Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The laugh of Sysyphus

I was thinking that for me a joke is just a logical thought pushed to its extreme consequences. At the very end of logic there is paradox, nonsense and madness, as many logicians learned the hard way. Or there is humour, which is the acceptance of this absurdity and the enjoyment of the wonderful ride it can offer. It's the kind of defiant acceptance that Albert Camus saw symbolised in Sisyphus, the mythological hero who was forced for eternity to push a big stone uphill only to see it falling back again. Of Sisyphus Camus famously wrote: "One must imagine him happy". Or, at least, one must imagine him laughing.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wagner, Sadowitz, Stanhope

Just finished to listen to "Tristan and Isolde", an opera I love but that always puzzles me. What puzzles me is, in a sense, how we can survive it. I mean, it's such an powerful condemnation of morality, convention and even society itself, such a radical celebration of passion and desire at its most intense, uncompromising, self-destructive intensity... we love it for that reason, we listen to it fascinated and enthralled and then we go back to our restrained, rational, bland lives, to the same conventions, morals and society that the opera denounces so powerfully. Isn't art, even the greatest art, a failure? Isn't it completely impotent to change our lives?

The same type of question (and maybe a hint to an answer) can be posed in my opinion by the comedy of Jerry Sadowitz and Doug Stanhope.

Let's start with Sadowitz. Watching him live (and you can only watch him live) is one of the strongest experiences you are going to live as a spectator of any art. It's like if somebody took one of your internal organs, let's say your liver or your spleen, and put it on a table for you to observe. You would probably feel a certain repulsion and disgust, but you would also have to recognise that it's a part of you after all, even if a part you normally prefer to forget. Sadowitz's jokes, in fact, are always extremely unpleasant, they seem to draw from a level of our being that it's too deep and too ancient for morality and civilisation itself. It's a level at which we are misantropic, misogenic and racist not because we believe that's right (there is no belief and no right or wrong at that level) but because we just feel threatened by everybody and everybody is an enemy. Sadowitz behaves and looks like a man completely dominated by his Id, in a sense he is a monster, but a monster that is also us. We laugh at his jokes because we feel reconnected to a level of ourselves that is normally forgotten and repressed, a level that is actually what we built our civilasation against. Civilsation, we know from Freud, has its owns discontents and Sadowitz allows us to take a little vacation from them. Which doesn't mean, of course, that we leave his shows less civilised, more misanthropic, misogenic and racists than we were before. After a vacation normally we stil go back to work. But this does not mean that vacations are pointless either.

Something similar happens while you watch a show from Doug Stanhope. If Sadowitz forces you to face your Id, Stanhope forces you to push your intelligence to its extreme, iper-rational and sometimes  paradoxical consequences. To admit, for instance, that abortion is the best solution to global warming. After leaving his shows you will probably still compliment your friends for their new babies, but again you will have enjoyed a vacation from the limits that decency and morality always pose to the free exercise of our rational thinking.

So my conclusion is that Wagner, Sadowitz and Stanhope will never change our lives but, by offering respite from its constant restraints and limitations, will at least make it more bearable.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A dream of ghosts and languages

Strange dream last night. I was talking with an unidentifiable friend and with my paternal grandfather when my paternal grandmother passed by, said something and left. It all looked normal at first but then I remembered that she had been dead for a long time. I started to discuss how that was possible, suggesting that it was probably a collective hallucination, when my unidentifiable friend switched to English. I realised it was to protect my grandfather, who probably had never realised that my granny was dead (in reality he's dead too, but in the dream either this wasn't the case or it was irrelevant) and who couldn't understand that language. My grandad started to get closer and closer so I said to my friend that what we were doing was actually cruel: he had serious hearing problems and now we were giving him the impression that he had lost the ability to understand us altogether. And then I woke up

Friday, July 5, 2013

On the purpose of comedy

The more I think about it the more I feel convinced that in comedy the medium of laughter is the message. I mean, when people laugh is because for a moment they are enjoying seing something in a completely unexpected light or are experiencing the temporary lifting of a taboo or are discovering that something they thought peculiar to them is actually shared. This list is of course incomplete, but the point is that all these experiences are highly valuable per se. There is no need to say anything more and, most importantly, nothing more being said will ever compensate for the lack or paucity of these experiences. Call me a formalist, if you want (or call me a cunt, if you must).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Facebook killed the blogging star

Just to say that if you want to know how the Fringe 2012 is going for me you should better keep an eye on my Facebook profile.

