How Far Will You Go?

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When life turns up the heat, you often find out what people are really made of and not what they appear to be.  I found this out the hard way from my last relationship.

Despite everybody’s best intentions, despite what they post on social media, and despite what they say, all of that goes out the window when faced with a crisis.  My dad once said that I govern by crisis.  He also called me a manipulative little prick.  How’s that for contradictory statements?

Well before social media, we had television and radio to tell us what we needed to know.  It was journalism with integrity that placed a premium on getting the facts right the first time, and not being the first ones to report a story.  It came with a responsibility to serve the public with integrity, honesty and impartiality.

But now, thanks to social media, people are watching less television because you can get the information you need without the commercials when it’s posted to Facebook or Twitter.  While it’s good in a way to get your message out to a mass audience, it also means there is an unfortunate side that’s not considered.

There are some people that aren’t bright enough to research what they read or hear.  That’s the world we live in today.  These people react to paranoia and fear by shaming others, being aggressive and condescending.  Of course, I am talking about the Corona virus pandemic.

First of all, the fact this all started in China is very concerning.  According to reports, it first surfaced back in December, and when the shit hit the fan, turning this into a global epidemic, the Chinese Prime Minister stuck his head in the sand.  You couldn’t get a word or official statement out of him.  Anti-Chinese sentiment already existed before this, with the Huawei scandal and how it’s tied to the false imprisonment of two Canadians currently held in solitary confinement.  The Chinese government, so intent on protecting their image, have never answered any questions about why the two Canadians are there, let alone about the conditions they are living in currently.  That’s what you call cowardly, spineless and just plain dumb.

Anyhow, people won’t have a short memory when it comes to China once this pandemic is over.  China’s economy will suffer, and hopefully this leads some economies of the world to put sanctions on China and set up shop here in North America to make the goods that currently come from China that are cheap and poorly made.  You think I’m full of shit?  What about smartphones?  They are not made to last……that’s just one example.

Don’t worry.  This isn’t a rant, as it does have a comedy angle to it with a general overtone about what we as a society are facing today.

As of today, everything is shut down.  You might as well call it martial law.  But things are starting to re-open, but very slowly with many restrictions.  People have said these restrictions will go on for weeks, if not months.  I have the feeling that people who want this are the ones who are motivated by political or economic gain.  People today are so willing to be controlled and told what to believe without figuring out for themselves what the real story is.  If you just listen to the media and get the “facts” from them, it’s a sad way to live.

Stand-up comedy has a role to play in all of this, however, we, as comedians must make sure we go about things the right way.

Comics are usually the ones who break through that fear and do things that scare others, such as getting up on stage in front of strangers and talking about their life, in order to hopefully get laughs.  That’s what you hope.  If the laughs don’t come, you just get people staring at you, saying nothing.  That can be the most terrifying thing to a comic if they don’t know how to navigate through those difficult waters.

Comics are starting to see the value in online open mics, which I started doing a few years back (funny how none of the other local comics wanted to climb on board with this).  But as a comedian, before you start doing your material for an online audience, there is one thing they will need to keep in mind.

With things the way they are now, it’s an understatement to say that people are fearful, stressed, panicky, on edge, sleepless, depressed and worried.  All those feelings relate to one word that a comic should know about, and that word is tension.

If the audience is tense, it’s easier for them to take offense to a joke, or to give a huge laughing response to a joke, if done properly.  When people are tensed up at a comedy show, their guard is up.  When the audiences guard is up, it’s easier for them to take offense to something said.  Even people that normally don’t take offense to things will get offended if they are full of tension.

So, if you are doing an online open mic and there are people watching it who are a comedy audience, for goodness sakes keep it clean.  Every comic needs to have clean material.  The most successful comics with staying power are the clean ones, and they are the ones that make the most money.  Working clean opens up so many more revenue streams for a comedian, so why not write clean?  Maybe because it takes hard work and commitment to write clean.

Comedians have an opportunity to really take advantage of the global instability right now and give people entertainment that they desperately need.  Make a good first impression right out of the gate.  Be clean.  Be funny.  You can add to the tension with a good setup, you just need to make sure the joke is intelligently written and that is has some recognition in it for the audience.  One of the best ways to achieve this is to have incongruity in the setup (incongruity is where you take two dissimilar things and put them together, in other words, opposites).  Add a bit of tension to the mix, and give the audience some recognition in the punchline to send that joke through the roof.

It’s just like performing for certain comedy clubs where the owner will tell you what you can and cannot say during your set.  Since the comic is usually getting paid, they (should) adhere to the club’s wishes.  The same thing applies here.  It’s a unique situation filled with hopelessness, fear, isolation, despair and worry.

The best way for comedians to initially reach a mass audience online is to be funny, be relatable and be clean.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a joke not be funny because it’s not funny, not because it’s offensive.

Comics, let’s get together and take advantage of what’s been presented before us, which is a tremendous opportunity.

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