5/25/06

Adult Humor

So I can't get enough of this Jim Gaffigan.

He's a big pale guy from Indiana, you know, and he does stand-up comedy, mainly about minor sins like sloth and gluttony. The genius of his act, as I see it, is the way he uses a secondary character - a quiet, whiny voice he does - to sort of respond to some of the things he says.

It's weird, yes, but no weirder than the usual stand-up formula, which is some jerk standing on a riser saying dirty jokes at a bunch of drunk people.

At least this way it's not so one-sided, and the jokes are pretty clean besides. This other character seems to have the persona of a critical audience member - let's call her Helen - who doesn't like the comedian and makes fun of him under her breath.

Anyone who's been to a comedy show has seen (or been) this woman. And I bet every comedian secretly fears her quiet derision. That's why this Gaffigan guy is, in my opinion, so brilliant for making her a part of the show. It allows him to confront her directly, and to make fun of her, and himself, and in doing so make fun of the whole comedy-show experience. It's very disarming.

It's also fairly complex, as jokes go.

I remember one joke I heard a lot as a kid, one that confused me deeply - the old "Hey, going to the bathroom? Go for me while you're at it, okay?"

"What?" I would think to myself. "How could I possibly pee for Uncle Mark? He's not even going with me! I don't understand..."

So Mr. Gaffigan's routine is especially funny, I think, because it's not only an observation on silly aspects of regular life - like how nobody really likes Hot Pockets, but everybody eats them - but a sort of group celebration of our ability as adults to easily understand this interplay. We have no trouble following along with this kind of made-up dialogue, even when one person does both roles. In fact, it's sort of fun.

*****

Jim: "...Actually I only dated one Asian girl, but she was very Asian: she was a panda."

Helen (quietly): "Hey, I *like* pandas. They're endangered, fella..."

Jim: "...Now, I don't know if you can tell by looking at me, but both my parents were white..."

Helen: "-I think one of them was a polar bear! ...That's why he went out with a panda!"

[pause, applause; Helen continues]

"...I didn't know he was going to be doing *bear* jokes. He's doing a big special and he's doing jokes about bears. Seems weird to me..."

*****

So at this point Helen (Jim) is making fun of Jim (Himself) for a joke he made through her. And you really don't notice! It's just kind of funny.

And I just think that's great.

I think I like it so much because it affirms my contention that people are smart, not dumb. We "get" complicated ideas, readily and thoroughly, and, what's more, we enjoy it. It makes us happy to have our brains stimulated a little; in fact we seek it out.

And when we find it - when someone takes our mind for a little quick walk, hopping over things and pointing out the scenery (I always picture Amelie and the blind man on the busy street here) and going almost too fast for us but not quite, how do we respond?

We laugh.

Maybe there's hope for us yet.

1 comment:

penelope said...

I will never go to another comedy club again. But I would see this guy fer sher... :)