Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I Wanted To Do Stand-Up Comedy


Although law is my passion and has been my dream since I was in early adolescence, I have also harbored a secret desire to be a stand-up comedian. I know that if I had fluency, I’d have a knack for it…the required quick wit, timing, and I think I instinctively know what will be funny to others. Since I am most fluent with my friends and loved ones, I’ve often been told I should have been a comedian (in another life, of course).

Ellen Degeneres is probably my favorite stand-up comedian, I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw her on HBO’s specials they used to do back in the 80’s. Rodney Dangerfield hosted the half-hour show and he’d feature new up-and-coming comedians. Ellen, at that time, was pretty well known in the stand-up circuit and had recently been named “The Funniest Person in America” by Showtime. She had such good timing and her humor was always so clever, perfectly executed and funny as hell. One snippet of a joke I remember from that time that I have memorized and wish I could speak fluently is,

“I remember when I was kid going to kindergarten…well…I thought it was kindergarten. Later I learned I had been working in a factory for 3 years. I Didn’t even know. I thought it was weird cause it was always really hot and everybody was older than me, but what did I know? I was just a kid.”

When spoken fluently with just the right pauses and timing…it’s funny. And I wish I could do it. The best I’ve been able to do is say the first line. I completely block on the beginning of the second line. If I don’t block…the L in “later” becomes elongated to the point where the timing of the joke is ruined.

Another comedian I admire is Steven Wright. Maybe you know who I’m talking about. He’s very quiet…speaks almost as if he’s on something. Curly long hair, except on top where he’s completely bald. His humor is very oblique, and again…timing is everything.

“I have peripheral E.S.P. I can see into the future…but only off to the side.”

I think I wrote in my first entry on this blog that I usually don’t have a hard time giving a public speech. I excelled at it in college and actually love to speak in front of others. I always thought that God must have a sense of humor…to look down upon a newborn and say, “He shall be personable, outgoing, funny, lively, the center of attention and he shall have a passion for speaking and telling jokes and speaking at all sorts of occasions. Oh, and one more thing…he shall stutter!”

I don’t have as hard a time when I give public speeches, simply because I have my “tricks” down pat and I can word switch like a mad man. Usually nobody can tell I stutter at all and people in my classes usually begged to be in my group so they could be a part of a presentation that would certainly get a high grade. What they didn’t know, however, was that, because there were no actual jokes to tell…timing wasn’t really that critical. I could pause where I wanted, if I knew a block was imminent…and then quickly switch directions or feign a bit of introspection…and I’ve even been known to ask the audience a question in order to hide what would otherwise be a terrible block.. Also, if I got to a difficult phrase or word that couldn’t be switched…I could force all the air out of my lungs and simply begin the sentence, word, or phrase on that last breath of air. Timing wasn’t an issue, so the tricks worked beautifully.

For comedy, however…you prepare your jokes and they must be executed exactly as planned. Timing is everything. Punch lines to a joke scare the shit out of me and I normally avoid telling jokes at all…though I have a ton I could tell. Sometimes I’ve simply mocked my stutter and have told jokes on occasion anyway. Sometimes I’ve been successful…other times, I (and everybody else) wished I had thought better of it. You can’t word switch on a punch line…and if you pause, the timing goes out the window.

I’ll close this entry with one of my favorite stuttering jokes that my mother told me as a kid. It is so applicable and relevant to our experience as stutters…but, ironically, I have never been able to repeat the joke to anybody else. The fact that it’s about stuttering brings my stutter to the forefront of the mind of the listener and to me…and renders telling it aloud to anyone virtually impossible:

A little boy was standing on a street corner with a nice, big, shiny watch on
his arm. A man saw the little boy and walked up to him and said,
“La-la-la-la-la-little b-b-b-boy. C-c-c-could you g-g-g-give me the t-t-t-time?”

The little boy looked at the man and just shook his head. The man walked
away sad.

Another man was standing nearby and saw the whole event
transpire. Annoyed, he walked over to the little boy and said, “That wasn’t very
nice, young man. Why didn’t you give that man the time?”

The little boy
looked up at the man and said, “C-c-c-c-c-cause he would’ve kn-kn-kn-knocked the
sh-sh-sh-sh-shit out of me.”

2 comments:

John MacIntyre said...

The same thing happens to me when I try to tell a joke. I won't start a joke unless I am EXTREMELY confident I won't stutter. But even when I get all the way to the punch line ... I block! If the listeners are patient, I will finally get through it (3-4 minutes later).

But ... after my timing is blown, and a few minutes of watching me suffer, nothing is very funny.

Speaking of jokes though, I know of an incident which is rather amusing. It didn't happen to me, but another stutterer I went to high school with.

pws: Do you have a d-d-d-d-dime?
fluent: No
pws: Yes you do, you have one in your hand.
fluent: I have *one* in my hand, but you asked for fifty cents!

Regards,
John

PS-Good luck with your new blog. Mine has brought me a lot of insight into my problem.

Law Student said...

*laugh* That is funny. You seem to be a pretty easy-going and patient stutterer. I wish I had more patience. I often get very frustrated if I block and if I exlaim a choice expletive...I can then say what I was intending. "Her name is La..la...la...*four letter word!!!*...Linda!!!"

My son loves me very much...so what I'm about to reveal doesn't really bother me...but he's a little older now and he often finds my frustration funny...and sometimes the stutter. If I rapidly repeat a hard consanant at the beginning of a word...he'll laugh. Probably for the same reason that people find Porky Pig funny. Just sounds funny. :)