Listen Barry, that was your name right, Barry? I know you want to be funny. Everyone wants to be funny. I want to be more funny. I want to be the funniest. But honestly, I just don’t know if it works like that.
You can take classes on how to write a joke. You can take classes on how to write a sketch, create a character, write for late night, stand-up, improv and basically every other class you can think of, and maybe that works. I just don’t know. It’s helped me become a better comedian that’s for sure. It’s also developed my taste and my technique. But I also came to it with something.
My theory is this, my parents developed my humor as I grew up, and then I chose friends that continued to develop it. Until it was no longer something I was learning but something I was. It’s woven into the fiber of my being. This is of course a totally subjective view. While I view myself basically as funny, there are people who don’t see me that way, and sometimes I don’t see me that way.
There are so many layers to what makes people laugh. Was it a joke? Are they laughing at you Barry or are they laughing with you? Are they totally oblivious and that’s what makes them so funny (old people, babies, cats)?
We laugh at truths, at pain, at surprises, and grief, at joy. We laugh at dumb stuff, smart stuff, small stuff, big stuff, and all the in between stuff. A little part of me laughs at the name Barry. I just want to say it over and over again in a nasal voice. Would you find it funny if I did that over and over again? Maybe that’s the key if you want to develop a sense of humor, I say start by laughing at yourself. It’s the person you spend the most time with. Might as well think he’s hilarious.
A friend asked me if I remember the first time I really laughed hard. I can’t remember the first time.
I do however, remember piano lessons were riotously funny to me when I was around kindergarten. I was taking them from Jimmy Pitts, Mrs. Pitts’ son. She was also a piano teacher, and I can only assume at the time she was full with students. So I got the son, but man I thought he was funny, and if I really ponder it, I doubt he was a comic genius, but that I was five, incredibly present in the moment, and without a judgment. I don’t remember much about piano with him, but I do remember just laughing and laughing. Could have just been the focused attention even. Listen, a 5-year-old girl isn’t dumb. If she’s getting attention, she knows it, or at least I did. Jimmy went to off to college, and I switched to Mrs. Pitts. Mrs. Pitts is an amazing musician and has taught hundreds of kids how to be musicians too, but I wasn’t really interested in theory or practice or scales. I didn’t laugh with her, and I don’t know if that was her or me. That if I’d found her when I was little I would have laughed with her too, but suddenly I had become aware there was a goal, a good or bad, a desired result and expectation. And that, that’s what made me stop laughing...having to do it right.
I haven’t thought about “piano laughing” in…ever probably. Normally when I think of piano lessons, I think about how I quit it. It’s that warning you hear from a million adults when you’re a kid. “I took piano, but then I quit. Don’t quit. You’ll regret it.” I remember being annoyed at being told what to do, but they were right. I wish I hadn’t quit. I have the regret, but the more I think about it, I should cut myself some slack. Maybe it isn’t that I was a quitter, but on a quest to find the laughter again. I went looking for that thing that would make me cry I was laughing so hard.
It’s ironic that I am in the comedy business, but not totally sure I can remember the last time or at least “a time” I laughed really hard without the influence from some kind of chemical assistance so to speak. What do I remember is people. People make me laugh. The people I’m closest to, and it’s never because they told a joke or because they’re a comedian. It’s because we get lost experiencing a moment together. It’s exactly the same as piano when I was five. I’m able to be totally present. I stop thinking about time, what I have to do, why we’re laughing. There is no desired result from the experience. It’s a moment of letting go. I wish for so many more of those moments, and so far all of them seem to come from the people I’m closest to, and more often than not, have to do with the absolute mundane. I'd love to say my sense of humor is elevated, but not really. It's stuff like someone desperately having to pee on a road trip, or farts in public, or inside family jokes, or tickling. I spend so much time professionally trying to create the laughter, and when I create relationships, that's when the laughter shows up.