Monday, June 5, 2017

Comedy In Tulsa

A show with professionals, not amateurs trying it out, so I was expecting more from the comedy side but not as much on the "telling of local values" side.

There was an opener, who was local, that talked mostly about this life and at one point mentioned that though he was half Mexican he was "the good kind," a joke similar to something I had heard in heavily immigration oriented Arizona. I was not amused by the rest of his set, but that was just coincidental.

Though it was a full sized comedy club, only 10 to 15 people were actually at this event, allowing for the comedians to get really comfortable with and talk to their audience.

And the next comedian did just that.

He was a Black guy from Cleveland, talking about his experiences and life. I did not think much of his act, I chuckled here and there, until he turned right to me and asked me how old I was. I said 18.
Then he asked if the man next to me was my father, I said yes, and he asked us where we were from. My father replied, the comedian detected the accent, and asked him where he was really from.

That's when the fun started.

No, really, it was fun.

He was doing his usual set, but with the occasional nod to my father and I, especially since we were the only other Black people in the audience and we could relate to his jokes more. He even imitated my father's interactions with me, as in how we would respond to his jokes, and we laughed even harder.

And I don't know how he did it, but it was not disrespectful. I even asked my father, whom the comedian imitated, and he did not feel disrespected. But there are a number of factors at play here:
-we were sitting in the front row and there weren't many people there, he was bound to pick on us
-it was comedy, he was not trying to be malicious or hurt us, just make people laugh, including us
-he never crossed the line or made any personal attacks
-most importantly, he was Black

That last point may come across as controversial, but that is good. We knew that, if anything, this guy respected us like any other decent audience member, but we had a connection because of the amount of melanin in our skin. Not because our lives are similar, but because of how we are treated by society.

This was why I laughed even harder at his jokes, because I knew he understood. Even if it wasn't necessarily the part of my father not being from America, I knew that he knew that Black people do not need to be brought down more, especially not by a member of the community.

In Arizona I saw a white-passing guy make some jokes about people of Latinos and Japanese people, and I just felt annoyed while other white people (and people of some other races) laughed. Because he was poking fun and making a mockery of these people from a position of privilege in this country, making surface level judgments and not caring whatsoever about what the rest of their lives must be like. This is inconsiderate and rude, especially when the actions of these people, which he characterizes to make it seem like they inconvenienced him, are later turned around into a stand up routine in a competition for money.

But this Black comedian in Tulsa got it. His jokes about being Black were funny because they were true, and I know they were true because I am Black myself. Forgive me if I am speaking in circles but this is about community, and there are some things that can only be fully comprehended when you're a member.

The last comic was an older gentleman that had seemed like he had been at this for a while, so I was expecting much of him. Speaking honestly, he made a lot of crude jokes about sex and women and I was taken out of it because that isn't really what I find funny, but it made me think about my own preferences and how comedians need to find a niche.

I appreciate comedy that makes you think about yourself and your world, so much so that you are pondering the joke days later, not because you are still laughing but because it made you think.

And successful comedians have a niche. Something that they are known for that they can build a fan base, tailor made for them, around. They can branch out and go in new directions, but as long they stay true to their style, what made them well-known and well-liked in the first place, they are fine.

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