Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Editing V. Censorship..the differences

I posted a similar blog to the Godless Grief myspace page, and to the blogspot page, but I didn't post to the comedy blogs yet, and I think it needs to be said- a huge chasm exists between self-editing for the sake of the audience and self-censorship for a demanding person or persons. Let me explain.

I did a show a few weeks back in the daytime, where my audience was predominately in their early to late 80's, (no exaggeration), and it wasn't quite yet noon. I had a show written out, and I looked at the audience and figured out- many comments I would make would simply fall flat for being too demographically slanted to another audience, and more so, too unrelated to the previous shows that happened for this organization. There was a section that I would normally use but a recent guest talked about a similar topic and since I am very aware of that person's take on the subject- I didn't want to beat that horse with a Steven Seagal bluntness that would again, fall flat.

Therefore, I decided to use the ideas that I often play to people here in Vegas- and on stages around the country- that stereotypes are the only time people who censor themselves seem to tell the truth. That's an underlying theme for much of my work, and the point I kept making is, "Not that I would censor myself, like I would normally talk about..." then I would go ahead and relay the topic, "But I can't do that here." Okay.. a lot of the crowd got that, laughed, emailed, and even said they hadn't heard it put that way before. Then there was the ONE person- and there always is at least one- who was so rapt in the phrase, "I would normally talk about.." that he missed the idea that I had, in fact, exactly talked about, xyz.

He came up to me and said, "I kept wishing you would just say whatever it was you were going to say.." In fact, I had. I had talked about racism. I had talked about sex. I had talked about porn. I had talked about censorship. All the things I said, "I would normally talk about.." I actually DID talk about. This guy never once figured that out. Instead, he spent a full 15 minutes AFTER the event to tell me his take on the issues with comedy, trying to explain to me what is funny, and oh, by the way, actually ended up censoring me by not letting me respond in any way other than nodding at his comments. My guess is that wasn't his intent, and yet that was his action.

Every comedian who works more than 5 years- is aware of trying to GET to know the audience you play for before a show. Well, this particular event, I was not only not given that time- but, I was taken aside by at least 3 people prior to entering the performance space just so I could hear a rant, a monologue, or an "explanation" about those particular people's point of views. In fact, they were letting me know exactly who this audience was- they were people who really each had their own reason to present words, and each wanted individualized and PERSONAL attention. I knew from the moment I walked in- there were going to be people who hated me, and others who were right there, by my side, getting all that I was saying.

The ones who didn't get me were very vocal afterwords. Again, we had the self-appointed comedy critic who gave me an unending statement worded sixty-five-hundred ways about "but I just wanted to hear a comedian say..". Then, there was the "huff" fellow. He was in a huff from the minute he walked into the building, needed a target to spew his angst of the day on- never even taking into account he was actually being the kind of person he claims he is against- he wanted me to NOT say something EVER again. The something was a comment, a basic throw-away that every comic uses- the guy walked into a room as the sound of a toilet flushed a full 20 minutes after the event started, and YES I made a comment to him about it.

I saw one person who looked up at me as if I stabbed to pope in the eye with a fork- and realized, that guy is a boil in this organization and he's always ready to pop off. I nodded in her direction, and she was laughing, but I could see her avoid eye contact with that other guy. So, not three seconds after the house lights are up - he is demanding that I "NEVER EVER talk to ANYONE in the audience like that again." I asked him what he meant- he huffed a bit more, ranting about "You insulted me, you are rude, I was done with you from that minute on." Okay what did I say, then he came out with, "You should NEVER discuss anyone's penis in public I don't care WHO you are." Okay.. so I tried hard not to laugh at the huff-man's point, but I get he was hurt that he was singled out, and I apologized for THAT, but man, to tell someone to never rag on an audience member- at a meeting of Free Thinkers? Uhm. no. Not going to happen. He can remain out of my demographic, thanks. I was later told he is a hair-trigger kind of guy and some days he's a gem and others he's a spoiled egg. Guess which one he was that day? He gave me material!

So, the final censorship. When someone says, "I thought you were very funny, and I liked what you said about the religions but don't ever pick on the Jews. It's just not true." I had to have her repeat herself. First, she was interrupting the comedy critic, but to actually say to someone, "yes, you can say what you want, but not about MY people", is just twisted. That is censorship in it's basic form. It's telling someone- You can have opinions as long as they're completely in line with mine. Again, Free thinking organization. Again, I was pointing out the stupidity of stereotypes- and yet... the lady was there as long as comedy critic.

Fortunately, a man in his 80's came up and saved me from the "Editing Committee". His name is Del and he calls himself the oldest living male feminist. I just enjoyed chatting with him and he GOT everything I was talking about. In fact, the majority of the people who went apparently liked me enough to ask me to return, and I have dozens of letters from the audience members who didn't feel I missed a mark, or those who said I made them laugh about the silliness of people. I had edited my show for THESE people, and that worked out just fine.

There is a substantial difference between those who want to laugh and those who want to dictate what others should be laughing at to begin with. There's a distinct difference between those who listen to comedians and those who go to watch a ballet. In a ballet, you wouldn't hear of someone sitting by the stage, and taking a dancer aside to tell him how he needed to demi-plie in a way that didn't show his jock strap. But, in comedy, this is kind of a job hazard.

Someone will come up and tell you a joke and follow it with, "oh and you can use it if you want". Others will come up to you and let you know how THEY would tell your jokes. But, when you turn around asking if they are comedians, "Oh no, I could never do that." So don't tell me how to do it. I ask advice from people I've seen on stage and who have seen my show- they have work experience in my field. I would never think to go to a nursing station and tell an RN "Yeah you should probably use a 3mm needle and then wrap surgical stockings on anyone who says they're republican." Why? What would I do that for? It makes no sense. Yet, it's exactly the thinking people have when they try to "help" a comedian. In fact, they're censoring. Telling someone what to say and how to say it is the ultimate form of censorship when its relative to the whole "free speech" thing.

A comedian knows what is working by hearing laughs. It's the principle. It's the payoff. It's the interest, too. When my porn stuff wasn't working, I moved on to the other stuff. The TV stuff worked just fine. The show was okay- not my worst, not my best, but for a day show- it's one of the better ones- despite the self appointed editors.

I'm editing a new show.. about people who censor comedians. It's called "fuck censorship".

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