Tag Archives: Comedy

Silliness Makes Me Happy

My dad gets all the credit.

He is a seriously wonderful father who is also prone to silliness and has been since I was born. There was a lot of laughter in my family growing up, a lot of clowning and jokes and silliness. My dad was the one who had us watching the Marx Brothers, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Flip Wilson, SNL and many other truly ridiculous human beings. Just silly people who made me laugh until my stomach hurt. It cultivated a special place in my heart for comedy and comedians in general.

My dad used to pick me up, dance me around the living room and ask me in a snobby British accent, “Are you having a lovely time dahling?” And I would look at him and say “No.” We both fell apart laughing. I was aware of the irony of this routine and I enjoyed playing his straight man.

Sometimes there’s just nothing like laughter to diffuse darkness, to bring people together, to clear the air, to begin healing or just to take a break from the impending doom that hangs over each day in this diabolical administration.

My husband and I have been watching “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Netflix, a concept show created by Jerry Seinfeld which I originally thought was kind of an obnoxious vanity project. But the the thing is, when you’re as funny as Seinfeld, you could literally pick up comedians in a cheese bus and it would still be hilarious as long there was a camera around.

It’s exactly what it is. Comedians are an odd bunch of people who really only like hanging out with other comedians and this is that. Candid, coffee, cars, comics.

I like to laugh.  I need to laugh. I like to share laughter and I have always loved making others laugh which for a woman has always been a harder road as a profession. Tracee Ellis Ross has been one of my favorite silly people for the longest because she doesn’t let vanity and patriarchy stand in the way of getting a laugh. She is legit crazy and she utilizes that crazy in the most disarming ways. She also slays as a fashion icon. Those qualities in a woman, let alone a Black woman are very rarely celebrated together as strengths. To me they are personal goals.

For me silliness is fuel. If I can’t make fun of myself and situations that are often taken way too seriously, I often feel like I’m perpetrating the fraud of looking like I have a clue about what’s going on or that I am actually as cool as I occasionally appear to be, that I am not full of chaos, rage, doubt, sadness, loneliness and questions.

We are all performing in some type of drag most of the time, performing gender, beauty, respectability. When humor is used to crack facades and address the need for them at the same time, it’s a win win. Comedians provide a public service. They live to make us laugh and I live to laugh.

I need to laugh. Its part of my self care routine now more than ever.

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Take my phone?

 

Through a my good girlfriend, I had the fortunate opportunity to see Chris Rock’s Total Blackout Tour a couple of times at a secret showing in Brooklyn last month. And I was thankful to see it there at the BAM Harvey theater because it was nice intimate setting and a Very Black experience. Oils, cocoa butter, Spike Lee, Toure’ (Toure’ is always there. LOL!) and like my husband said when we went the second time, Black people show out when we show up for someone we love so the show is in the audience as well as on the stage. It’s just beautiful all around.

The set was hilarious, and though I haven’t always agreed with him, I’ve loved Rock’s comedy for a long time. Many of his jokes from this set stayed with me long after we left but there’s one that I’ve wanted to write about for a while, one that I keep turning around in my head. Like all good jokes, it’s obviously more than that.

Rock, in his candid discussion of his divorce (he was married for 16 years!) and the reasons he felt it occurred, said that his parents has been married for 40 years, and yet because of technology and social media, he feels that he was had more contact with his wife for more of time that they were together and that essentially he and his wife had been together longer than his parents. LOL!!

He went on to explain that his parents didn’t see one another all day and when they finally saw one another after work was done they had “pertinent” information to share with one another. There was no face timing, texting, liking, posting. They were apart for hour and hours in which all manner of things could have happened to them or their families (especially in pre-civil rights America)  and they would not have been able to get word to one another until the end of the day. Rock said that with technology and social media, there’s no way to miss anyone these days and that missing people you love is important for the relationship.

It really made me think. Social media is always touted as a tool for connection across so many barriers, real, imagined and constructed. And in many ways I believe it is. But in other ways, I feel like we’ve never been more estranged, isolated or lonely as a society.

