What is comedy?

22 10 2008

As improvisers and as comedians in general we are constantly searching for the answer to one simple question, what is comedy? People spend their whole lives in search of some universal remote that will make them automatically funny. An easy button that will cause side splitting laughter every time. For some time it seemed to be bathroom humor. You could talk about shitting or farting in someone’s face and you would at least get a chuckle out of the most stern personalities. These days it almost seems like if you say fuck as much as possible or talk about vaginas its an instant hit. But when exploring these questions it is apparent that there has to be a deeper meaning; something that drives every punchline and and every skit.  It can be described with one simple word, Truth. Truth is the backbone to any comedic event.

Yes, Truth in Comedy -- the improv BIBLE.

Yes, Truth in Comedy -- the improv BIBLE.

Bathroom humor and cussing is funny to people because it holds a great deal of truth. They are things that people experience on a day to day basis. When people can relate to the comedy you are presenting it is automatic. It is almost not fair, like fishing with dynamite. Why do you think comedians like Kat Williams are popular? Lets be honest it is not because his jokes are actually funny. It is simply because he says what people are thinking. Whenever you start a joke “Ya’ll women be shoppin dont they” George Carlin rolls around in his grave a little, but at the same time people react to it. The guy in the third row looks at his buddy and nods his head as to say hell yeah woman be shoppin.

Bad jokes aside truth is actually used for good comedy not just a way to save bad comedy. Truth is a very powerful force. Why do you think people lie? Because they are afraid of the power truth holds. Now imagine using this power to your advantage. Using it on stage as an improviser. When a comedian can reach down and pull out some shit from their own lives and use it, it is by far the funniest thing you have ever heard. It works the same for improvisers. Doing a scene that people can relate to will get ten times as many laughs as some scene with this big exaggerated fake character. If the character is not true to the actor then it looks fake to the audience. You may be thinking well what about Mike Myers or Robin Williams, they play tons of characters. This is true and they are extremely funny. But have you ever watch interviews where they are sitting around being themselves. The stuff that comes out of their mouths is killer. These guys are talented enough to be able to reach down and put a bit of themselves in these characters and that is the only reason they work.

The only way to make people in an audience believe what you are doing is to be truthful to yourself as a comedian. When you lose sight of that is when you lose sight of what is truly funny. Without truth we would not have comedy.