Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Of ideas and sentiments

I have been thinking a lot about the supposed lack of emotional engagement in my show. I think I pointed out the cause for it. I have always thought that behind every idea there is a sentiment, so in a sense all thinking is wishful (or fearful) thinking. I know, for instance, that the only way I can justify my atheism is on the account of my desire for the kind of freedom I can only enjoy in a God-free world. Getting clarity about your ideas is important for your content, but understanding the sentiment behind them is important for your performance, since sentiments can be acted out (theorists of comedy call that “attitude”) and can indeed resonate with the audience.

In the specific example, my idea can be expressed roughly this way:

“Nations are an outdated social constructs that tend to pigeonhole us by means of the prejudices and stereotypes associated with them. Fortunately we can move abroad, embrace a new culture etc. and by means of this contamination we can, at least partially, free ourselves from the burden of our national identity and gain more freedom in determining who we really are”.

I have now realised that the sentiment behind this idea can roughly be expressed as:

“You can stick your fucking flag up your arse”.

Actually, I think that identifying the sentiment is not only good for the performance, but can help you with the writing as well. I have now written some material that sounds much less like a “sociological” lecture and much more than the kind of libertarian tirade you can hear from the like of Doug Stanhope. I need to be careful about that change in tone, I know that my persona is completely different, I don’t drink twelve bottles of beer on the stage during a one hour show and I don’t live in a caravan, unless living in Bethnal Green can count as a sign of bohemian lifestyle. But that “rebellious” spirit is indeed there and is as mine as my passion for philosophical speculation, even if sometimes gets buried alive under too much of the latter. As I said, I don’t want to change my comedy for the only reason of meeting the expectations from audience and critics. But if listening to their reactions and comments can help me to find a comedy that is truly mine at an even deeper level, and if by doing so I can even rediscover levels of myself I tend too often to forget... now THAT would be a great vindication of all the time, money and effort I’m spending in all this bloody comedy malarkey!


  1. Other possible sentiments are "I'm really confused. I don't seem to belong anywhere, anymore." Stuck between two cultures, so which is the 'normal' one--neither. And god knows what happens if you move to a third country/culture...

    The thing is we accumulate cultures with all the clashes and conflicts that involves. It's not like we have a spring clean and say "I'll get rid of that bit of jingoism but I'll keep that one." So we end up feeling a bit guilty about attempting to abandon one while trying to embrace another. It's not exactly Paradise Lost but our own little purgatory.

  2. John, you are right about confusion, in fact I try to capture it in my "whenever I go back to Italy..." routine. I might develop it more, but the reality is that my main desire is of NOT belonging as I find that self-enforcing so I don't really feel that as a problem. And fortunately I don't know what feeling guilty means. Take that, John Milton!