There is a post somewhere on the blogosphere talking about how transpeople need to own comedy and using Bethany Black as an example of how we can do that.
I responded and got back a load of passive agressive crap, belittling what I said and attempting to remove my standing to speak. According to the writer, I know nothing, nothing.
Now this is a writer who gets peeved when someone calls her “sweetie,” responding with earnest indignation at such a slur.
Comedy? No, not there. No funny there. Chris Rock talks about how he doesn’t like it when someone calls him names he doesn’t like, unless it’s funny. To him, and pretty much to every comedian, funny trumps everything. If it makes you laugh, well, that’s good.
I’ve done lots of funny over the years from a camp column to hosting the VP awards with the other Drama Queen three times.
And I know a few things about funny.
I know that funny is in your mouth. Funny is not an intellectual exercise, it’s an exercise in capturing evanesence, those “you had to be there” moments. Barry Humphries says he could write everything Dame Edna says but it is much easier and faster just to have her say it, even if that is also much more risky.
I know that funny is first for you. If you can’t amuse yourself, well, no chance in hell of amusing other people. Lots of people aren’t funny but they are fun, because they have a good humor, were they amuse themselves and others in a nice, close way. They may never be the kind of out loud funny that can take the stage, but they can really make a meeting or a meal go well with their own warm and sly personality.
I know that being funny for others is a whole different thing. Professional comedy, working a crowd and making them laugh, is a job. I remember when I first saw Maggie Cassella, a smart & funny lawyer do her act. She was insightful & wry and I loved her. A few years later, I saw Maggie Cassella, professional comedian, do her act. She was simple & simplified, doing routine routines, and I could take or leave her. I did understand the transformation, though. To work regularly she needed surefire comedy that would engage the crowd, and insightful & wry don’t cut the mustard.
If you are doing commercial comedy, you have to have people get the joke, right away. That’s not me. I remember Terry Murphy coming up to TBB and I after our performance at IFGE 1999, saying “Well, it was better than 1995; not only were you funny, but people knew you were supposed to be funny. It would have been better if they got the jokes, but you can’t have everything.” We had done a bit about being in retirement and being called out; TBB was a wacky CD and I was an earnest transsxual lesbian whose conciousness raising group had told her that being funny sold out feminism. We bickered about how much she was a man and I was lost, but eventually, with the help of a spotlight, TV cameras and an audience we came to the brightness; “We have no act! We have no talent! We are The Drama Queens!”
I spoke last week about sharing the challenge of people not getting the joke at the LGBTS support meetup. We see the irony and wit, but others see, well, nothing. I remember having people read my blog and be unable to imagine how someone with my authoritative voice could be funny. People who knew my voice, however, understood that the humor wasn’t in the words, it was in my mouth. ‘I wish people could see your face when you say these things on tele-conferences,” a former co-worker said, “because then they might get the joke.”
That’s why I admire people like Jennifer Finney Boylan, who can write comic fiction. I can write in other voices and be funny — in high school people were taken with my “thousand voices” or later with my “radio plays” — but sustaining a long fiction is something I have never done.
In the end, though, I remember a bit of old wisdom. “Everyone thinks they have a sense of humor, but most people couldn’t be funny to save their life, so many of them have to be wrong.”
I do think we need more funny out there. But that means valuing laughter over earnest dilligence, valuing laughter over almost everything. Funny cannot be held within the bounds of good taste; we need a bit of surprise and puncturing to make the laugh break out.
And when someone who is advocating humor needs to do a passive-agressive bitch slap, backhanded ways to reduce and dismiss an opponent, I know they don’t have the funny in their mouth, at least not now.
Makes me want to go and get out a cream pie. . . . .