Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Service of the Similar Reaction to Temper and Humor

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Photo: guystuffcounseling.com

I know about temper. Mine is the worst. Batten down the hatches when I blow up. Nothing funny about me.

I think reactions to some humor and temper are similar in their disparity. The way the same words and tone are interpreted in a range of ways–as nasty by some, humorous by others–works for both comedy and anger.

In vintage slapstick movies, when a character slips on a banana peel, I wonder, “Did he hurt himself?” I never chuckle while many think such scenes are hilarious.

Photo: menshealth.com

Does anyone remember the 1980s Broadway audience participation smash comedy in which the actors ridiculed participants mostly for things they couldn’t change? I don’t recall its title. The audience doubled over as I sat stone-faced when actors ridiculed an older man sitting next to an attractive much younger woman. They brought on stage the nerdiest looking short man to stand by one of the actresses, a 6-foot beauty and kept returning to a bald man in the audience to make a hat slip off his head [and bald pates were not in fashion]. Sidesplitting for most but not for me.

The day after the presidential debate Michael Riedel and newsman Joe Bartlett, on WOR Radio’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning, thought what the president had said was “funny.” I love to laugh but I reacted to his barbs, fierce faces, incessant, uncontrolled interruptions by pacing my bedroom and shaking in dread. I felt no connection to the laughter they mustered while producing sound bytes of his performance.

A friend worked for a man who terrified the office by screaming at his employees. She said she’d freeze at her desk when she heard him even though the verbal arrows, at top volume, weren’t directed at her and never had been. I suspect the man thought he was garnering respect. Maybe this is what the president had in mind.

Sometimes when an angry person feels cornered, outmatched or out of control, he’ll say things he doesn’t mean, that make little sense, are not true and are uttered only to hurt. Has anyone ever said to you, “I was just joking” after such an encounter?

The inspiration for humor that makes fun of others–especially about physical things they cannot change such as age, height and lack of comeliness–may be different from what sparks anger but the impact strikes viewers/listeners in two ways: they think the words are funny or not.

Do you see a resemblance between people’s contrasting reactions to temper and some humor? Have you found words of an angry person funny? Is mocking a person’s physical deficiencies or trip-ups a source of amusement for you?

Photo: newsroom.niu.edu

Service of Time and Place: Is Something Still Funny with Kids in the Picture?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Kids in a frame

Todd Schnitt, co-host with Len Berman of the morning drive show on WOR 710 radio in NYC, deplored the slogan on a tee shirt that a young woman wore on the plane he, his wife and two kids were boarding recently. It promoted the F-word within a snarky comment. He was irritated that his kids had to see it.

He’d wished the crew had asked the woman to either wear her shirt inside out or buy another one at an airport shop as he’d read that other flight attendants had done the same. He also mentioned women boarding commercial flights in ridiculous décolleté who have been told either to cover up or leave.

boarding a planeSchnitt is no prude: He isn’t afraid of the racy story. He seems obsessed with Anthony Weiner and others caught in twisted situations of a perverted sexual nature. He reminds those who object—usually women–that his audience is young to middling-aged men.

chocolate cupcakesA day later an out of town friend told me that he was choosing some chocolate cupcakes for a five year old from a bakery often filled with kids buying treats. [He’d forgotten to recognize the child’s birthday and was seeing his dad and wanted a surprise at the ready.] “We call those Prozac cupcakes,” said the counterman. 

This friend doesn’t shock easily either, and even though he knew the baker picked what she thought was a clever name in an attempt at humor—as in desserts named “death by chocolate”–he wondered whether his choice was right for a chocolate-loving child and about the appropriateness of the name in the first place.

Do you think Todd and my friend are being prissy? Have we lost our compasses as to what’s funny–when–and in what context?

Compass

Service of Birthday Cards

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Greeting cards 1

I haven’t been to a card shop in a while because I buy a lot of greeting cards at Trader Joe. I like the illustrations of the artists they select, the sentiments as well—many make me smile–and the paper quality is excellent. Further, you can’t beat the price: $.99.

In addition, thanks to a wonderful present from my friend Erica Martell, I have a subscription to jacquielawson.com. These e-cards are fabulous.

greeting cards 2On a recent visit to a traditional card shop with a large selection I had to pull out and read too many before finding one I could buy. I was flabbergasted by the number that celebrated how great it is to drink too much on your birthday. Is drunkenness funny? [They were in the “funny card” section.] I mentioned this to colleague David Reich and he observed that eating too much is also touted on cards. Another bunch were written for adult first graders: They peddled scatological noises.

