This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True…..

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I love watching interviews and talk shows, especially when comedians are being interviewed.  I sat down to watch Charlie Rose tonight, and his guest was Larry David.  If you watched t.v. sitcoms back in the 1990s then you probably watched or could rehearse lines from an episode of Seinfeld, the quintessential show about nothing.  Larry David was the co-creator along with Jerry Seinfeld of that show, which David was the executive producer for all but the last couple of seasons.

At one point in the middle of the interview, (Charlie) Rose looks at (Larry) David and asks what it takes to be a good comedian.  Rose says you must be authentic to which David chimes in “and funny.”

Nothing explains the relationship between comedian and audience better.  Rose said a comic must be authentic; he is an experienced member of the audience.  David said you gotta be funny because that’s the first thing he thought of that is required for a successful comedian.

The audience needs you to be authentic.  The comedian needs to be funny.  It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

So, with the advent of social media and so many comedians flooding the landscape from coast to coast, the question then becomes <strong><em>how does one become authentic?</em></strong>

There are a couple ways to be authentic, though one takes much more time and effort to master.

I believe that a comic can choose to be authentic by pretending to be somebody else, meaning they copy a shtick or copy jokes and recite them verbatim.  That type of authenticity isn’t real and thanks to social media it would only be a matter of time before you get found out and the house of cards you meticulously built begins to fall all around you.  Then you find out that there are no more decks of cards for you to build a new house of cards, because you were too busy using someone else’s to make something you thought was new, and authentic to you.

The other path towards authenticity is a bit more difficult, with many questions that go unanswered and few answers along the way.  It contains elements of struggle, failure, self-doubt, despair, frustration, fear, disappointment, anger and hurt.

On the flip side however, it contains elements of joy, hope, enthusiasm, laughter, success and fun.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that for a comedian to be authentic, it’s a process that a lot of us do not figure out right away, for whatever the reason.  There are rare gems in the comedy world that can hit the ground running and keep up that sprinting pace for miles and miles and miles and miles, leaving the other comics in the dust who haven’t bore witness to their authenticity yet.  This doesn’t make either comic better than the other.  Take the story about the hare and the tortoise, for example.

The hare was in shape, full of energy and clearly had the advantage in every category leading up to the big race.  Setting aside <em><strong>how </strong></em>he lost the race, there was also the tortoise who started the race, probably knew he was going to get his ass kicked badly, but he still decided to race.  He put forth the best effort he was capable of giving and would be able to be content with the effort he gave, regardless of how bad he got beat.

It doesn’t make one greater than the other, nor does it make one lazier over the other either.  The hare maybe didn’t enjoy the process along the way or stop to “smell the roses” as it were, but he certainly had lots of time to reflect on the process when he had a setback of losing the race.  The tortoise on the other hand, went as fast as he could, yet paced himself and allowed himself to enjoy the journey, making the victory that much nicer.

You can apply that story and the lessons learned to comedy.  But then it begs to ask a larger question.  How does a comedian become authentic, more so when do you know that you’ve reached authenticity?

The audience laughs in part because what the comedian says is believable, it fits that character or persona on stage.  You can have a great joke as a comic that ten other guys on stage can tell, but if you aren’t believable, if you don’t come across as authentic with the material, then you don’t get the laughs.

Maybe on some nights that’s why some material doesn’t work with a particular audience, whether they be a corporate crowd, all younger people, all older, of the same sex, same race, etc…..I’m thinkin’ you get my drift here.

It’s about finding your voice as a comedian, to get to that point where you are comfortable with who you are, or comfortable with an extension of who you are, where it becomes easier to express those thoughts and ideas which make you laugh.  The thoughts and ideas that are funnier now than when you first started.

In a world where many of us try to be the same as the next person to fit in, why is it so difficult to be as individualistic on stage as you may be off of it?

Audiences crave authenticity.  Why do you think certain videos online become so popular?  It’s because they are authentic, because they are different, more unique and more original than what others are doing.

I think that in comedy, to be truly authentic you have to be funny.

To be funny in comedy, you need to be authentic.  The Charlie Rose interview proved that.  The question is how?

My friends, if figuring out the “how” was that easy, then it wouldn’t be called life.

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