Do you have what it takes to make people really laugh?
Yes, yes, humour is subjective. Everyone doesn’t laugh at the same jokes, etc. We get into comic timing and what it takes for an artiste to have a room implode with ha-ha.
I’m not a funny person, at least not at all times. So, if anyone finds parts of my conversations laugh-worthy, I believe it is their sense of humour at work, not mine. Take it a step further — I struggle with writing funny manuscripts, hilarious tweets are beyond my skill set, and directing comedies on stage is unthinkable. After all, it’s not the same things that make people laugh. And different situations make us smile. Right? You can move people with tears, but laughter is a different game altogether. Last week, as part of a self-challenge, I began to script my first comic script for a stage show. Next, to save myself from a nervous breakdown I went up to the men and women in the business of spreading smiles live. During my conversations with a stand-up comedian, spoken word artist, and theatre actor-director-playwright, I learnt a few things about the funny side of life. Excerpts. Am I feeling confident? Oh, yes.
Let’s cut to the chase. Why does comedy work when it comes to 'live' acts?
Papa CJ, stand-up comic, said, “In a world of instant gratification, stand-up comedy provides payback in the form of a punch line every 15 seconds. Also, comedy takes place in an informal setting, which can often provide the thrill of addressing taboo subjects or challenging authority and conventions.”
As a genre of arts, it eases the tension around us feels Nourah Almaiman, a Dubai-based artrepreneur and spoken word artist, “Comedy touches a natural state of being. When portrayed in spoken word, the natural intonation a presenter has depicts the simplicity of the human condition. This reminds us that everything is okay and we are all really just on a journey that should be taken lightly and be laughed at occasionally.”
Constance Kratsa, a Dubai-based theatre actor-director-playwright, adds, “Humour is universal and laughter is a type of ‘language’ that we find common across cultures and countries. Comedy has been present from ancient times, the birthplace of theatre, Greece, take the example of the famous playwright Aristophanes. People appreciate comedy because it allows them to forget their daily issues. It can make them escape and put a smile on their face.”
Life is good. Check.
Freedom to talk of taboo. Check.
Should I think about comic playwriting and directing seriously? “There is no greater high than getting on stage and making people laugh. It gives me great joy to bring smiles to peoples faces,” added Papa CJ. “The pros would be getting that live connection with the audience and having them laugh and be cheerful at moments intended to do just that, which perhaps even gets me to giggle a bit while performing,” confessed Nourah, whose favourite female comedian is Sarah Silverman.
Spreading smiles. Check.
There must be challenges though, right? “Unlike music, which can sometimes run in the background, comedy requires the audience to pay attention to you. Secondly, while people may want to hear the same song again, they rarely want to hear the same joke again!” summed up Papa CJ, who is a big fan of Chris Rock.
Constance feels, “The biggest risk is to have jokes falling flat or polarising the audience. Humour can be misunderstood sometimes if it is not delivered well. On the other hand, it is an honour to see a room filled with happiness due to a theatre performance.” Added Nourah, “The cons could be endless laughter where you need to raise your voice a bit to command attention again, but none the less joyful laughter is not distracting because one could laugh silently and put a smile on their face it is the noise that gets untamed.”
Pros plenty. Check.
Cons few, manageable. Check.
How much pressure does it put on the performers? “Comedy is harder than drama in some ways, whether it is to write a play with jokes that will appeal to everyone or to perform a play in a way that will make people react and laugh. Actors often need to forget their personal problems in order to entertain people, which can require a lot of effort, even if they make it appear easy and effortless,” says Constance, who is a big fan of black humour.
The last one, there is a comedy (24 x 7) on the telly, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, et al — how does live fare in this competitive world? “A live stand-up comedy act is the best way to enjoy comedy because a comedian is capable of doing spontaneous crowd interaction during a live act. Not only does that make the show personal to the audience in the room, but it also becomes a unique show that nobody else in the world will ever see — unless a video is posted online, but that still doesn’t replicate the feel of being in the room,” according to Papa CJ.
“The live medium is always powerful for reasons far from the consistency of the material and performance as those remain the same. Live has the power to unite people and allow them to let go of personal biases and barriers and just laugh until they cry,” says Nourah, who works in many areas ranging from film, poetry, and photography and is also a life coach.