I was never one for ‘manifestos’ or ‘creeds’ or things of that sort but I am thinking that some rough guidelines might not be such a bad idea. basically I’m trying to figure out what I want in life. i’m coming up on five years of living in los angeles. when I moved out here, I had no idea what I was going to do. I say this because I knew the thing I wanted to do, had talked myself out of it and had a well-thought out plan to do something I didn’t want to do. if that makes sense.
So, five years. Not a complete waste of time. as I began to achieve a measure of ‘success’ in what I didn’t want to do, I took a chance and took my first big step towards what I did want to do. I signed up for second city. this was a big deal. as if I had been trying to be right-handed my whole life and suddenly said “fuck it, I’m a leftie”. second city was my special scissors. for the first time in my life, I can cut construction paper. it makes sense.
BUT, it’s school. school is safe. school is fun. school is easy. school is structured. in school most of the work is done for you. I give these people 300 dollars every 8 weeks and they teach me and let me do shows. who cares if nobody’s watching the shows? I’m a big boy now! look mom, I’m driving! except under the wheels of my car is a track. or maybe it’s not even a real car, maybe it’s a prop in a scene. you can work out the proper analogy for yourself. the point is, school is necessary but you have to know when to leave. no, that’s not right. you have to know when school isn’t enough. I’m not dropping out of improv Olympic, but I’m fooling myself if I think things are just going to ‘happen’. because they might. I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m making connections. things are moving forward because things tend to move forward with time.
but this is not the same thing as making them happen. that is an active response. i am passive. but do I have to be?
what do I want? a career as a leading man? actually yes, but let’s be realistic. would I be content as a sitcom writer? no. what do I want? what I tell people is that I want to write and perform sketch comedy. is this true? I think it may be… even the idea of doing movies I see as an extension of that. I see myself getting side-tracked with pure improv right now because I just fucking love it so much… but even improv I see as kind of the same thing I’m going for. so what is it I’m going for? Well first, what am I? What do I believe? here goes:
a.) anything AND everything is funny. yes, this includes but is not limited to: the holocaust, 9/11, child leukemia, AIDS, columbine, hitler, rape and incest with or without retards, slavery and the space shuttle blowing up. there is something funny in the daniel berg beheading. I do not know what it is (nor do I wish to find out) but I know that somewhere there, the component exists. this humorous component that exists in all things is irrelevant to any sensitivity issues pertaining to any groups and their right to be offended. because…
2.) the fact that there exists a humorous component does not imply that the actual thing itself is funny. in fact, it implies the opposite. if rape was really not such a bad thing, rape jokes would not be funny. rape is a terrible thing. one of the worst things there is. this must be accepted before the joke can be made. now, this is a one-way street. there is no reflexive imperative. if you mock peoples’ pain just to be outrageous because you want to get a rise out of them. fuck you, stop reading now and don’t be my friend. the holocaust is not funny because you hate jews or think they had it coming. in fact, ‘the holocaust’ is not funny. if there is something funny about the giant bubble of cultural influence that we will term ‘the holocaust’ it comes out of accepting the fact that the holocaust was one of the darkest times in the history of the world.
d.) the fact that I can see something funny in awful events does not excuse me morally from the fact that I may cause people real pain by my actions. it is not a justification. if I write a sketch about 9/11 that I feel is funny, there will probably be people out there who will not find it funny. there are people who lost mothers and fathers. they may hear my sketch and start crying. the fact that I feel the sketch is funny does not excuse me from being responsible for triggering that emotion in that person. THIS IS A SEPARATE ISSUE. the source of that person’s pain is not the sketch. the source of that person’s pain is the airplanes that flew into 3 buildings and a field in Pennsylvania and the people that chose to do so. because I wrote that sketch, it does not lessen my understanding and feelings that this was a horrible event. if your dad dies in a car accident, you’re probably going to have a similar reaction to sketches about car accidents. does this mean that car accident sketches can’t be funny and are off-limits to every single person in the world? of course not. they are separate issues. it’s not up to me to decide what is right in every situation for every other person. it is my personal choice. I feel like I’m getting side-tracked by this issue. whether it is morally right to make jokes about something awful is irrelevant within the context of what I am saying right now. use your judgment (yes, that is problematic and highly imperfect). but understand that you don’t live in a vacuum.