New Yorker Card 1Maybe the cold weather has frozen my sense of humor. I love receiving and giving witty cards. I’ve found some amusing ones at stratospheric prices–$6-$8/each–without a birthday greeting that I have adapted for the purpose. I also use note cards bought at museums, but they aren’t funny, just pretty. The New Yorker cartoon cards, [photo left and below], when you can find them, are super. They are blank inside so like museum note cards, not strictly for birthdays.

None of the birthday cards at the large store evoked even half a ha. Have you noticed this about the current crop of popularly priced choices? Does nobody mail them anymore? I like to display the ones people send me or my husband. They make me happy long after the occasion is over. And you?

greeting cards 4

Service of Humor II

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

carmenlynch1

I heard Carmen Lynch [above] at Carolines on Broadway a few weeks ago. I thought hers was the best standup of four we heard at this year’s New York Women in Communications Foundation “Ladies Who Laugh!” fundraiser at one of the city’s best comedy clubs. I don’t know any comedians. What a treat that she agreed to answer some questions!

I was intrigued by a comedian who writes and performs material for her sets in Spain, where her mother’s from, as well as for US audiences, and for tough New York City ears, where she’s headquartered, as well as Virginia viewers, where she’s from, and other places too. My father was French and there were times we didn’t “get” each other’s humor.  I might be doubled over in giggles and he’d stare at me without a smile, which would make me laugh even more [and annoy him].  Conversely, he’d be struck by something that went right over my head.

Not to get too serious, performers, writers,  agency and sales people will recognize her challenges and appreciate her approach and reactions. If you give presentations, check out her discussion of performing for audiences who stare back.

What kind of humor would an American audience find funny that a Spanish one wouldn’t? (Or vice versa). 

This is a great question but there’s no easy answer. When I did a comedy tour in Spain this past February, I was pretty happy (and a little surprised) that most of my jokes, after translating them into Spanish, worked. I was worried that I’d lose the joke in the translation, or that they just wouldn’t get me.

But most did work, and as expected, some didn’t. I do a joke about calling my sponsored child in Bolivia “my daughter” (that’s not the entire joke but that’s the gist of it) and it never got a strong laugh. I tried it in a few different cities in Spain and it wasn’t going anywhere so I dropped it.

But you learn that it’s nothing personal. I didn’t notice nearly as much sarcasm in comedy out there as we have here, either. So the “simpler” jokes (for lack of a better word) worked best.

The stand-up scene in Spain is much newer than it is here in the US. We have so many comedians here and comedy has been around for so long that jokes here just feel a little more specific. We have to push a little harder with our humor to be noticed.

Are there some topics that would tickle both American and Spanish funny bones?

carmenlynchperformI think universal topics work anywhere, like dating, having kids, recently married, etc. Also, if you have a particular attribute that the audience can see (being tall, balding, bright red hair) then most audiences will probably relate to you in some way, even if they don’t have that exact attribute.

What about Virginia vs. NYC audiences?

Comedy is different everywhere – not just in different states but different venues. Funny is funny, but there are differences anywhere you go – even performing in Manhattan vs. Brooklyn. It can also depend on whether you’re performing at a club vs. a bar, for older crowds vs. younger ones, smaller crowds vs. larger crowds.

I love New York audiences because they’re open-minded and you can pretty much say anything. Everyone in the audience (here in NY) grew up in a different place, so people are very open to different types of comedy.

You can get a completely different reaction to something in a small town which is fine too, because as a comic it’s best to get used to all audiences. 

What subjects do you favor/find funny and have these changed over the years?

When I first started standup I got most of my material from obvious topics (“write about what you know”)….like being tall or having a Spanish mother.

I might talk a little more about what’s going on in my life now. Hopefully I’ve become a little more self-aware so I might dive into more psychological stuff or what I heard someone say on the train and analyze that.

I still get material from visiting my family in Spain (or talking to my nieces – what kids say is always funny).

Instead of leaving a topic after getting a joke or two, I try to stay with it and see what else I can pull from it. Sometimes there’s nothing else and sometimes you can go a little deeper. A lot of times it just depends on what’s going on in my life at that time.

