Friday, April 24, 2009

the politics of laughter

i stopped by the halifax comedy festival last night for the 'comedy all stars'. it was a good show at casino nova scotia, but a little odd, as cbc was filming. i got distracted by trying to laugh in a camera-friendly way to enhance my chances of being on tv, and so occasionally lost track of what the comics were saying. i stated getting worried: what if they take a big laugh from me and then edit it to go with some idiotic joke? or the 'dead hooker' line? then i would fall all serious; seeing as we were in the front row, this was not good for the hard-working comics.

it's a strange thing, comedy clubs. as an audience member, you have to make hundreds of highly political decisions in split seconds. the host makes a joke about the lack of gay pride parades in calgary. 'well, we do have something,' he says, 'but i don't know if you'd call two guys running down the street with a pack of cowboys chasing them, saying 'i think they went that-a-way' a parade.'


hang on. chasing people for sexual orientation isn't funny. being gay isn't intrinsically funny. is he poking fun at the ignorant alberta cowboys or trying to tap into the audience's latent homophobia? you have a half-second to make this decision.

the host's 'dead hooker' joke flopped, and he seemed cross with us about that, but i was rather proud of the thoughtful audience. those jokes never were funny, and especially not in a post-pickton world.

another comic made fun of chinese and other asian people. we were reluctant to laugh at the start, but collectively decided that as he was of asian parents, it was ok for him to make jokes and ok for us to laugh. so ha!

i got a good laugh out of bob marley, who impressively refrained from any jokes about his name.

michael winslow was there, too, though he was given a too-short slot. he did his led zep bit - it's like watching a magician when that first blast of guitar comes out. but it's just his voice (i think he's added backing real guitars to his vocals in the later bits of this clip, but last night it was raw).

i caught up with him after the show, as i had interviewed him monday, and he said he had pushed his allotted fives minutes to five minutes and 29 seconds.

he's got a day off today, so if you see - or hear - something familiar, yet not so, it's probably him.


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