Here’s a good example, still related to the Chris Rock Show.

I’ve been to plenty of live show tapings before but this was the first time ever that I was at a taping where we were all asked to lock up our phones in a pouch that could only be unlocked again once we left.

Oh, it’s like that?

I was game as long as I could still keep my phone on me. LOL!

I’m not gonna lie. I’m a photographer so the first time I went with my girlfriend,  my eyes were consuming the set like a meal at various points during the beginning of the show, thinking of all the amazing angles and shots I could have taken. But slowly I began to just take in my surroundings, take in the show and be fully present.

The second time I went with my husband, they took longer to seat everyone so I just looked at all the people shuffling in, the beautiful hair styles, the unique and eclectic outfits, the way people moved, greeted one another, waving at friends, dancing, yelling, hugging, dapping. Plus the people in our section smelled amazing. LOL!

During one of the opening sets by a Black woman comedian I tapped the woman sitting next to me who was there with her bae and asked if she had heard the comedians name. She didn’t and tapped her bae to ask him. She said the woman’s name was Janelle James.

No biggie right? If I had my phone I probably would have just googled what I made out phonetically. If I had my phone I might have been in it the whole time and hardly ever looked up and anyone. If I had my phone I definitely would have been bitching about the time and when the show was going to start.

By the time Rock came out the entire audience was on their feet clapping and cheering. No pictures could be taken, no recording, none of the material or anything about the experience could be leaked. And I think it was a great advantage for everyone.

All of the jokes, stories and setups I remember from Rock’s show were from memory alone. Of course I did see it twice but still. LOL! I made a list of notes afterward.

I know I use social media to avoid and distract myself from a lot of things. But sometimes I’ll be watching YouTube or scrolling through IG and it will hit me that I’m only looking at moments in time, edited moments, some contrived, including my own. My husband will tag me on ten things throughout the work day but when we get home, we’re often tired and rarely ever talk about any of the stuff we posted. We hang out in different spaces of the internet and so much happens, so much information is consumed and shared that it’s not possible to process or discuss it all. It’s not even necessary. More than half of it is just junk food, click bait, fodder, waste.

When did so much waste become so much more important than finding time to connect with one another?

Rock joked that after all this social media engagement with their SOs women have the nerve to say something like “We never talk anymore!” to their husbands.

“I know everything you did today!” He said. “And I know how everybody felt about it.” LOL!

But do we really know how we feel?  I have to schedule time to check in in real ways with people I care about these days in ways that used to happen all the time when I was younger. Most of my high school years, before cell phones and Facebook, I spent actual time with people I cared about. If we hung out, it would be to really interact, to share an experience, to sit down and eat together. There was nothing virtual about it. And there were a lot of feelings! LOL!!!

Nowadays it’s like my feelings only get explored deeply with another person when I’m sitting across from my therapist or once in a while with my good girl friends or when I make concerted effort to ask bae when he’s available to have a “talk.”

These days, a lot of our connecting has become all click click, swipe, post, like, thumb up, send, cut, paste and then every once in a while, eyes will meet. Every once in a while, a real conversation will occur. Through social media, we consume waaaaaay more tragedy, intimate detail, emotional drama, celebration, protest, and a variety of other complex performances, and behaviors than we ever could have before.

And it’s exhausting.

But it’s become normalized.

Chris Rock is a youthful 52 and I can tell from what he posts on social media that he’s more of a in the moment kind of guy. He’s had to get used to social media as a business  and promotion tool so that he can stay current and relevant and I totally get that. I mean despite everything I’ve just said about all it’s ill, there is so much I  love about social media. And as someone who has taken on a second job working for an organization run by a courageous entrepreneur, I can attest to how important it is to be consistently visible on social media platforms because much like the physical spaces we used to socialize in before, social media is literally where the major hangouts are now.

Hanging out in virtual reality. Jamiroquai was not lying.

This brave new (keeps getting newer LOL!) social media world is our new normal, just like every technological advance has always pushed society into new levels of communication and exploration of connection. We can’t go backwards. But times like this, sometimes it’s really a relief to have someone else to take your phone away, lock it in a bag, give it back to you and be like, now enjoy the fucking show.