As you write your own material where do you come up with the best?

It can happen anywhere. I might force myself to sit at Starbucks and something will occur to me that I think has potential, or I’ll be on the train on the way to a show and it just hits me there. Sometimes as I’m falling asleep I’ll think of something funny and I’ll have to get up because I know I won’t remember it the next day.

Everyone has their own method.

I usually carry a little notebook but now with technology the way it is, you can just write a new joke idea into your phone or record it. Sometimes I’ll come up with a great punchline but I have no set up, so I keep the joke idea until I can find a good home for it.

Who are some of your comedy favorites?

Dave Attell

Dave Attell

Dave Attell, Louis CK, Todd Barry, Bill Burr, Nick Griffin, Judy Gold, Wendy Liebman. There are others but those come to mind now.

What do you do to wake up an audience that stares back at you and doesn’t laugh?

Sometimes you can’t do anything. It doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying the show – they might just not want to laugh (and stand out) if no one else is laughing.

Sometimes you just have to call them on it. I don’t want to insult them for not laughing, but I might just tease them a little to see what I can do to get them to wake up. It’s very strange to watch a quiet audience and after the show they’ll tell you how much fun they had or how much they enjoyed you.

Sometimes they will hate you. It happens. (Then I spend the rest of my time on stage wondering where I lost them.) I think it’s best to stay in the present, finish your set and know that it happens- you just can’t make every single audience laugh hysterically every single time. Hopefully if it’s a weak show you didn’t invite anyone you know.

Have you been surprised by the energetic, happy reaction to your standup from a group or audience?

Absolutely. Just like I’ve been surprised by a negative reaction by a certain group.  You never know how anyone is going to react to you, so it’s best not to make any assumptions. You might go up after someone who bombs and the audience loves you, or the comic ahead of you killed and you totally lose them.

Sometimes I can tell just by the look on their faces when I reach the stage that it’s not going to be good. But I try to let that go because a lot of times it’s that assumption that will be the cause of the reaction I get.

I might do a show in one venue and kill and go to a different venue in the same city and they think I’m just awful. But that’s why being a comic is so fun — every show is different.

How long have you been doing standup?

For 10 years. I stopped after 5 years because I was tired of it. I burned out, and I wasn’t sure if I was doing it because I’d started something and just didn’t know what else to do, and that scared me. I wanted to make sure I was doing it because I loved it.

About a year later I realized I did want to pursue it, long term, and that if I was going to do it I was going to do it 100%. 

You are from Virginia and started out as an actress and when you came to NYC you decided to try stand up. How did your parents react? Did you do something before acting? What was your major?

I graduated from The College of William & Mary with a psychology degree. I changed my major so many times that by the time I had to pick a major, I’d taken so many psychology classes I just went with that.

Then I worked at a bank after college and took a few acting classes in Virginia. I moved to NY because I wanted to pursue acting.

My parents weren’t thrilled but hoped that whatever day job I picked up to pay the rent in NY would lead to some major career. I never once thought I’d pursue stand up comedy, but once I was up in NY and saw how big the comedy scene was, I decided to try it. I still wasn’t thinking I’d be a comedian – I just thought I might write for one.

I knew I was shy and I just couldn’t imagine bombing on stage – I’ve always been easily embarrassed. I took a 3-day “comedy course” at the Learning Annex, where we had to perform for 5 minutes at a club. I told the teacher I wouldn’t, but the day of the performance I tried it for 2 1/2 minutes (that’s all the material I had prepared) and I knew then that I was going to pursue comedy. For the next 7-8 years my parents tried to get me to go to grad school but were unsuccessful. They gave up trying just a few years ago.

You can see Carmen in person at the Improv Boston for a CD taping on October 2nd , or check out her web series, AptC3.com, and on this Comedy TV clip.

Who are some of your favorite comedians? Do you have questions for Carmen?

 carmenlynch2

Service of What Were They Thinking?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

hell

I’ve written many posts that illustrate business behavior or decisions that deserve this reaction. Recently I’ve noticed a rash of examples that inspired me to revisit the question.

Humor Doesn’t Always Translate

I saw a scarf manufactured by a well known Italian fashion brand. Prominently printed along an edge in fancy script were the words “cheap & chic.” European or rich person’s humor, perhaps? At $80, the scarf represented the couture brand’s bargain basement price point. In spite of the pretty pattern and colors, the words translated to “what were they thinking?” Can you imagine the reaction of the recipient of such a gift?

