Laughing Matters

Last night I went to Portable Comedy, a comedy cavalcade hosted by none other than Christian Finnegan of “Tower of Hubris” fame. (I’d link directly to his site, but I’m not doing that anymore unless I get something in return, like a shiny new two-wheeler with streamers and a basket with a puppy inside … so you can find him on your own, if you want. It’s not difficult. You can do it via Gurgle!)
Where was I? Oh yes. Christian. Finnegan. Comedy shindig. Right.
So, anyway, in setting up a joke, one of the comics said something about legalizing drugs. (I forget the joke, though. That’s what Holazine does to you. [Don’t bother Googling “Holazine”. I made it up.]) That comment elicited a huge whoop of approval — comprised of hoots, cheers, and applause — from the mostly youngish audience. Amazing, how everyone in attendance all of a sudden regarded themselves as hip, habitual drug users. Everyone who responded had to let everyone else know that they, too, are affected by the non-legalization of drugs. What a bunch of proud drug users surrounded me! As if sniffing glue and occasionally smoking a doobie with some dudes qualifies these schmucks as those who would benefit from the legalization of drugs.
I love when comedy audiences display loud indications of their identification with something the comic addresses. For instance, take (my wife, please) the audiences for George Carlin. All of a sudden, the clearly “yuppie” (are we still using that term?) (I’m so behind!) audience, many members of which are no doubt the targets of Carlin’s barbs, converts into a group of free-wheeling, free-thinking hipsters just like Carlin. (P.S. It is hip to call him “Carlin”.) Subversives who only drive their SUVs (yeah, damn those SUVs, even if you don’t know why!) with the mini soccer balls dangling from the rear-view mirror and wear their carefully pressed chinos because they, like, you know, kinda have to, but if they had their way, man, they’d be stickin’ it to The Man too!
They can’t just laugh moderately, either, no no no. Because to laugh only moderately or discriminately would not be enough of an indication that they too are part of the cool kid coalition that the comic is addressing, but also to show that they get it. They are part of the elite core that is not the butt of the ridicule. No, not them, boy, no! Guffawing at a comic’s jokes, no matter how asinine, shows that they, the regular schlubs, are hip ‘n’ cool too. Because comics are cool! And hip! All of ’em, no matter what! Even the unfunny ones. Or even when the usually funny comics aren’t saying anything funny.
I witnessed this phenomenon a while ago at one of the shows Christian hosted. A rather popular comedian who shall remain nameless just happened to be in the audience. He wasn’t scheduled to perform, but at the end of the regular show, he came up onto the platform/stage anyway, just to sort of chat with the audience, all of whom were now on their best bad boy behavior. All of a sudden, everyone in the audience was black, like the comic. Urban and hip, like the comic. Tuned in, turned on, and all too eager to impress all of this on the comic.
So the comic talked. He just talked. He wasn’t making jokes. He wasn’t trying to make jokes. He didn’t have a “set” prepared. He wasn’t there in a professional comic capacity, just as a guy who happened to be professionally humorous.
But no matter what this guy said, the audience responded as if he had just torn through the most hilarious material ever to hit the scene. Everything he said, even down to his first words, which I believe were something outrageous like, “Hello, how’re you all doin’ tonight?” elicited whoops of laughter. At one point, when his chat was met with whoops, he even stopped and said, “I’m not even makin’ a joke”. It was something slightly political. So of course the mere mention of the President’s name associated with something going on in the Middle East (the Holazine was kicking in again, so I don’t remember) elicited the requisite hisses and jeers from the politically savvy audience.
I always feel like the odd man out. I laugh when I get something. I don’t laugh when I don’t. I don’t applaud for the legalization of drugs just because once, back in the late ’80s, I might’ve smoked something wacky I bought from some guy at a club. I don’t laugh at limp jokes about cheap Jews or drunk Irishmen. The word “vagina” doesn’t automatically make me laugh mine off.
He who laughs last, laughs loudest, just so everyone around him knows he’s hip enough to get it.
Got it?