. “Oh I do hope so. You guys are my best audience. I just worry that means I’m not cool yet.” And they were then on my side. Sadly, a couple of comedians who followed me started in on the hipster put down jokes. Who had some lovely bearded gentlemen chatting with them afterwards? You don’t have to be in your twenties to still be the belle of the ball. Just be nice.
3) I will make friends with other comedians.
Comedians come from the most diverse backgrounds of any art I know. Most have no training other than standing in front of a mic until they got it right. As such they often miss opportunities that are available to people who sat in classes. I would say more than half the value of participating in some sort of course is the alliances you form with the other people learning with you. Okay, so you didn’t take a class. You can still take the time to get to know and make friends with the other comedians at open mic nights, at a workshop group, or have a few drinks with performers at a festival.
It’s much easier to get your foot in the door of professional comedy if you share costs and work with another comedian to put a show on some place like the Melbourne Comedy Festival, maybe even the Edinburgh Fringe. Opportunities that don’t suit your friends may get passed your direction. If the opportunity to write for Giggle and Hoot were passed to someone like Dilruk Jayasinha, he might get excited by the offer but not feel it’s really his style and then pass it on to me (if this does happen Dil, I’m right here). Also, comedy is a hard job. It’s good having people who can give you a little advice and commiserate with you when things aren’t going too well.
4) I will watch my expletive to content ratio.
Any filler is bad in any performance. In Australia “um’s” and “ah’s” are often replaced with four-letter words. I will say to young comedians that language used in a mean-spirited fashion will switch off many potential audience members. It’s possible to find people who enjoy that sort of thing, but you will be limiting yourself. But also consider that people paid money to hear you perform. If for an hour show you spent twenty minutes of it swearing, your audience only received thirty to forty minutes of jokes. They may feel they’ve been ripped off by 30%.
If you use blue language, use it sparingly. Then it will act as an intensifier for what you are saying, rather than as distracting noise. If you are concerned about censorship, then please support the George Carlin Freedom of Comic Speech Day on 12 May. I studied Anglo Saxon as part of my English degree at university. We can say “excrement” in “polite” (read upper class) society because it is a Latin word representative of the language used by the conquering Normans in Britain. We can’t say “shit” because it represents the language of a conquered people and the lower classes. I consider our society not caring for the poor, the young, the disabled, and the elderly much more profane than someone pronouncing a few consonants and a vowel.
5) Practise, practise, practise.
This one should be obvious. Go out there and find places where you can trial your material, trial your performance, and learn how to get the laughs. You don’t have to go by usual routes to get this practise. Comedy open mic is one way. You can also join a group like Toastmasters. You can sometimes convince music open mics to let you sneak in. For one year I went around to loads of slam poetry events. Not only did I perform humorous poems, usually people have explanatory introductions to their works and I practised on stage chatter.
I would suggest making out a calendar and filling it up in advance with venues where you have booked yourself to perform, cutting that time out from doing anything else.
6) I will donate some of my time to good causes.
Artists of any sort including comedy are going to have to do a lot free performing before seeing money happen. If you are going to be giving away your time, why not do it for a good cause? Not only are you helping to make the world a better place, you get to practise your performance and build up an audience. To those comedians who have made it, it’s important to give back to the community who have given to you. As I mentioned in a previous article, don’t let yourself be exploited, but some groups are sincere and will be genuinely grateful for your help.
Happy New Year everyone! May your days be happy or at least funny.
Peace and kindness,