My Stars

Another well known apparel brand, this one with retail stores of the same name, sells a tee-shirt with a yellow star reminiscent of the symbol Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany. Wonder what the stylist-and his/her boss-had in mind? One of the hosts of the WABC radio program “Religion on the Line” was not amused.

You Can’t Have That

magazinesLeafing through the pages of a once-favorite decorating magazine, I stopped at the image of a bright red and white bedroom ensemble. Most of the photo captions on the page were obscured by the dropout type on dark background. Centrally placed in the largest type on a white background I read: “____[name of store] no longer stocks this toile headboard, but the company still sells the matching dust ruffle.”

I couldn’t see the dust ruffle in the photo [though a friend said he could see a little bit of it]. The coordinating floral comforter took up most of the image but there was no mention of it.

Pay Your Debts

And then there was the Secret Service person who didn’t pay his Columbian prostitute. Now was that the time to be cheap?

Race to Play

sportscarsOn NJ.com, Christopher Baxter wrote “N.J. state troopers face probe for ‘Death Race 2012’ down Parkway to AC.” According to Baxter, two troopers “escorted a caravan of luxury sports cars at speeds in excess of 100 mph down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City last month.” Baxter quoted one of two witnesses, Wayne Gantt, who complained to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority: “I had the great pleasure today of nearly being killed by, not one, but two, Lamborghinis traveling in excess of 110 mph in a (New Jersey State Police) escorted ‘caravan’ of approximately 30 exotic vehicles all traveling well over 100 mph.” What a precedent for the next time a state trooper tries to ticket a driver for going 75 mph in a 65 mph zone.

Guess the police and the sports car drivers don’t remember how former NJ Governor Corzine was almost killed when he urged his chauffeur to travel at 90+ mph down a turnpike and the car smashed into something. Speed must be in the air in that state.

Can you explain what these people were thinking or add other examples to the list?

 head-scratcher

Service of Headlines

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A clever headline is memorable and if it doesn’t lead you into a story, it will make you smile or think twice. What fun it would be to write headlines for a living!

The New York Post is the winner in this list of my favorites and those of friends/followers of this blog.

Editor and writer Jim Roper’s choice is “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” which, I learned, is the title of a book of headlines by New York Post staff. Other juicy ones in the book:

           Lady is a Trump

           Axis of Weasel

           Holy Shiite

Recently this paper reported on yet another NJ political scandal that also involved some rabbis. The headline: “Kosher Nostra.” “Tiger Tamed,” a front pager, announced Y E Yang’s winning the PGA in August in an upset over Tiger Woods. And “Ex-con-stitutional” was how the paper drew you into news of a research center run by ex convicts.

PR colleague Sharon Clancy Lienau shared “Ears Pierced While You Wait.” [This reminded me not of a headline, but of a greasy spoon on the upper west side of Manhattan called “Eat and Run.”]

Beautyblitz.com founder and editor, Polly Blitzer, wrote an article for Family Circle which she called, “Take 2 and call me in the morgue.” She covered the TV ads that claim to cure you of an ailment and simultaneously warn you of astronomical potential side effects.

Bambe Levine, Bambe Levine public relations remembers “Ford to City Drop Dead.” The New York Daily News  ran it in 1974 when the President refused to bail out the city.  

If you know some poignant or memorable headlines, please share!

 

Service of Humor

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Stressed or antsy? Nothing beats a deep-dish guffaw. A great big laugh is a blessing. I’ve seen an apt quip or clever play on words–when the humor isn’t mean–turn the tide of a meeting that’s swimming towards nasty.

An exhibit, “On the Money, Cartoons for the New Yorker,” proves that great cartoons, like literature, theatre and movies, are evergreen. Featuring cartoons from 1927-1997, it’s at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, [through May 24, 2009].

Visitors laugh about money-imagine!-and at the same clever images and captions that made others smile during the Depression and in good times. Strangers chat comfortably with one another. It’s a beautiful thing.

Where have you seen humor at work?

 

In his wonderful thank you note, Keller Gordon drew a cartoon of a boy who is thinking, "Please Be a Hat!"

In his wonderful thank you note, Keller Gordon drew a cartoon of a boy who is thinking, "Please Be a Hat!"

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics