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Tuesday, May 29

What is funny anyway?

Why would a comedian be asking a question like this? Don't we know what is funny? Well, kinda.

The art of comedy is not just about the laughter, and things that make one person laugh don't necessarily count as comic material. Conversely, things which when written down seem pretty unfunny can be absolutely hilarious when delivered in the right way in the right context. So, no: "What is funny?" is a massive question.

The business of comedy is nothing to do with being funny. It's a battle of the egos, or a massage of the egos, or a rewarding of the kindnesses of whoever is in this business that we might call show if it were actually really showbusiness. Stand-up comedy is not even glitzy showbusiness. If I had a red carpet to walk on, it would probably be in a pub and would probably be sticking from the pints and the sick and the pint of sick which have been drenched into it over the years.

I'm sounding negative, and I'm not meaning to be. For me, doing what I do, there's more to comedy than being funny, but being funny is the real heart of it. In the above photo, I'm there, smiling away because I've either just told a joke, or am about to tell a joke, and that sort of thing makes me happy. When you've found the right material, and know from experience that it's going to work, or have just come up with something on the spot that you know will be immediately hilarious, that's when comedy is about knowing what funny is and celebrating it.

For the rest of the time there are long drives, late nights, packing equipment in and out of vehicles, doing paperwork, organising times, dates, routes, people, issuing press releases that feel like they're ignored, applying for gigs and feeling ignored, sending out offers for gigs and then dealing with complex queries in return. It's not funny and it's a distraction from those 20-60 minutes (depending on the show type) or even 5-10 minutes when you're able to just face an audience and find funny with them.

Over the last 14 hours, I've rekindled my fanship of Tim Minchin a bit, thanks to listening to some of his less self-absorbed material, and I think I've reminded myself of a funny that I already wanted to aspire to.

And that's the last thing about being a comedian. You see jokes differently. Sure there are those that make you laugh - thank you Tim Vine for a lovely car ride's worth of your recording to enjoy - but then there are the jokes that you dissect and either wish you could write, or wish someone else hadn't (for one reason or another). None of which is directly related to the important act of being funny.

Still, the one enables the other.


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