Monday, December 24, 2007

What is the ha?

I just finished reading Steve Martin's intensely poignant autobiography, Born Standing Up, and as wonderful as it is, I did not find it in any way funny. It just kind of struck me as I was reading his explanation of the beginning of his stand-up career take-off where he was suddenly playing twenty thousand seat arenas after ten years of grinding it out with no appreciation, funny is so situational and personal and subjective that it's really hard to nail down. He included some of his favorite lines from those years, and they seem mildly amusing within the context of a much broader book on family, struggle, the early conceptual work he put in to realigning comic elements within the stand-up form. Within all that, the silliness of those lines doesn't play.
The worst thing you can ever do is watch a comedy by yrself. They suck something fierce without the echo chamber of other people's laughter to reinforce yr own or something to that effect. Whatever it is the only movie I've ever seen that made me crack up laughing while watching alone was an old Roberto Begnigni film, Johnny Stechino. It was uproarious, just totally brilliant slapstick like only he can do. Regardless, it's such an ineffable thing, so rarely translatable from one medium to another or one place to another, but it's such a huge part of what being human is. Laughter is an intensely human experience of the joyful recognition of the contradictions, inanities, implacabilities, all the wild scope of life. It's the way out of the tensity of modernity on so many levels that I can't even begin.

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