Saturday, July 24, 2010

Comedians and the Truth

My natural instinct, when I am thoroughly impressed by something or someone, is to emulate. I think this accounts for a large part of my personality. I interact with or watch or read about people that I respect and admire, and so I emulate them by consciously pushing myself to take on their admirable character traits.

This exists outside of my own personal development as well. It explains my chosen profession (by which I am referring to my attempt to become a professional novelist) because books were the first things that really spoke to be and made sense to me, and their impact on my life was so great that my natural instinct was to create my own.

I think it's fair to say that the only other thing in my life that garners this sort of reaction from me is stand-up comedy. Other forms of art, such as music or poetry or painting or dancing, those are to be admired from a distance because I think that, on a fundamental level, my brain is not geared to understand them. Something about stand-up comedy, though, has always captivated me. I remember the first special I ever saw was Sinbad's "Afros and Bell Bottoms," and whenever it came on Comedy Central I would watch it until it ended. Before that it was Bill Cosby tapes with childhood friends, and later it would be Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg, Dennis Leary, Daniel Tosh, Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, Louis C.K. and, of course, Bill Hicks.

When I listen to Bill Hicks, I want to put everything else in my life on hold and run out to a comedy club and become him. I want to carry on that torch, the essence of what he was trying to do, and continue to do it for him. That's the gut reaction I have when I hear him.

What I find so interesting about stand-up comedians is that we live in a culture that is so delusional and misguided and indirect that these men can go up on stages in front of crowds and do nothing other than deliver the truth, and make living off of it. Comedians like Hicks (though I guess there never really was another one like him) have the intelligence and the wit to look at political situations, or common experiences we all share as a species, and strip away the pseudonyms and euphemisms and the pleasantries and expose the absolute, flat-out absurdity of everyday life on this planet, as this species, living within all the strange rules we've set up for ourselves. And I am so astounded by that, that it takes a man with a microphone to remind you that things are not always as they seem.

It seems that this is where we have come to as a race: the truth is so rare that it has become a commodity.

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