For Me It’s All About You

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It was brought to my attention a while back that I went on stage with the sole intention of throwing people I care about or love under the bus.  That is inaccurate and completely false.  I do not do that at all, and at this time I would like to clear the air and explain a bit about how I write my material from working with my comedy coach in L.A.

The first thing I learned is that you do what is called attacking up.  This means you attack people who are above you.  This means people who are better than you, maybe a spouse or in my case it was my girlfriend.  It could be a co-worker, boss, etc.  Somebody who you can perceive to be better for any number of reasons.  For example, I once did a joke about my mother that went something like this:

I once told my mother that I had a girlfriend.  She was like “how could you even have a girlfriend when there is so much wrong with you?”

Let’s unpack that for a minute.  Telling my mother relates to family, and most people look up to their mother, trying to aspire to be like them.  If you “look up” to somebody, there is a perfect example of attacking up.  Telling my mother that I had a girlfriend would be a source of pride for most kids hoping to win their mothers approval.  Right there I put my mother above me hoping to win that approval.

The second sentence “how could you even have a girlfriend when there is so much wrong with you?” right away knocks me down a peg or two.  You don’t expect that to come from most mothers out there.  Do you?  But I’ve learned that the audience is there to laugh, meaning I know a bit about audience psychology to know that they are rooting for you to succeed.  When they hear a mother say something that disparaging to their child (me), it now heightens the audience’s awareness and anticipation that you will at least have a good comeback for your mom to at least be equal to her or better than her.  It’s also worth noting that in order to do this, you want to make sure to start a joke off with you knocking yourself down a peg and not deliberately throwing somebody under the bus right off the bat.  That’s a surefire way to get the audience against you and hate you, especially if a male comic throws a female under the bus.  Not a good idea at all.

So, back to the setup of the joke with my mother…. the audience kind of feels bad for the comic knocking himself down a peg but they also laugh because of the surprise (laughter trigger) that a mother would talk to their child like that.  Now, the audience is there to root for you to succeed so they want you to win, they want you to come up with the perfect comeback.  Then that makes the joke go something like this….

I once told my mother that I had a girlfriend.  She was like “how could you even have a girlfriend when there is so much wrong with you?”  (pause for timing)        I said “well mom, I just need to make sure I have enough cash for the hour.”

That’s what I try to do.  I give off an awkward, struggling guy on stage who doesn’t get it quite right.  I try to give that impression while on stage, and the way I present my material it should be easy to see that I attack up all the time.  Here are a few examples of material I wrote while I dated an amazing woman.

My girlfriend is one of those women who has those qualities you just don’t find in a woman. She’s smart, she’s pretty and she actually finds me attractive. 

Those couple of sentences right there shows you that this woman so out of my league that I don’t deserve her.  I am honest in my assessment of how she is.  Right there, that puts her above me (attacking up).  Now for the entire joke…..

My girlfriend is one of those women who has those qualities you just don’t find in a woman. She’s smart, she’s pretty and she actually finds me attractive. We’re a perfect match too because she’s also kind of creepy.

The setup of the joke implied she was above me and too good for someone like me.  Now, add the punchline with the perfect match comment and suddenly the playing field is leveled.  The punchline implies we are equals, and you can take that as me rising to meet her at that level, there’s the laugh trigger of incongruity (two dissimilar items coming together ie: creepy guy and perfect woman) or the surprise laugh trigger because the fact I said creepy is perfect for us both is surprising!

So, keeping that formula in mind, here are a few other bits about my girlfriend I had:

For one thing, she loves to watch movies with me at my place, but we never watch the whole movie.  Half the time she watches the movie, the other half of the time she just sits there staring right at me.  Now, it’s pretty obvious why she can’t take her eyes off of me, right?  I know what she’s thinking, “when do I get paid so I can leave?”  (note: this joke is NOT what you think it’s about….here the notion is that she is so out of my league to the point where I have to pay her to hang out with me…..most women look at a guy because he is cute, she looks at me thinking “when the hell can I get out of here.”)

 

A lot of couples have different ways of what day should mark the first day they started dating. Some say it’s the first date, others say it’s the after the first kiss. My relationship, it’s easy to remember… it’s the day she dropped the restraining order.

 

My girlfriend knows how to turn me on by talking naughty.  She says “ohhhh baby, tell me again about how you used to creep out those single women when you were on Plenty Of Fish.

 

My girlfriend is eager to please.  She once said “Trevor, I will do anything you want me to do.”  So, I told her “convince your family that I’m normal.”  She looked at me and said “honey, that’s impossible, they already did a background check.”

I hope that dispels the notion that I use stand-up comedy as a bully pulpit of sorts because it simply isn’t true.  Let’s face it folks, life is difficult and messy.  I make a shitload of mistakes on a weekly basis, I’m the farthest thing from perfect that there is walking the Earth.  It’s not my nature to get up on stage and throw people under the bus to make myself feel better.  Comedy is difficult enough to do and succeed consistently at without purposely painting a big bullseye on my back the moment I hit the stage.  If you do believe I have thrown her under the bus in my material, I invite you to highlight specific examples so I may have the opportunity to sit down and discuss how that joke is supposed to work.

I’m not a bully, I’m just wounded and hurt with more than my share of disappointments, failures, broken dreams and feelings of inadequacy.  I feel like a useless fuckup and a mess.  There is only one person who believes I am a masterpiece in the making, and I guess that’s fitting given the fact it’s nobody here on Earth who believes that.

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