 

 

Seriously Funny Soul Sistah

tracee-ellis-ross

Daughter of legendary diva, Diana Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross is best known for a her role as the controlling but loving and supportive, Joan Clayton in the hit comedy, “Girlfriends”  and now as the hilarious mother and wife, Rainbow Johnson on the hit comedy “Black-ish.”

I won’t lie. Although I was super excited for the premiere of “Black-ish,” I wasn’t taken with the modern Black family comedy right off the bat. But my husband never misses it and since I love spending quality time with him, I now watch it every week. And I have to say, I really love it. It’s smart, funny, fresh, bold, a perfect vehicle for Tracee’s quirky brand of humor. One of my favorite Tracee moments so far is the one where she goes off on her husband’s mother, played to perfection by the great Jenifer Lewis for changing her daughters hair. Nobody performs a melt down on camera as hilariously as Tracee and she manages to turn the situation into a teachable moment about tolerance and boundaries at the same time. I love it when a woman known for beauty and style is just as comfortable being apart of and creating moments where looking ridiculous and silly are required. I don’t know how I would get through life without the ability to laugh at myself and make others laugh as well.

Tracee is the creator and moderator of her very own website, traceeellisross.com where she does commentary on everything from style, beauty, rap lyrics (She’s obsessed with T-Murda), her deep love of bowls and oh yeah, her bodacious booty. She is also a huge supporter of organizations like Black Girls Rock that promote acceptance and self love among women of color and uses her own unique brand of infectious humor, honesty and self acceptance to inspire and motivate. She is a true renaissance woman; outspoken, eclectic, mutli-faceted, and seriously funny.

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Rock’s “Top Five”

Top Five Subway

I don’t want to give away any spoilers for Chris Rocks new film, “Top Five.” It’s not due for release until December 11th. But I saw a screening of it last Friday night with a friend of mine and I really liked it.

From the trailer I’d only just recently started to see last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m glad I saw it before reading or even hearing anything else about it because I would never have expected what I saw. I’ve already been let down by “Dear White People” and “Interstellar” so I tried to keep my expectations at an even keel.

“Top Five” is a film I know I have to see again because I was sort of thrown off by what is clearly being promoted as a haha funny comedy, but which has some surprisingly sober and contemplative moments. I was hooked immediately, not just by the story and the performances but also the editing, the score, the pace, the choice of New York City locations. As a native New Yorker, I love good New York movies. I’ve been to absolutely every location in New York that “Top Five” was shot in and some of those places hold very fond memories for me so already, I’m engaged on an emotional level. Even the courtyard of my old High School in Spanish Harlem had a quick split second cameo.

Ever since SNL, I’ve always really liked Chris Rock so I’m always rooting for him even if I don’t always love everything he does. The last movie he did “Good Hair,” which was a documentary, fell short for me. I appreciated the attempt but I think he could have cast his net a little broader with regard to testimonials, research and approach. But he’s Chris Rock and he does things the way he does. His interests and experiences as a man with regard to the issue of “Good Hair” and women of color were slightly different from mine.

Watching “Top Five” though, I can tell that Rock has begun to selectively incorporate into his writing and direction much of what he has learned from other films he has worked on and loved and finally made them his own. It’s clear how determined he is to break out of a one dimensional shell of projections, and depict himself as a man with a deep undying passion for the craft of comedy and the truth that it reveals about life, celebrity, social issues, racial politics, music and more.

He basically plays a character loosely based on his own celebrity and though this may sound like Rock was just turning the camera on himself I think it’s actually very challenging for an actor to elevate a self-referential character study beyond a reality television framework for the sake of sensationalism alone. And he nails it. I think that playing a famous Black comic allowed Rock to bring himself to the character in a way that stripped him of the need to hide behind a performance and reveal complex parts of himself instead. I didn’t feel him acting. I just felt him period. He called on his best resources, his life experiences, his talent and created something memorable, sentimental, raw, hilarious, and even sweet.