Let’s see, what was going on…well, there was a photo of this cat that looked grumpy…that was a thing. Well, he wasn’t sincerely upset, I don’t think, just sort of comically annoyed. What else…
Well there was…
There was other stuff too, I think. But the cat photo was sort of the keystone for us culturally for awhile.
By Bill Dixon
I wouldn’t dare call myself an expert in creative writing. Although it’s something I do daily, it feels pretentious to apply a hierarchical model to the creation of art. Words like “expert” or “professional” seem silly when applied to something as arbitrary as creativity.
This is the classic writer’s cop-out, deputized at Thanksgiving when you return home from whichever metropolis you have chosen to sublet a closet-sized bedroom. Family and friends ask you how the “writing thing” is going and you regurgitate the prepared statement you concocted at the airport while scanning the never-ending parade of black luggage as it spills onto the conveyor belt at baggage claim.
You’re a writer and you don’t write for The New York Times, The Daily Show, or Two and a Half Men, so you will need an excuse for not achieving the non-writing public’s apparent minimum requirement to be called a “real writer.”
"You know what show I like? That show Breaking Bad!", your functionally illiterate uncle declares. "That’s a good show. You should write for them."
I don’t have the heart to tell him that they don’t make that show anymore. So I nod my head enthusiastically, “Yeah, totally!”
But I can tell you with no trepidation that I am in fact an expert in the field of masturbation. I mean that in the purest sense. I mean expert as in, if there were a masturbation related homicide, I could give expert testimony in the court of law. I mean expert as in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule expert. It’s not a paying gig but to friends and family, on the scale of professional achievement, it’s probably on par with writing.
"At least it’s physical," mom might say, "My son, the professional athlete."
When you consider it, the similarities between masturbation and writing are uncanny:
And most importantly:
My mother killed herself when I was a kid so I’d like to say happy Mother’s Day to the women who are not biological mother’s who step up and fill that space. There were wonderful women who materialized in my life after my mom died. Women that showed me how to tie my shoelaces. Women who showed me how to forgive. Those women showed me that the universe was not broken. They saved my life.
A lot of comedians consider stand up comedy to be an art form. Other comics scoff at the term “art form.” I am pretty ambivalent about the whole thing myself. Seems like semantics to me. I don’t think it is that important that the general public consider stand up to be lumped in with “art” because a lot of the arts take themselves way too seriously. Also, it seems like many comics who consider themselves artists approach stand up with a vague sort of anti-analysis, let-the-jokes-grow-organically mantra. I can’t get on board with the idea that you can get really good at something by only thinking about it while you’re doing it.
I don’t want to come off wrong here: I am not some kind of comedy-by-numbers guy, but I am a huge proponent of using your time off-stage to make your time on stage more productive.
From what i can tell, newer comics like to take the term “writing on stage” too literally. It is a waste of time to make yourself pull a premise out of your ass in the hopes that the pressure to say *something* will somehow bring out the comedic genius in you. It can happen, but usually doesn’t. Having only a topic in mind and no angle will most likely lead to a pedestrian premise. Obviously if you are thinking out loud, then the first thing you say will be the first thing you thought of, which is probably the first thing most people would think of. You don’t need an audience to decide what you’re trying to say. Writing on stage is kinda pointless without a blueprint. If you are on your back from the get-go, trying to make a point that you yourself just realized you’re making; then you are going to be far from concise and the audience will be struggling to understand you as much as you’re struggling to be understood. Lazy comics convince themselves that their creative process doesn’t involve anything stressful.
One lazy mindset that a ton of comics fall into is this notion that joke writing should never be “forced.” they don’t “sit down and write at a certain time,” and instead, “write it down when it comes to them.” People hate hearing that this is bullshit. I understand it is easy to believe this is a process, because even if you don’t really put in an effort, something will hit you over the head every so often. But acting like that is your “process” is like a swimmer training for the olympics by treading water here and there. Writing is a muscle, it has to be worked out often. If you only write when something comes to you, you can only make it as good as your flabby writing muscle allows. Sitting down to write does not mean writing jokes about things that don’t matter to you. When you sit yourself down for a good hour and really mine your brain for premises, or go over premises you’ve jotted down and figure out what angles you can take; you realize you’ve just been skimming the curd and neglecting the cheese.
I realize this could come off as me criticizing the way other people approach stand up just because it isn’t my way; that’s not my intention. I’m just pointing out the path of least resistance doesn’t go very far. It took me a couple years to realize i needed to make myself sit down every day and vet everything I can. It helped me immensely, and i don’t think I’m unique in that regard.
Excerpt from New York Magazine Article (Peter W. Kaplan, Sept. 2009)
Somehow, without anyone looking, David Letterman has superseded the usual TV categories of comic, or talk-show host, or broadcaster. He paces the stage at night worrying about the Afghan-election recount and generally free-associating about the flies and vultures flapping around in his head. His nightly broadcast from Broadway has become a weird and great American entity unto itself, a blurred throwback, an amalgam of the tradition he came from: Johnny Carson, Edward Murrow, Jack Paar. And the most middle-American of talk-show hosts has become the most New York–centric.
He is also an increasingly interesting human being who has absorbed, not evaded, events and recorded, not denied, human experience.
Craggy, bewildered, irascible Dave, with his gray crew cut, designer suits, and white socks—a nightly mind-blowing image in HDTV—has become a persona, a distinctive agglomeration of character traits, even more than his idol Johnny Carson, much more like Carson’s own idol, Jack Benny. His monologues are indifferent as one-liners and jokes, but the character who delivers them is one memorable American. He can reel off dozens of Obama jokes and McCain jokes and Paris Hilton jokes, but it is when Letterman begins to invert and mutter, when his personal neuroses and raw wounds are inflamed by the assaults of everyday life—and whose aren’t?—that is when he becomes something more than a good comedian and something like the scarred protagonist of his own comic novel—a bewildered, gutty mid-lifer at the crash intersection of American culture.
In 1895, Mark Twain, another dapper crabapple discoursing on politics and society, prepared a worldwide lecture tour that he began in New York City—actually using inmates at Randalls Island House of Refuge as his warm-up audience. A little like Letterman complaining about Oprah and Obama, in a modern nod to the coming new century, he planned to put up photos of all the celebrities who had decided not to show at his first lecture: General Sherman, General Lee, Gladstone, and Disraeli. “Every one of these illustrious men was sorry, and sent regrets; even lamentations.”
Then the speech went: “As soon as a man recognizes that he has drifted into age, he gets reminiscent. He wants to talk and talk; and not about the present or the future, but about his old times. For there is where the pathos of his life lies—and the charm of it.”
David Letterman has hit the part of life where he wants to talk and talk. But he seems to be still speaking of the present and the future. He is 62 and has chosen not to drift but to floor it, a boy of autumn, Huck Finn in September, the last American codger, the crabby voice of American reason, heedless, uncompromising, and driven. Long may he chortle.
Source New York Magazine