Power of Laughter

Power of Laughter
The Ludicrous

Russ Pitts | 29 Apr 2008 12:05
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But when you're telling a joke to hundreds or thousands of people - and getting paid - the expectations are higher. As are the challenges.

"Oh, there have been so many times on stage where a bit falls completely flat," says Parikh. "Countless. Each time it's a painful, painful experience, but what I've found over the years is that it's all about letting the audience know that you know it fell flat and being brave enough to bounce back without losing energy, without bailing on your character." He says the trick is to have confidence in yourself and your abilities, although he admits this can be tough when they're throwing rotten tomatoes.

Being funny on film, even though the audience remains well out of throwing range, also has its difficulties. It's not all fun and games.

"Having fun doesn't necessarily equal fun on film," says Day. "Sometimes we're having the best fun on set, but the funniest take in editing is the one where we were all in a food coma or not on the lines."

"When filming, there are certainly days on set where you feel like you totally suck. And you probably do," says Parikh. "That's when you have to rely on the notion that everything is going to be edited anyway, so that you don't kill yourself."

Yet in spite of the difficulties, most of the comedians I interviewed wouldn't dream of doing anything else.

"I can't picture myself doing anything else," says Thorsen. "Comedic acting just came natural to me. I wouldn't ... couldn't do anything else."

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Day says she finds joy in comedy. "Life is short ... unless you're living your joy, life is meaningless. I want to be on my deathbed and happy with what I did with my life."

She adds, resurrecting Aristotle, that she's usually uncomfortable with attention, but when people are laughing at her, it's OK. "If I'm making a fool of myself, it feels like I'm deflecting people's judgment. Also, laughter brings everyone together. There's no denying a group-feeling of togetherness when you're snorting at a fart joke."

Parikh says his love of comedy has more to do with a life quest than a personal philosophy. "At this point, I have to succeed in this business," he says. "Getting a 'real' job will mean that I've lost. ... I'm sure after I 'succeed' in comedy I'll move on to something else, like saving the Earth, writing the great Indian American novel, or becoming a gymnastics coach, but not a second before."

Are we any closer to a definition of modern comedy? Is Aristotle still applicable? I think so. The Guild certainly pokes fun at "lower" people, the stereotypical gamer nerds, but raises them up in the process, elevating them to our eye level so we can see them as mere reflections of ourselves. As for The Fine Bros. action figure characters, well, it's hard to get further removed from a man than a satirical caricature starring a plastic doll of him. And yet, even in The Fine Bros. actions figures, we find pieces of ourselves, laugh at our own foibles and become better people as a result. That hasn't changed. Perhaps it never will.

"It's really the best way to cope with life and the terrible things that can happen to you," say The Fine Bros. "Nothing in life is going to be awesome forever, so when it falls apart, pick yourself up and laugh about it. Make fun of yourself and your situation. Everyone else wants to make fun of you already; you might as well let them know it's OK."

Russ Pitts has written and produced comedy for television, film, theater and the internet. He once wrote a play starring a ball of tinfoil on a stick and served a two-year stint writing daily comic monologues about personal computing. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com

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