Introduction / Reflection
The humor project was a 2-3 minute presentation designed to make people laugh. This project helped many people go out of their comfort zone and tell interesting stories about their own lives. This project was an exercise in supporting one another and the good things that can happen after doing something difficult.
John Mulaney is comedian whose standup routine mostly consists of anecdotes he experienced. This story comes from John Mulaney’s stand up album “New In Town” and he calls it “the one thing you can’t replace.” He regales the audience with a story about one of the more memorable parties he went to during high school. He sets up the scene by explaining that one of the teachers at his school had a kid who went to the school as well. He adds after this fairly bland set up that this teacher was “an asshole.” This wisecrack at the end of the introduction was funny because insulting teachers and other authority figures is inherently funny, (although the person grading this probably wishes to disagree) and was also funny because of how abrupt the statement was. Mulaney continues to explain that when the teacher went out of town his kid decided to throw a party and Mulaney describes how “We each individually got up and thought ‘Ok, go over there and let’s destroy the place.’” This is unspoken truth about how many high schoolers treat the places they party. It was also delivered in a level tone which helped to emphasize how obvious this course of action was to all people involved. Mulaney makes a series of analogies about how much everyone was drinking when he arrived at the party claiming that “We were like dogs without horses. We were running wild.” This creates a funny and unique mental image. It also compares two very unlike things, drinking teens and dogs without horse, which creates an incongruence. He continues on with the story describing all the things the kids do to trash the house. He explains how the cops showed up and what happened in the aftermath of the party all using a variety of techniques I don’t have space to analyze here.
Mae Martin is a standup comedian who also tells funny and embarrassing anecdotes about her own life. She starts out her set by asking “How everyone doing? Is everyone good? [lots of cheering] Did you guys have a good [slight pause] childhood?” This is a simple defiance of expectations and conventions. Every stand up comedian opens up their set with simple easy questions designed to be met with applause. This question is clearly more in depth that the conventional “Did you guys have a good night so far?” that Martin’s question parodies. Yet in the same way it’s designed just to be met with applause. Even if you aren’t having a good night you should still cheer anyway and people are just expected to cheer and be happy even if they didn’t have a happy childhood. She goes on to talk about how she just got out of a long term relationship where she was engaged to a women. She talks about how her parents are somewhat supportive, but describes when she visited them after the break up her mom said something along the lines of, “We’re all very sorry about your breakup, but have you considered, you know, switching it up?” Martin’s response was “Ya sure! I like men. I’ve dated an eclectic group of very (slight uncomfortable pause) lucky men.” This exchange is awkward, uncomfortable, and relatable to everyone, not only LGBTQ+ people. People’s parents often feel they are entitled to advocate for what they want in their children’s partners. Someone who isn’t gay could easily replace the discussion about dating the opposite gender with dating people who have more stable jobs or of a different ethnicity. I think reliability is necessary in comedy. This leads to many comedians discussing cliche topics like how bad airplane food is. The really impressive comedy, however, takes a concept that not everyone experiences or understands, like being gay, and relates it to the “every man” by saying: “Everyone’s parents want them to date someone who fits their own specifications and this is the ridiculous way my mother tries to control my dating life.”
So how can I apply the comedic techniques of wisecracks, unspoken truths, humorous analogies, defy expectations, and try to be relatable about non-cliche subjects. My standup routine will be telling true stories about my father’s best-friend’s ex-wife. These stories recount my strange interactions with her and her friends and family. I haven’t written these stories out fully, yet, and I think that wisecracks are more spontaneous, but I think it will be easy to make wisecracks about some of the “characters” in my stories. For example, I met the girlfriend’s sister at their wedding and I was 15 at the time and fairly awkward and geeky. I wore tights with cats on them. (They were very specific tights that are often associated with an unhealthy admiration for anime and all things Japanese.) She very earnestly thought my outfit was very cool, so I thought I would make a wisecrack that went along the lines of: “If you ever end up as a married adult who thinks that any 15 year old is actually cool, you’ve failed as an adult.”
