Humor is truth + pain, as Mr. Greco says. In the humor project we studied absurd theatre and Kurt Vonnegut. I can confidently say that what I valued the most during the humor unit was all the laughs we shared and continue to share.
Shit. with Katherine Sun
Youtube Video is coming soon.
By Katherine Sun
We are in a small bathroom. A closed toilet is seen, a porta-squatty, and a roll of toilet paper.
A title card appears. Slowly, the words emerge on the screen: “SHIT.” (beat) “With Katherine Sun”
Katherine sits seated on top of a toilet – don’t worry, the lid is closed. If she chooses so, she will also be wrapped in a blanket. (This may serve some comedic purpose for its absurdity, but it also serves to help her be more comfortable in front of the camera).
K: Welcome! Thank you for coming, thank you for coming. Tonight, I want to get serious. Let’s talk about something quite relevant: our mother-figures. Biological or not, I mean they feed us, house us, clothes us.. Pay our phone bills until we’re 30… Point is they give us a lot of shit!
K: But you know what they also give? A. lot. Of. shit.
K: I mean, shit! I’ll just be minding my own business. I’ll be facetiming my friends and my mom will pop in like:
“Mom” cracks open a door (Mom is katherine with a purple scarf). From the sliver between the cracked door and the wall her face is visible.
M: Are you having a party?
K: and then a few minutes later–
“Mom” opens the door again.
M: (Ni wei she me) have zoom party so late?
The door opens again.
M: Stop zoom party. It’s late.
The door shuts.
K: My mom asks a lot of what I like to call “stupid questions.”
“Mom” appears on screen. She holds her phone up upright.
Jacqueline furrows her eyebrows.
M: Oh. (beat) Did we order beets.
M: Good. I like beets.
“Mom” is sorting through the fridge.
M: (listing vegetables in chinese and english). JACQUELINE?!
Jacqueline appears from corner.
M: Did you order beets.
J: Yes, you just asked me 15 minutes ago.
M: Good, i like beets.
Back to katherine on the toilet.
K: True story, actually, my mom accidentally ordered 5 lbs of carrots. That night we had carrot cake–
A picture of carrot cake flashes on screen.
K: –the next night we had carrot soup.
“Mom” is focused taking a picture of her soup. A picture of carrot soup flashes on screen.
“Mom” swiping at the photos on her screen.
M: Good for my digestion.
Everyone else at the dinner table eats glancing at mom. Mom continues to swipe at her photos, not eating.
K: Now you might just be thinking, that’s just your mom man. She orders a lot of groceries, She asks a lot of questions. She’s forgetful. No you’re not getting it.
K: This food talk is incessant. And better yet she likes to discuss every aspect, every journey (Katherine make circles around my stomach) food has in her life.
All four of the Sun family (Katherine dressed as all 4 and possibly Jacqueline as herself) at the dinner table. They’re all silently eating. Mom is not eating, but leaning against the couch on her phone. Music plays from her phone.
J: can you sit down and eat?
Mom sits down at the table. She gives her phone a last glance.
Silence. Mom starts scooping food.
M: Oo more carrots, good for digestion.
D: Don’t start.
M: (Jing tian wo) poo poo (hen hao).
Katherine makes a face.
M: (Zhe luo bo) make (wo du zi) happy.
M: It’s very important you (da bien) at least once a day. This morning–
M: This morning I-
M: This morning I-
Jacqueline stops chewing.
M: Hahahah ok!
K: Katherine why are you on your phone. Katherine did you feed chico. Yes, I did. An hour later, Katherine did you feed chico. Yes, I did. (faster) Katherine, Katherine, Katherine.
K: Shit! How am I supposed to work my ass off, if you’re always up my ass!
K: I actually said that to my mother one day. And she laughed! Here’s the proof. She even texted the family group chat.
K: Now, I even have a graph I made, documenting the emotions of this occurrence.
A graph flashes on screen, no labels.
K: –accurately measured by wiring my brains to the spoons in my kitchen, on the y-axis we have my intolerance to my mother (the quantity of brain activity in the amygdala) and on the x-axis we have time. (beat) In seconds.
