Monday, September 13, 2010

Dancing Naked Man Sent (potentially) from God

Almost fall Moonday.

It was a deep summer for me-- deep and low like a cello.  A summer of bass notes and beets-- red ones the color of blood.

I love beets.  I love all heavy, dark, underground things.  But you know, sometimes its a bit much.  The voice-over for the movie trailer of my mind can occasionally sound something like, "Step into Kate's mind if you dare.  Its lugubrious! Its somewhat maudlin!  It prefers multisyllabic words and its syncopated by the gnashing of teeth!"   

I've been trying to lighten up.  And its been hard.  A friend of mine said I should just ask for lightness, just put the call out.  So I did. (You know... to God, or whoever else was listening-- the angel of jokes maybe.)

And somehow I found myself at two burlesque shows this weekend.  Another friend suggested the first one, at Joe's Pub-- Johnny Cash Burlesque.  That seemed absurd.  I like absurd, and so four friends and I went, even though I'm not exactly into burlesque and could write a long boring post about my thoughts on its cultural significance, the pros and cons.  Luckily I won't.

When we got there two cheery hostesses told us that we would be given the best seats in the house-- the round raised mobster's booth in the front.  They seemed delighted to see us.  You've arrived!  The show can begin! That's my version of the proceedings anyway. 

The show was silly, stupid, funny, creepy, forced, hackneyed, spontaneous.  80% of the cast did a "full reveal" at the end while dancing to Folsom Prison Blues, which was worth the price of admission as far as I was concerned. 

Still, I left shrugging.  I didn't feel delighted, or particularly light.  I was proud of myself for ordering a soda water with lime.  I came home and went to bed.

The next day, Sunday, I walked my dogs to Tompkins Square Park humming Cash tunes in the drizzling rain, and smiling as I thought of the boobs and balls flapping to 'I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.'

The HOWL festival was going on in Tompkins all weekend, and there was something happening on the stage.  It turned out to be a burlesque review called Low Life.  Well how do you like that. 

There was a surprisingly large number of people huddled under umbrellas to watch in the rain (numbers that a poetry reading would not have drawn.  Ever.)  The dancing was impressive-- real dancing.   It put the Joe's Pub show to shame.  The theme this year was women in the beat scene, which happens to be a pet subject of mine.. happens to be the subject of my latest play, in fact.  Hm.

The second to last act was by the king of "boylesque", simply named Tigger.*    He started out with a hilarious monologue in the character of a female hipster living in Paris.  And then there was the dance.  Oh the dance.  It had that je ne sais quoi.  It was set to a French song about what Tigger said was her/his one true love, Harley Davidson, (the song originally made famous by Bridget Bardot.) His repeated kick-start leg move flashing red panties under a tight black skirt had me gasping for breath.

By the finale he was completely nude!  Performing jumping leg splits!  In the middle of the day in Tompkins Square!  It was truly a love song to the East Village, and warmed the cockles of my heart.  That doesn't sound quite right somehow.... 

The moral (if I may use that word) of the story as I see it, is... I sought lightness, asked for lightness, and then had lightness thrust-- near me.  I am changed.

For this Moonday, my questions are--  is inappropriateness a requisite for humor?  What's one thing that someone might consider 'wrong' that's made you laugh? Or tell me as story of lightness being thrust upon you.   Or as always, leave a poem, piece of writing, link to music, etc. that inspires you in any way at all.

*As it turns out, I'm not the only person who thinks Tigger is brilliant-- he's worked with Margaret Cho, Penny Arcade, and Karen Finley to name a few. 


Tandava (Carol Henning) said...

A pedophile and a Boy Scout walk into a dark forest together.

"I'm scaaarrred...." whimpers the Boy Scout.

"You think you're scared?" says the pedophile. "I have to walk out of here alone!!"

Did you laugh?

If yes, does that mean you have a sick mind? If no, does that mean you have a repressed mind?


I've been doing a lot of thinking about what makes stuff funny.

Ultimately, I believe it boils down to a release of tension -- to get the laugh, you (as the comic/joke teller) must build the tension in order to release it.

Taboo material is especially useful for this because its premise is already tension-laden. But simply blurting out the taboo material won't guarantee a laugh (although some profanity promulgating comics will insist it does -- and their drunken adolescent-minded audiences may agree). But the most effective joke will stack the set-up in a clever way, and deliver an oblique (but still obvious) punchline that resonates with some more-or-less culturally universal "truth". Making the audience think just a bit -- but not too much -- will grant a round of especially gratifying gut-busting.

In essence, the audience should agree at some level with the comedian's view point, or the joke will fall flat. If the delivery is extremely clever or crazy, however, the audience may still laugh in spite of themselves. Though they may hate themselves in the morning..... :-)

Please see my blog for more musings about comedy, theater, art, psychology, and stuff like that...

Kate T.W. said...

Hm. That's 1 of those jokes I just can't laugh at. The best I could manage is an eye roll. I do know that I can be part of what I think the Simpsons writers once called the wall of silence... I don't think I have a particularly repressed mind, but... hm. Good food for thought. I tend to like material that doesn't seem to be mean-spirited. Off-- wrong-- but not mean. Can't stand fat jokes. Its what makes me not be able to listen to Conan Brian's monologues. I love Eddie Izzard who does what you are describing brilliantly, and he too happens to like drag, so begins with taboo. I think you hit the nail on the head with the release of tension-- a main function of laughter. Also bringing people together in some way. That's certainly how I felt after watching that performance. Comedy is important work!

Sara Grace said...

You know how I feel about dead baby jokes. Pure joy.

rutherv said...

Hey Kate,
funny you should mention - I actually went to a burlesque show recently, "Rhinestone Follies" at "R" bar, and it was a blast. It was retro style burlesque, very moulin-rouge esque (there was no full reveal). I had a fabulous time - what I liked about it is that it looked like all the girls (it was an all women troupe) who were doing it were having so much fun. And their fun was contagious.
In terms of inappropriate humor:
after the show, I was invited to a party with the burlesque troupe, who are old friends of my bf. There was a pile of corsets lying on the couch from when the girls had been doing a photo shoot with corsets - regular corsets, under busts, and even little corsets just for the neck. One of the burlesque girls, Hazel Honeybee, picked up one of the little neck corset, held it up and cooed "Awww look, baby's first corset!"
It was wrong (but kind of hysterical)

wholly jeanne said...

now my mother and my daughter find other people's pain the funniest thing ever, while i find surprise and unusual/unlikely combinations funny. i have been tucked in under all sorts of familial obligations this summer, and i've missed you.

Kate T.W. said...

thanks Jeanne. I've been dealing with family obligations too and missed you too. Hoping to get back here in more of a rip roaring way pronto...