Monday, August 29, 2011

And then the last days

Here I am, back in London. As always, the end of a Fringe run leaves you with a feeling of emptiness, but I'm also very happy about the experience. The last three days have been very good, with audiences that really seemed to love the show. On Saturday we did the recording, my performance was a bit more nervous and imprecise than what had become the usual of late, but I got some big laughs. Yesterday before the show I had the feeling that it was probably a day too many, but the show itself went very well, it was a good way to finish. I think this year I learned a lot, in particular I developed my performance skills, becoming much more relaxed, free-form and interactive. I know recognise that the reviewer who last year described my performance as "stiff" might have had a point. Challenging yourself is a matter of balance, too little and you learn nothing, too much and you learn nothing either since you're too terrified to experiment. Last year I never felt free to try new things, which instead is something I did in abundance this year. And I was quite stimulated in terms of the writing too, in fact my set at the end was five minutes longer than it was when we started. Not forgetting that I really liked performing with Alice and Cecilia, who also really did very well. Yesterday Alice was suggesting the possibility of doing a London "postview", so maybe we'll do the show once more, but to be honest I think we all feel much stronger and ready for new challenges. My own challenge will be to try to transfer as much as I can of my newly found performing confidence to my next one hour show. For what the writing is concerned, I have a lot of ideas buzzing in my mind, I'll start trying them out as soon as I have a chance. And for all of this I need to thank again the fantastic audicence we had in the course this month, even when the numbers were small they were always ready to laugh heartly and to love this show. I love you too.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Strange days

Indeed they have been strange days. After two weeks of almost constant good audiences we have been hit by abysmal numbers, mainly due to the fact that we had finished the flyers. Yesterday we decided not to flyer at all in order to save the few remaining flyers for Saturday, when we'll record the show. As a result we had five people in, so today we decided that flyering was essential and we got 1,000 more printed at an extortionate price. I did a hour of flyering and the other two did the same, so we were quite shocked when only a couple turned up for the show. We were telling them that we were going to cancel when the Waitress arrived. I talked about her on Facebook, normally this blog is all about comedy, there is no reference to my "private life". Thinking better, this also happens to be true for my comedy. During this festival I had some emotional "turbulences" and, for the first time, I included some references to them into my set. I realized with surprise that this was an absolute first and how "disembodied" my comedy had been so far. I don't think I'm going to turn into a confessional comedian, but there is probably room for talking a bit more about what makes me happy or makes me suffer, beside what tickles my cerebral cortex. Moreover, it's very difficult to keep comedy and private life separate when you have only three audience members, one of which had been the subject of some semi-serious romantic fantasizing over quite a long string of traditional Scottish breakfasts. So we decided to do the show anyway, in my case mainly because I didn't want to disappoint her. She seemed to enjoy it and we had an absolutely lovely chat over drinks and a long walk to her bus stop, but she didn't want to come to dinner or to another show. To make things more complicate, I had started thinking and writing about her mainly as a potential source of comic material, intrigued by the idea of a "love story" where everything happens within the strict limits of an exchange of orders and food between a client and a waitress on one side and within the much less strict limits of the client's imagination on the other. The fact that she really came to see my show and that we went for a drink for me was already a cross-over between fantasy and reality almost as surprising as the one in "The purple rose of Cairo", if you have seen the film. Have the walls started to crumble? Is it life that is trying to get into my comedy? Or is it the other way round? I have done quite a lot of comedy this month, I'm afraid that "doing" a bit of life too will be the only way to find out.