So sometimes I “perform” (stutter loudly) at these amateur comedy shows.
I’m hesitant to write about “my comedy” out of fear that someone might think I’m taking it seriously. It’s a hobby — a thing I do because it’s fun and I generally like the misfits and oddballs that it attracts. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only low-functioning adult with esteem issues and they’re typically lovable train wrecks. The camaraderie is nice.
When I launched the blog, I had a page where I elaborated on that point, but I removed it for that same reason. I enjoy talking into microphones, but it’s not my livelihood and certainly not something to define myself by. Comedy has given me some lively anecdotes for dinner parties —and some fond memories and good friends — but I don’t need to brag about that online.
With that understanding, I’m now going to gab about my most recent standup comedy outing (Beily’s, Saskatoon, Feb. 13, 2012).
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Last night I interpreted that to mean, “I have a microphone and I should yell at people for being ridiculous stupid racist.”
I was at a standup show in Saskatoon and, like every other local show I’ve been to in the city, it was awful. It wasn’t even watchable in a Freddy Got Fingered kind of way. These are unfunny, wretched exhibitions. I like some of the guys (performers), but it’s a difficult show to recommend to friends. Where I normally look to comedy for original voices, inspired exercises in imagination and knee-slapping self-deprecation, I instead found a parade of stock jokes, bad judgment and words that, gosh, we just don’t use anymore.
And when given my turn under the lights, I addressed it, debuting my new character “enlightened, sensitive white man.” And I’m not sure I’m happy with the results. There’s good and bad in what I said, but I don’t think the label “recreational comedian” gives me a license to act the way I did.
But I was provoked.
One dude got onstage and said, “I used to fucking hate Indians” and spent the next 10 minutes talking about why he still feels that way. And people laughed. Now I have some crazy theories about comedy, so I guess in theory racism can be funny, but this wasn’t it. And it wasn’t just one guy. There was a minor flurry of unfunny (I’d say reckless) schoolyard gags and I felt compelled say, “I’M NOT LIKE THEM AND IF YOU LAUGHED AT THAT I’M NOT LIKE YOU.” (That’s the Coles Notes, I’m-not-trying-to-be-funny version. The real version was, ugh, more graphic.)
I’m glad I did it. In that way, I think I represented myself and my interests well. I just wish I hadn’t cursed so much. In that way, I think I acted foolishly.
And when I was confronted by a loud dude in the audience, displaying a cartoon understanding of anti-semitism, things got worse.
As a person who sometimes tries to be funny, I’m entertained by what I said: “Mazel tov, buddy. That’s Jewish for fuck you.” But as a person who tries to be respectable and professional under daylight, I, again, think I represented myself poorly.
(The exchange followed a newish joke about my newish job. I wanted to poke fun at how awkward I am, but I apparently approached the topic incorrectly and drew the ire of some farm-friendly audience members. Fair enough. Maybe it was a bad idea. For the record, I like farmers. I’m in awe of people who can work with their hands, manipulate tools and produce something.)
I feel like a kid who went to a high school party, got way too drunk, started acting ridiculously and, after events quickly escalated, woke up in a riverbank. The whole thing is rather silly. It got out of hand, didn’t it?
Lessons for the day: I shouldn’t confront ignorance with anger. And I should play nice with the other kids. And I need to invest in a swear jar.
I should know better. And so should Saskatoon. That was seriously uncool.
Another note: Yeah, I know that “mazel tov” is Hebrew and not “Jewish.”
Dan Yates is at email: firstname.lastname@example.org.