a priori/a posteriori

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Let’s All Stop Bitching

I’ve auditioned for the Montreal 'Just For Laughs’ Festival the past two years. I haven’t made it either year. I audition again in two weeks. I might get it. Odds are, I won’t. And that’s okay.

If I don’t, it won’t be a tragedy. It won’t be a rip-off. It won’t be bullshit. It’ll make perfect sense. This comedy industry makes perfect sense, when you’re not afraid of what your role in it is. If you’re afraid of realizing that you’re doing something ultimately meaningless, or that you’re not doing what you want to be doing, then yeah - you might come to the conclusion that there’s a conspiracy against you.

There is no conspiracy against me. And there isn’t one against you. Let me try to explain.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: The Montreal Festival is a different thing in 2012 than it was in 1992. That’s not an insult - it needn’t be ashamed of what it is in 2012. It’s one of the most prestigious comedy festivals in the world. But understand, it’s a comedy festival. So if you’ve ever been to a comedy festival before, understand that it’s simply a bigger version of that.

I’ve been to festivals all over the eastern half of the United States. Some make you really glad you went, and they remind you of how many cool people are involved in the business of trying to make people laugh. And some make you feel like the whole thing was a racket, and they really make you question what this entire industry is really all about. Most, inevitably, do both. And that’s okay.

I haven’t been to it, but my guess is that Montreal is essentially the New York City of comedy festivals. It’s different than any festival you’ve ever been to...until you realize that’s it’s actually the same. Just bigger, and more intimidating. But at the end of the day, it’s just a combination of people that love making comedy and people that love making money from comedy. Most people there, understandably, want to do both.

And that’s okay. Montreal is Montreal. And that’s okay.

What that means though, is that it’s not going to be purely about the comedy. Again: as a comedian, you need to make peace with that. Don’t act like that’s a conspiracy against you and your brilliance. The comedy industry is not a boogeyman hiding under your bed. It’s not your enemy.

It is what it is: it’s people that have to make a living - and so if there are 100 funny white guys, 10 women, and 10 minorities, then those 100 white guys don’t have nearly as much value as the more-unique comics. That’s not a conspiracy: that’s Economics 101. Supply and Demand. So let’s all calm down.

You might be a better “comic” than that cute, quirky Eskimo girl. But you’re missing the point.

If you’re a language nerd, then all I need to explain is this:

In the term “comedy industry,” the word “comedy” is an adjective, not a noun. It describes “industry,” which is the noun. Again: “Industry” is the thing. “Comedy” is not the thing. The comedy industry is not the part of comedy that has to do with industry. It is the part of industry that has to do with comedy.

Do you understand? It’s not about the comedy. And that’s okay.

Am I being a big-business asshole, or whatever? Then you’re missing my point. You don’t have to think that about comedy. You don’t have to believe that. But if you insist that other people think the same thing you think, then you’ll never make peace with the reality around you. And the reality is that the Montreal Festival is not simply about the comedy.

Great comedians perform there. Great comic minds are involved. But that’s only because truly brilliant comedy is valuable. Louis C.K.’s mind is rare. Patrice O’Neal’s mind was rare. Their perspectives of this world, and their ability to communicate them, are as rare as a cute, quirky Eskimo girl.

You don’t understand your own jealousy. You think you’re jealous of that Eskimo girl because you’re not an Eskimo. But you’re actually jealous of her because you’re not rare. That’s not about her. That’s about you.

So this year, when we all don’t get invited to Montreal, let’s do something different for a change: Let’s stop bitching. Let’s shut up, and look inside ourselves, and figure out how we can better explain our experiences to the world.

And if part of that experience is not being special, then let’s not get scared by that. We aren’t special. We’re all going to die. Let’s not be in denial about that, and respond with the ridiculous theory that we’re so special, the entire world is plotting against us. The world doesn’t care about us - it doesn’t have time. And that’s okay.

Let’s stop trying to be special. Let’s start being ourselves.

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