Funny is a Cocked Gun – By @AlexTaylorHello
By Alexander Taylor
Funny is a Cocked Gun
There’s a problem with the court jester.
She tells truths that no one else does.
She reveals elements of what it is to be human.
But when it all goes wrong… she’s thoroughly disliked.
The problem with funny is it either bangs, or it blows up the user’s face.
A good joke can make a room briefly happy.
A bad joke can make a room permanently angry.
It’s like that old country song by Ted Jontybangles:
Many a joke has tried for good cheer,
But it’s a cocked steel .45,
Tonight we play Russian roulette my dear,
Pray the shot’s whiskey not life.
So what’s a girl to do?
In 1969, one of the funniest men that will ever walk this earth draped a hosepipe from his car exhaust in through the window turned on the ignition and sat quietly for twenty minutes.
The autopsy showed no signs of struggle.
In 1964, he began writing a book.
The main protagonist was a lumbering, fat, bumbling mass of a man named Ignatius who was almost entirely dependent on his mother.
The author put a lot of himself into the character.
In attempt to get his work published he sent it to Robert Gottlieb, an author he admired.
After a long and arduous exchange of letters, Gottlieb convinced him that, whilst his book showed talent, it was ultimately pointless.
And by talent Gottlieb meant “wildly funny often, funnier than almost anyone around.”
It was refused publication after publication.
It drove him manically depressed.
He believed he had no talent.
He sold himself that insecurity easily.
That’s what the comedy mind does.
It is so attuned to failure, misery, and insecurity, that it wastes no time turning its gun on itself.
John Kennedy Toole’s novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, was that gun.
It crippled him.
It was rejected by the author he looked up to.
It was a complete failure.
It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.
It sold 1.5 million copies in 18 languages.
It is regarded as one of the most important works of the 20th century.
Funny is a cocked, loaded, bullshit gun.
The joke’s only good when they laugh in the moment. There’s no such thing as a retrofitted joke.
The comedian hears the reaction in the now.
If it isn’t funny, she’s made aware instantly.
Instant results! Doctors hate her! Almost as much as she hates herself!
What’s the lesson here?
When something doesn’t go your way…
- Take a deep breath.
- Distance yourself.
- Talk to someone.
You may have a Pulitzer on your hands.
You may have dog shit.
And it’s likely somewhere in-between.
But we’ll never get to where we’re going if we think of criticism as judgements of our character.
Because it isn’t.
It’s how we get better.