[addendum: I feel I need to add this, as I got off track. the fact that I find something funny in no way lessens the right of other people to be upset or get offended or feel real pain about an issue. if your sister died of cancer, I don’t blame you for thinking I’m an asshole if I make cancer jokes. but on the other hand, I refuse to hand over the power to decide what is right to the very people least able to look at things objectively. yes, you think I am an asshole and you are justified in that, but is that the final word? I don’t think so. this is why free speech is so important. people often make the argument that we should look at the people who have been victimized when deciding what is ‘offensive’ or not. this is total bullshit. if you’re a christian and you are offended by christ jokes, I totally respect your right to be offended. but I don’t think you should make the rules, simply because you have a personal connection to the issue. you wouldn’t pack a jury on a murder trial with jurors who had all lost relatives to murderers. if you’re speaking of laws and rules about what is acceptable, it has to be in a separate and objective sphere of influence.]
another thing I’m not going to address is WHY awful things are funny. if you don’t find the humor, this manifesto does not apply to you. I’m not here to argue that point. I simply accept it as my philosophy of life. you can psycho-analyze and say it’s the only way I can deal with terrible events or whatever, that doesn’t really interest me. I am just looking to find my own way.
7.) by extension of the above suppositions, it can be implied that if the most awful things in life are funny, then the not-so-awful things (i.e. everything else) are also funny. this is actually implying two separate things: 7a.) this is a re-affirmation of my original idea (a) that everything is funny and 7b.) nothing should be taken seriously. from 7b.) we can branch off into two other cornerstones of this manifesto, namely 7b1.) the serious actor is the enemy of comedy and 7b2.) comedy is not activism.
7b2.) another way of stating this precept is found in the philosophy of plato and was introduced to me by my professor, david roochnik in college. comedy is a force of conservatism. I didn’t quite get this back then, in fact, I may have only fully grasped this half an hour ago when I was reading an article about harold ramis in a copy of the new yorker my uncle gave me. people often make the mistake of thinking comedy and satire are tools of the liberal because so many comedians tend to be liberals. but what comedy attacks is not conservatism but high-minded ideals. in that sense, it’s apolitical. but if you equate liberalism with activism and ‘fighting for the people’ you have to see that comedy goes against this EVEN IN PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN ACTIVISM AND FIGHTING FOR THE PEOPLE. this is what harold ramis said, “our movies haven’t ended war or defeated the republican party or inspired huge strides in social justice. by allowing people to laugh at injustice or hypocrisy, satirical comedy enables them to feel like they’ve done something. I’m cool, I get what’s wrong with that. that self-satisfaction works against activism, so satirical comedy might actually be counterproductive.” again, comedy is not activism. you can open peoples’ minds to new ideas but don’t pat yourself on the back and think that’s going to cause anyone to go out and change the world. it might, who knows, but if that’s your aim, there are better ways of doing it. comedy is about taking anyone or anything that takes itself too seriously and knocking it down off its high horse. when bill clinton was elected president, saturday night live did not get cancelled. satirical comedy is about finding the disparity between high-minded notions about the nobility of the human condition and the fact that even martin luther king and ghandi had to take a shit sometime. that’s why the first jokes ever were poop jokes and that’s why they’re still funny to this day.
even now, I can’t escape the inevitable weight of what I’m writing. a manifesto? this is not funny and I’m sure my friends will give me a hard time about it and rightly so. they will find some of the more earnest passages and they will read them aloud in public in a mocking tone. and I will deserve every bit of it. Every time I get serious I end up regretting it. this is why I was a terrible philosophy student. I realized that I wasn’t a philosopher and that “philosophy” was not an objective search for truth but rather a highly subjective personal way of looking at the world for people who were of a philosophical mind. and this is now my philosophy. a subjective justification/celebration of who I am. I like poop jokes. I enjoy watching little kids fall off their bikes. I think it’s hilarious and wonderful that the day after the challenger blew up, every kid in america knew the whole canon of space shuttle jokes by heart. BEFORE THE INVENTION OF THE INTERNET!!! how was that possible?
yes, this is terrible and selfish and I’m wasting my life. but I think that somewhere in your mind… back in the cynical part you don’t like to talk about, you think you’re doing the same thing. sure, you volunteer at planned parenthood, you hand out condoms to teens, but the same people keep coming back, pregnant, abandoned and looking for cheap abortions. and you give them to them. and that’s great. the circle of life goes on. but then again, maybe someone comes to my show and they’ve had a rough day and they’re pissed off, but they watch me on stage and they chuckle and they get home and they’re not in such a bad mood anymore so they decide not to beat their wife? it could happen.
but what I’m really interested in, is the person with the crappy bank job who always dreamed of being on saturday night live but figured that was out of their reach. and that person comes with a friend to an improv show and laughs their ass off and decides to say fuck it and give it a shot and take a class or two. the chance to be my very own mork in dead poet’s society. not to clone myself but to give birth to more of those who would dare to live their dreams. to follow me, like I followed others. and ultimately seek to destroy me, as is the ambition of all children towards their parents. because this is love. this is art. do it because you love it. do it because it’s the reason you live your life. and if you want to do it with me, send me an email or give me a call and let’s put on a show and change the lives of the people who matter most: us.
and to bill murray: thank you. and watch your back.