Unspoken truths are some of the funniest and shocking forms of comedy I want to employ throughout my routine. Most of my unspoken truths will probably double as wisecracks and try to act as lessons throughout the narrative. During the wedding story, I want to talk about how the bride’s vows were just rambling about how handsome her groom was. My unspoken truth I want to express is “if all your future wife can say about you is that you’re hot, I don’t foresee your marriage lasting long.” Other unspoken truths will be shared in my intro where I’ll talk about my own personal rules about “crazy ex-girlfriend stories”: Never tell stories about your own girlfriends or the girlfriends of people who live with you. If you do that you’ll have to experience all the negative things that happen when you or a loved one dates a crazy person.
There is one specific character, who is the best-friend of my father’s best-friend’s ex-wife, who I am planning on trying to create a humerus analogy to describe. This women might be the dizziest person who I have ever met. My analogy will probably be along the lines of: She acts like she has the brain of a literal 16 year old YA protagonist who was written by some middle aged white guy who thinks that teenage girls goals consist of only marry someone rich and hot and become a werewolf. This analogy will probably make more sense with more context and proper delivery.
A Lot of the stories I have to tell are so bizarre that they defy expectations by nature. The first time the couple came to our house to have dinner, when my dad’s friend left to go to the bathroom his girlfriend told us that “sometimes when she’s alone in her house, she pretends to be a Jewish woman.” I’m not sure how one might expect the sentence to end, but “she pretends to be a Jewish woman” is probably not people’s #1 guess.
The art of trying to be relatable without cliches is one that every comedian works to perfect. I do admit that I am relying on the fact that these are true stories that really did happen. Since these stories took place during my life, I’m assuming that parts of the narrative ring true for others as well. I’m hoping that others have gone to questionable weddings or know people with a notorious dating history. Although these narratives aren’t universal, they are common and the larger narrative about relatives making predictable mistakes or not getting along with other people’s chosen partners are much more universal.
Alright! So, I’m going to be telling “crazy ex-girlfriend” stories. Since, you know, if my jokes are just unbearable you can just try to enjoy the story. Now I have a few rules about “crazy ex-girlfriend” stories 1) don’t tell stories about your own ex-girlfriend 2) and don’t tell stories about the ex-girlfriends of people you live with. Cuz if you tell stories about ex-girlfriends who are close to you, you have to deal with all the bullshit of living with a crazy person!
Ok so these are all stories about my father’s best friend from high school’s ex-girlfriend. The best friend’s name is Jim and his girlfriend’s named Jan and both of them are strange. Jim is real super smart. Like he’s really brilliant with math and school stuff. But he, like most really smart people, is really stupid. Like think about it, there are people who know everything there is to know about WW1 but you’ll ask them what’s the capital of California and they’re like San Francisco. So Jim’s really smart, but his one fatal flaw is he must have like a fetish for crazy people, like he only dates crazy people.
So when I heard Jim had a new girlfriend I was skeptical, but, you know, excited for the chaos. I’m from around here, Silicon Valley, and here in Silicon Valley you are what you do. Like I AM a student first and foremost and an artist second since that’s what I want to do in the future. So I asked my dad what she did. I was told like, “Well she used to be a real estate agent and then she went to cosmetology school and now she’s a hairdresser.” Isn’t that supposed to go the other way? So that was a little weird. And I meet her once or twice and she’s fine, no red flags from having a 5 minute conversation.
And then she came over to have dinner at our house for the first time. And everything was fine until Jim like went to use the bathroom or something. Like he was gone for a second and shit hit the weird fan. Like he left and she was instantly like, “well there goes my need to have normal human conversations.” So to give you some context my family’s Jewish; well my mom’s Jewish and all my grandparents are Jewish. Except for the woman my grandpa remarried, I got like 4 out of 5 grandparent aged people in my life except one is dead so life’s complicated. So my family’s pretty Jewish and Jim family is possibly even more Jewish than mine. And Jan is black. And like I know black jews technically do exist but like there are black republicans too. Like I’ve never met an African American who was Jewish, there was that kid from Love, Simon, but he’s a fictional character, you know, just like Kanye West, the black republican.
So Jim isn’t there and she says to me in my own house,”Sometimes when I’m alone I like to pretend to be a Jewish woman.” Like What!!! I just don’t know how to react to that. What did she want me to say “Oh ya I pretend to be a black woman in my free time, we have so much in common?!” How do you react in those situations?