Why Forced Comedy Doesn’t Work, Part II

I’m presently taking an acting class simply because I see that it will benefit me, not to mention I am majoring in theater in college.

The class wrapped up a stand-up comedy unit today that involved us, the students, writing our own routines and performing them. This was also to try to get us to work on gestures, body language, and varying the voice.

Mine involved diets, including the discussion of my former vegetarianism that was aided by a plush sheep and a prop of a pig that I built for a play I directed. I don’t think it was that funny, but it doesn’t help that I’m really serious and look really serious.

One of the students that presented today did a routine that was simply just ranting. And not funny ranting, like, oh, Lewis Black.

It was a rant on how those over the age of 65 are of no use to society and the government must place them in homes once they reach that age.

Judging from the responses of the other students, I would have to say that they weren’t to pleased with this rant. Neither was I; I was livid, to be precise and I read “New Yorker” cartoons after finishing up my comments on his performance just to calm down.

But on top of that I thought it wasn’t funny at all. And once it turned into mindless rambling with no arguments that could work even if they were outrageous, none of the other students laughed. In fact, he made a comment about nurses aides and one of the students claimed to be and was offended.

And it was offensive, along with vulgar (without cursing–this is public school) and annoying. If I want to listen to annoying rants, I’ll watch the O’Reilly Factor for more than 30 minutes, thank you.

During this class, I sit in the first row of the school auditorium where my serious face can be seen if they decide to look out into the audience. I wrote comments on my sheet of paper, since we’re supposed to critique the other students (the instructor told me to go easy on them), and they were along these lines.

I told him he shouldn’t have worn a baseball cap on stage since I couldn’t see half of his face, I couldn’t tell if he said “chee” or “tea” at one point and I was dubious as to whether or not Yoda counted as a person since Yoda isn’t human.

The fourth comment was me chastising him for the piece of crap I had just sat through. I informed him that if he is going to do offensive routines–and when you say all people over the age of 65, you’re bound to offend someone–he needs to be funny. I also pointed out that several people over the age of 65 have contributed to society or did before their death. Among my list was George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut, Paul Newman, my grandfather, this woman at one of the community theaters who’s over the age of 80 and I pray to God she doesn’t die because no one can stage manage as well as she does, Martin Scorsese, Don LaFontaine, Arthur Laurents, Larry Kramer, a bunch of current U.S. senators and congressmen (even if they’re doing nothing, they’re still contributing).

The problem with this routine, I think, is that he was trying too hard to be funny. After all, it’s comedy and I can say that I had a problem with trying to make mine funny. It was witty, but some I tend to be funny when I don’t intend to.

I think the kids was going for just ranting about something that annoys him. Most of the students do. And lots of the students probably get annoyed by those damn old people driving too slow.

But in all honesty, everyone in the state of Iowa drives like a moron. Not just the elderly.

Going with a rant and trying to force jokes (he made a remark about old people being jedis. Sadly, most of the students had become displeased with the routine at this point and I looked like I was about to fire back with a witty or acerbic remark.) probably seemed like a good idea. It backfired.

I understand where he might have thought that a rant would work. It works for Louis Black. Why not try ranting?

Because ranting as a form of comedy just doesn’t work.

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