Labels appear. The time on the graph is very short.
K: But you know what, even though my emotions are like an tachycardia on an EKG, I’ve realized some shit. She gives me shit because she gives a shit. It’s all out of love. Mother’s love.
A horizontal graph shows up alongside the other one. The y-axis is mother’s love.
K: Consistent, perpetual, never-ending.
K: And even though this graph is actually some stonks and this graph could be a flatlined EKG, look, the point is, the people that annoy the shit out of you, are the ones that give a shit about you.
Behind the Scenes
Making the Pitch
1. Study the Pros
My comedic influences were political satirists Bill Maher and Hasan Minhaj. Bill Maher is well known for his monologues on “Real Time with Bill Maher” that almost always will either: criticize Donald Trump or criticize Donald Trump. Hasan Minhaj is known for his show “Patriot Act with Hassan Minhaj” that covers a wide range of topics, including Trump too. I watched “Monologue: Surreal Time” (Real Time with Bill Maher) and “Why Billionaires Won’t Save Us” (Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj).
Both comedians take on a liberal perspective and are well-respected in the genre of political satire. Naturally, Maher and Minhaj have similarities in their humor: The majority of their humor is political satire. But while Maher introduces anecdotes that are exaggerated and generalized, Minhaj will incoporate anecdotes specific to a sitatuation. For example, as Maher talks about COVID-19 he begins to tell a story about people wearing masks at his local 7/11. In the end of the anecdote he reveals they were robbers. Now did this actually happen? Probably not. But is the idea of robbers in a gas station a general storyline? Yes. Maher takes a general story, exaggerates it, and applies it to his unique monologue. Minhaj not only uses anecdotes more often, but they are more specific and truthful. He talks about Bezos, Nicholas Woodman, various charities and more. Regardless, both like to end the anecdote with a funny punchline like Maher’s story about robbers or how Minhaj ends a list of things billionaires can donate to with, “divorce settlements” while a photo of Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos flashes up on the screen. Also, both comedians have a message to take away. For Maher’s it’s, “don’t do stupid shit” in the face of COVID-19. Don’t freak out. For Minhaj, it is, realizes the reality of the situation of wealth disparity and selfishness. They are both hilarious, but insightful.
Now, these two comedians may both be political satirists, but their personal styles are distinct. Bill Maher is known for his use of blue humor. He swears a lot. His opening line is: “Welcome to fucking ridiculous.” More often than not, his monologues include sex jokes and can be found as offensive. He also uses hyperboles much more than Minhaj. On the other hand, Hasan Minhaj uses little blue humor. He does swear occassionally but his jokes aren’t as offensive as Maher’s. His humor is focused more on punchlines and parodies. For example, when talking about Warren Buffett, he jokes he’d like to see Buffet throw cash at people like Drake does in his “God’s Plan” music video. He then shows a parody of the music video where Buffet’s face is badly masked over Drake’s. Attending to a younger audience, Minhaj is more prone to use meme culture and parodies.
Overall, both Maher and Minhaj are liberal political satirists who monologue. They often have an underlying message their humor relates back to. Both enjoy anecdotal humor and punchlines. While Maher enjoys blue humor, Minhaj focuses on parody and punchlines.
2. Take inspiration from the Pros.
Bill Maher: anecdotes, blue humor
Hasan Minhaj: anecdotes, parody, meme culture
3. Ask yourself: What’s the idea?
The answer? Tough love and the adolescent perspective of parents.
I chose this subject because in my family I’ve noticed it can all be characterized or related back to “shit” and I think it’d be a funny catch line and way of transitioning between subjects. Also with quarantine I think this has grown increasingly relatable, but the message of realizing all this shit they give us is all out love is increasingly urgent as we are about to leave home for the first time.
4. Write, write, write.
BONUS: Honors Paper
For English Honors, I wrote a paper comparing two hilariously satiricial, post WWII literary works: “Rhinoceros” by Eugene Ionesco and “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut.