Comedic impedance mismatch

Could you be a comedian?

Imagine the mind of Robin Williams, Jim Carey or Sarah Silverman? (Or any of the hundreds of manic, amazing comedians of our time.)

I could never be a comedian, even close to their caliber. However, my mind is capable of understanding and instantly embracing what those folks relate through their stories and monologues.

How can this be? I can know exactly what Louis C.K is saying and how it relates to me and the world and why it’s funny — but I couldn’t possibly recreate his material? How can I know but not produce?

Now, this is not an art craft like painting, dancing or sculpting. Activities that would take me decades to master (if ever). No, all this is is the simple knowing of a thing. The information, available for the taking from the world around us and presented, matter-of-factly, to me, through animated presentation.

Obviously this view is malformed. Although the information that comprises a comedian’s material is right there — in front of me — the mixing, the timing, the delivery the sequence is all much, much more than just the information.

This is what I call comedic impedance mismatch. When you’re done enjoying a comedian’s routine, you’ve not really amassed any new respect for the skill-acquisition of the human race. The information used by the comedian came from everyday life, the news, books and media and movies and songs — stuff we’ve all already experienced. They didn’t learn a new way to be a human and absorb information differently.

But somehow, a comedian can blend these mundane features of our world in such a way that transcends our simplistic views of that same world. They see the world differently.

Painting you can learn. Dancing, visual and material arts can be practiced. But comedy? I’m not sure that that can ever be taught. We can enjoy those comedic moments as recipients of revelatory, recombinant info-bytes. But to create them? I’m not sure that is a learnable skill.

 


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