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comedy and minimalism

“there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” -erma bombeck

background of comedy

comedy relates to minimalism in many ways. i don’t regard myself as a funny person naturally, nor do i outwardly make that attempt, but either way as life goes on so does comedy and so come the laughs.

you always hear the fact that there are only a few stories in literature or other avenues, and that those stories are re-told and re-invented, but there are only a few originals none the less. take an early philosopher such as aristotle for instance. aristotle in “poetics”suggested that the epic, tragedy, comedy, and the lyric were the four forms of storytelling.

aristotles lists the qualities that form good versions of the arts, and says about comedy and others, “there are, again, some arts which employ all the means above mentioned- namely, rhythm, tune, and meter.” comedy then is an art form that takes on several qualities whereas others may only hold a few.

then it is not that difficult to relate comedy to minimalism. sure the two do not completely merge with one another, but let’s look at the positive aspects of comedy, and relate thoase to minimalism.

how it relates to innovation

“always do whatever’s next.” -george carlin

the comedian as a person is someone who stands out in a crowd. if you think about it the stand up comedy profession is built on one guy in a room doing something that most people fear to their very core; public speaking. as a minimalist you do something that people fear to their very core; loss of possessions. when people fear not being financially stable what does that mean? well it probably means that they can’t afford certain “things,” and for most it means embarrassment.

see most people do not fear public speaking, they fear the potential embarrassment. now most comedians thrive on a rush of defying people’s perceptions. the crowd looks on as a person who should be in a fetal position is mastering a stage. when people think about having to live with less embarrassment set’s in. we all know minimalism is a state of mind, so as a minimalist you are mastering the stage, and you are defying people’s perceptions because you are content with less.

in terms of material the comedian is always thinking about the next thing. as the above quote from a father of his own school of comedy suggests, in order to stay on top you must always think about what is coming. a comedian could just stay up on current events, but in order to make a successful career they must write things that no other comedian in the field is thinking of. i have made several posts on innovation which explained how minimalism inspires innovation. a minimalist has a greater potential to be

how it relates to minimalism

when you think about the comedians job description it lends itself to a minimalist form of entertainment especially in stand up. the comedian is often times, especially at the beginning; the writer, producer, and performer. all of their tools are at their disposal at little cost, and their investment in their success largely begins and ends with themselves. similarly as a minimalist you accept that you are in control of your surrounding world. you are likely able to do without many things and therefore adjust to any situation because you have the tools to do so, and i’m willing to bet you can carry those tools with you everywhere you go.

becoming your own personal  comedian

“you’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” -robin williams

improvisation

a good quality to have as a minimalist and as a person is the ability to improvise which is accepting whatever comes. the ability of improv assumes that you cannot control anything but yourself. the better you get at this ability the better you will be able to predict the outcomes even those of other people, but you accept that you can never fully control or prevent certain reactions from your audiences.

timing

“my friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana. I said ‘No, but I want a regular banana later, so… yeah.’” -mitch hedberg

allowing yourself to live without things gives you focus and gives you room for opportunity. a big part of life, and comedy is timing. when opportunity knocks…..well you know the rest. a minimalist lifestyle gives you the ability to sacrifice little to get what you want and need to prepare for the next step. the ability to move, or to accept being without a small convenience. being a minimalist allows you to work on yourself that way when an opportunity comes you can accept it fully.

being honest

“i live in a neighborhood so bad that you can get shot while getting shot.” -chris rock

any good stand up comedian merely makes health observations  and embellish them when re-telling the story. to become a minimalist is to become honest with yourself. we all have flaws, and recognizing a flaw is one of the healthiest forms of honesty. for all of your flaws you are still successful in some arena so those flaws are things to laugh at. think about the good qualities you have and embellish those to no end.


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  1. March 18, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I love what you said about accepting control of your surrounding world. Thanks!

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