Laughter and Effort

31 Jan 2012

David Hill, for The New York Times:

Everyone in comedy may be a wounded loser, but not all wounded losers can do comedy. Besides, if they did, who would sit in judgment and, if all goes well, provide the laughs?

I came to this realization about comedy, as an art form, a long time ago. I enjoy making people laugh, but I have never been able to differentiate between a joke that will succeed and a joke that will fail – unless it is after the telling, and even then I cannot be sure.

Success is not a measure of talent, but of effort, of focus, of determination. Innate ability simply changes the starting point, but, in order to succeed, work still has to be done. Which is why I respect any comedian (or artist) that is able to do well, even on the most amateur levels.

There are only so many hours with which we are able to commit ourselves to improvement and occasionally, after going to a stand-up night or watching my favorite comics1 perform, I consider refocusing myself to attempt an open mic. Then I read pieces like David’s and am reminded that it is a commitment. Much like poetry. Much like improvised theatre. Much like writing. I cannot possibility be good at all those things and then add comedy with the amount of effort that I have to give. In fact, I am not good at most of those art forms as is. There is only one that I would consider boasting about and, even then, I am still in the earliest stages of it.

So, instead of expending energy on another art form simply because I admire those that are capable of doing it well, I will sit back and admire those that do well. Artists have to perform to someone and art for artists just feels wrong.

  1. At the moment, Louie C.K. and Anthony Jeselnik. Is this a faux pas? I would say that they are similar, but that may be due to the fact that they both make me laugh.