In “History of the World Part 1″ during the segment that took place in ancient Rome. Mel Brooks is standing in an unemployment line that leads up to the clerk played by Bea Arthur. When she asks him what he does, he throws his arms back lifts his chest and exclaims -
“Stand Up Philosopher”
Oh, so you’re a bullshit artist.
Think about that. Comics nowadays are quoted in every day conversations like philosophers. More so. You’ll hear quotes from the great thinkers like Chris Rock, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Jerry Seinfeld, Margaret Cho, Bill Cosby, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor more than you hear the words of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Sartre, Neitzche, Rand, Heidegger, Kant, and Keirkegaard..
Think about the comics you love and how much you quote them or even when you quote comics you know. Hell, I quote Ellen DeGeneres all the time. YES I’M A STRAIGHT BLACK MAN AND I THINK ELLEN IS A FUCKING GENIUS! FUCK YOU!
Comics are the now the ones who (more so than anybody) take the events and themes of our day and shape them in a way the we can process it with laughter. Laughter helps it go down and what makes us laugh has a stronger possibility of staying in our long term memory (Psych 101). Especially if you agree with it or it makes you see something in a different way. That’s where the comment “it’s funny because its true” comes from. That’s when the audience laughs en masse and people mutter under their breathe “so true, so true.” The news doesn’t do that. It present so called facts. But some Stand ups can arrange the facts in a way that makes you look at them differently. You get a perspective you never thought of. An angle you never considered and you leave changed.
To me it can be more immediate than the theatre. The Theatre has become elitist. We can’t pretend to say that “everyday people” go to it. We can say that those are the roots of theatre. For the people. To tell stories of humanity and such. It also seems to be the credo for every major theatre movement that followed. “We’re doing this for the people, man! Taking it back to the streets!” Still, a comedy room is where you will find people from all walks of life, or at least more divergent walks of life than the theatre nowadays. The direct address quality and informality of a stand up room gives it the potential to become more penetrating, more truthful, more immediate then the Theatre. Even though it is theatre itself. It’s the closest thing we have to the origins of Greek theatre.
That’s what it ws at first. Solo performers telling stories. Active audiences. The passive audience is a new ideal. Its only I’d say about a century old when (as a wiseman once told me), “some motherfucker turned off the lights” that the audience became passive. Waiting for the performers to do everything for them. I believe there should be more of a give and take. I believe that exists now more so in Comedy than any other form. Its right back to Thespis himself….
Hey guys! I just got back from Sparta and boy are my arms tired! I’m telling ya though, the ladies in Sparta really are something…something to be feared and run away from! Wow, can we take up a collection and buy these ladies necks or what? Seriously, they’re scary! Anyway, enough of me. We got a young up and comer here for you tonight. Fresh off a stint at the Solo Hole in Athens…Sophocles!
Hey! Alright! Thank you. Thank you very much! Round of applause for your host, Thespis. Working hard so the Gods don’t get mad! Lets get right to it…we all know this story…that’s right I’m talking bout Oedipus. Poked his Mom and then poked out his eyes. Now really, is that gonna solve the problem? I mean if there’s a body part you’re gonna punish for the crime, I doubt its above the neckline let alone the waistline. I mean, what’s his logic here? As long as I don’t see what’s on it, I’m not responsible? Come on!