“You guys have to realize that in the great scheme of things; in the way our economy and nation are now; in what the world has become, we are doing, like, the LEAST important thing right now.” That was the brilliant quote from one Steph McCollough, my musical director of Second City’s Musical Improv Conservatory. She was talking, of course, about improv. Of comedy in general. The class had just come to a screeching halt of frustration with comedic musical rhyming and while we were all tearing our hair out she gave us these supposedly soothing words. How can we freak out of our lack of perfection when really, in the grand scheme of things, improvisation is so… so… unimportant?
Many may gauf at this scenario. Take offense. Legitamize importancy. I know I do. When people ask why I moved out here to Chicago to pursue comedy dreams I usually respond with a sly, “I think laughter is important.” You know, Patch Adams it up a notch. Give it a feeling of upgraded acceptance. To some extent, I still believe that. I know scientifically there are health benefits to laughter, good for the organs they say. I know joyous storytelling is often more revered to be heard over dramatic, hence why more people tune in to the Daily Show and SNL during election time over any other news outlet. Our perspectives view things in parody and hyperbole than actuality. I know that.
But what a freeing thing to realize how unimportant comedy is. It’s not like I’m trying to be a doctor or a FBI special agents op (hehe, op). I have been watching season 2 of Lost and I realized I would be a fucking dead weight as a cast away. I could’ve been killed off the first season and they would’ve gotten along just fine. I can’t deliver a baby, I can’t build a shelter, and I can’t grow shit. Sorry, I can provide nothing but my good looks. You’re welcome, island.
Comic relief just doesn’t cut it in the real world. And once I began looking through the comedy world in that light, an almost freeing thing happened to me. I got better.
The moment I stopped focusing on being the best at this supposed important thing, I learned to smile and play with it’s unimportance. For now, when people ask why I moved out to Chicago for comedy I usually respond with an honest, “because I really really like it.”
And I do. I really really do.
This does not by any means mean my focus has waned or that my drive has settled. I have never been a Type B personality, and my constant anxiety will always make me strive toward the desire to get bigger, to get better. All it means now is I don’t freak out if my sketches fall flat on their faces and never see the light of day despite two revisions, or if my execution of an improv scene does not go according to the perfect rules of play and most hilarious of situations. If I can’t heighten a scene properly (sorry for all the comedy lingo, by the way) or if my Worlds Worst pun gets a boo, I can simply stand up, brush myself off, and know that it don’t matter BECAUSE IT’S NOT FUCKING IMPORTANT!
The unimportance has perks not just in failures, but in positives as well. Last week in my sketch comedy show with Honorary Degree I had a four second part as Lady Gaga. A relatively unimportant bit, just a way to get out of a sketch with no other means to end it other then to go into bizarro world. (i.e. Scene sets in awkward silence as Lady Gaga enters and every does a homo dance. Lights.) Now normally with a throw away part such as that slapping on a silly costume would’ve been fine. But I thought, “hey, why not go all out? Let’s study some lady gaga garb. Show off my white pastey legs and get so super specific that it will seem out of place in the otherwise nonspecific scene with invisible tables and counters?” So I did. If it bombed and all my time and energy in the perfect costume went unnoticed then guess what? It’s not important. And I’m only doing it because I really really like it.
So I Gaga’ed. I came out in head to toe awesome, said nothing, and did my lean back swirl. Lights. Success. I got compliments all night (and on through the next day) for this stupidly intricate costume that came with no lines. Great! I hope I can play her again soon.
From that day that Steph made that statement, I have been much happier with my life decision.
I pity the important jobs. I could never be president, where’s the fun in that?
And I write to all other artists, actors, performers, writers out there. If a computer crashes or a shot can’t get focus or a script ain’t gelling, don’t blow a fucking gasket. Because in the grand scheme of things: what you are doing is not crucial to the world.
There’s an irony to this blog because about a year ago I wrote something that I titled “The Importance of Important” in which I embellished on the fun of celebration and the magnitude in which one can acknowledge accomplishments. At first it may seem like this is a contradiction but in that case I was talking about a separate convenient definition. That “important” is more a jab at those who are too cool for school, too casual for life. Where everything to them is a shrug and a “whatev.” The non-carers who are boring and suck.
That’s not what I am indicating here. I’m all about the high fives for fixing a leak, and for formal dress at a birthday party.
Yes, keep making trivial things “important.” Only now make the the important things (your craft) un.
– One El
“You ever run into the edge of a wall and find yourself thinking, ‘wtf Wall?’ What is your fucking wall problem?’
One thought on “It’s Not Like Patch Adams Saved Any Lives”
Comedy is unique in the art world in it’s ability to thrive on unimportance. Because, wielding that unimportance, it is able to dive deeper into irreverence. You think that the South Park obsess over the details of their work? Can you think of a comedy show that is in a league of irreverence beyond South Park, and which has thus had as powerful an influence on people? I think comedy is all about unimportance–facing people with the unimportance of the things they care about (for better or worse). When it’s set up right, everything’s a punch line.