More Than a Chuckle

Last Thursday night my lovely wife took me to a comedy festival.  It was a fund raising event in support of The Food Bank, where she works.  I’ve never seen stand-up comics live.  It was a fascinating experience, with three different comics.

 

The first comic was from an ethnic minority, and used that as the launching pad for most of his jokes, which were amusing, but not exactly of the belly-laugh variety for this crowd.  The second comic was a local boy, who has since moved to Toronto, and he used the odd experiences of his new found city as the basis for his yuks, which were funny for those of us who have lived in Toronto, or some similarly large city.  The final comic, who is on the rise in the comedy circuits, came on stage in a suit and tie.  He could have been a salesman, or accountant.  His demeanor was disarming, and his style conversational.  His jokes largely revolved around the phenomenon of home improvement.  He pretty much brought the house down.

 

As I listened, I couldn’t help but compare his spiel to a well delivered sermon.  He came across as the kind of guy you would happily meet in a coffee shop.  He engaged the audience, but always respectfully, as he spelled out the laughable optimism of the do it yourself industry and its clients.  In so doing, he read the crowd as carefully as a detective at a crime scene: laughter came in waves, and the head nods that followed the belly laughs confirmed that people like to hear their story told.  They love to have their experiences named for what they are: silly, human, and everyday in nature.  He met us where we were at, but took us beyond ourselves by linking us to one another.

 

Of course, a stand up comic is not a preacher.  Yet it is one of the few public acts that compares to the strange, but compelling act of preaching.  A poorly delivered sermon is as painful as a stand up comic that falls flat, and a well delivered sermon that sings its subject matter draws you in to the point where time stands still and you feel transported – albeit to different places!

 

This comic was mesmerizing, clearly having a rich repertoire ready at hand, pulling out the right joke at the right time. His timing was exquisite: speeding up and slowing down as appropriate; now and then bowing his head into his hand, shaking off the embarrassment that we all have known, that we all know.  Of course, it wasn’t only his head in his hand.  He had us in his hand as well, and seemingly all of us went home refreshed in the knowledge that our foibles are shared and our condition human, and thus fascinating in its ordinariness.  It was a rich evening, and for some reason so much richer than encountering the same on television.  Laughter may be a medicine, but laughing together seems to be a cure.

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4 thoughts on “More Than a Chuckle

  1. jannatwrites says:

    I love to laugh, but haven’t seen too many comedy shows (many times, the language turns me off.) We did see Tim Hawkins last year and loved the show. I’d go again, if it worked out with our schedule.

    I can see why the home improvement bit would be funny and something that many could identify with. (This is probably the reason why the new faucet I bought for the kitchen sink four weeks ago is still in the box on the table. It’s like my husband knows how that project will turn out :))

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, I think we all have a few faucets lying around! Your comment on (foul) language interests me. I noted that of the three comics last Thursday, the one who used the least offensive language was also the funniest.

  2. shoreacres says:

    I love that last line – “laughter may be a medicine, but laughing together is a cure”.

    So much of what passes for comedy or humor today is snarky, hurtful or flat obscene. (Well, obscene to me, anyhow. The world seems to have passed me by on that one.) There’s an increasing coarseness in society that really bothers me.

    On the other hand, some of the best humor comes from storytellers like Garrison Keillor. When he starts telling those tales from Lake Woebegon, it doesn’t matter if you’re from Toronto or Left Overshoe, the human element shines out and we laugh. He pokes fun at the Lutherans, the Catholics, the potlucks, the famous Scandinavian reticence, and even the people being poked fun at laugh, because it’s so true and so loving. I suppose in the end, that’s the only way the standup comics get away with holding up the mirror.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Hi Linda, glad you enjoyed my last line. It kind of came to me unawares! As for the obscenity, I noted that the funniest of the three was the cleanest by a long shot. The other two seemed to be a bit desperate whenever they resorted to obscenity. Garrison Keillor does a great job. We enjoy him in Canada, and we also have our own version in the person of Stewart McLean, who is regularly on CBC.

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