On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t deconstruct comedy…

Sometimes I confuse myself. This morning, I woke up knowing the only thing I wanted to do today was lie in bed, watch Netflix, and eat leftover thai. I didn’t have any expectations for the day – a refreshing change of pace. Something about not having a single obligation for an entire day feels liberating. I imagine some people use free days to reconnect socially by getting lunch with a friend or calling relatives they haven’t spoken to in a while. It wasn’t that I was completely against the idea of interacting with people today, it was more that I didn’t have a problem not doing that.

I’m wondering if this is a holdover from last summer. I spent so much time wallowing in loneliness that the sensation became sort of comfortable. It’s got me wondering if I’ve become too comfortable being alone. Furthermore, it’s making me wonder if there’s any harm in that. I think most people would agree that the cruelest punishment is solitary confinement, but that’s not what I’m really talking about. I’m talking about being okay with spending six nights a week mostly on my own with books, manicures, and Justin Timberlake on repeat. When my one social obligation came around on Saturday night, I welcomed it. But it came and went, and on Sunday morning, a day in bed on my own seemed perfectly wonderful.

This was taken around noon.

Last night I went to a dinner and a comedy show with an academic. The conversation prior to the comedy show ranged from classic literature to dealing with that dirty feeling you get after watching too much of something like Louis CK or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. At one point, he started to deconstruct some of the comedy shows I wasn’t very familiar with (Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm) in order to persuade me to watch them. I followed this thread of deconstruction throughout the rest of the night. Over wine, I began to analyze our conversations, wondering if we touched on the typical date conversation topics. In those conversations, you’re each trying to decide if you want to invest more in each other. But listing favorite bands, movies, books, and television shows only reveal so much about a person, right? By the time we got to the comedy club, I was in full deconstruction mode, doing quick dissections of the jokes.

But my dissections were shallow and obvious. One comedian said he was saving up to buy a firetruck so he could safely drive home drunk. “Firetrucks are supposed to be speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. Have you ever seen a firetruck get pulled over? No.”

The dissection (which I kept to myself) was something like, “It’s funny because it’s absurd. The idea of saving for a firetruck to support alcoholism is absurd. The image of a firetruck being pulled over is absurd.” Though my initial comedy analysis was simple and obvious, it made me start to wonder why I enjoy it so much. I admire the way a good comedian can quickly illustrate a complete story well enough to make an audience empathize. I admire the ways some comedians make us laugh at ourselves and how others make us ashamed. Comedy is more than just laughter, it’s the acknowledgement of human nature and its ridiculousness.

Anyway, I ended up spending most of the day in bed trying to learn more about comedy. I started reading And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft. While reading, I compiled a list of movies and television shows to watch and re-watch, and books to read: The Graduate, To Die For, Louie; The Office (UK), Arrested Development, Spaceballs; Catch-22, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love…I expect the list to grow tenfold by the time I’m finished with the book.

The twisted thing about today is that I did exactly what I wanted to do: no more than read a good book and watch some funny television. Yet, now that the day is done, I’m a little sad because I feel like I could have been more social. I always get like this after spending a day on my own, even if I’m fulfilled and pleased with my endeavors. A couple weeks ago, I spent the day with e.e cummings’s six nonlectures, feeling myself become more inspired by each page. But just like today, after sunset, I was left feeling lonely. It felt like mental masturbation; as if I’d rather spend the day with a book – something I can interpret and manipulate for myself – than forge a connection with someone else. That’s not actually true, but I’m afraid resistance to reach out to people could be interpreted that way.

This was taken around 9pm. Way to go, Ashley. Day accomplished, I guess.

This was taken around 9pm. Way to go, Ashley. Day accomplished, I guess.

Yet I find myself telling you all about it here – an act that could be construed as a narcissistic indulgence – in an attempt to feel connected. Surely this must resonate with someone else. Other people must feel the tug of solitary pleasures while also craving deep connections, right? I’d like to think I keep posting for the same reason comedians take the stage night after night: to feel – or even just get a taste of – social resonance.

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11 thoughts on “On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t deconstruct comedy…

  1. I was interested by your opinions on comedy. I think the social significance of comedy is that it is the reluctant acceptance of reality. There is always shinning humanity and intelligence in the supposed absurdness. It is not only the absurd that makes us laugh and inspires empathy. Rather, it is sometimes the hidden discontent(and in the meantime, acceptance) of individuals in the society. Despite the many unhappy events in our lives, the world is still beautiful. The comedy does just that. The blog is great, BTW.

    • Excellent points all around. Comedy is such an active part of interaction that when you actually stop to think about its form and function, you begin to realize how multi-functional it is. Off the top of my head, I know that I use humor as a coping mechanism, a defensive mechanism, and a social mechanism…I’m sure if I gave it more thought, I would find so many other uses.

  2. I absolutely loved this. I understand all too well the guilt trip that comes after a day of solidarity. Few things are better than a day of Netflix and reading to reset yourself, but it’s hard to not feel like a hermit sometimes. If you ever do figure out an answer to how to better subdue that feeling, feel free to share as I’ll be sure to keep checking in. Thank you again for this. Brilliant.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’m not sure why it’s so hard to find that balance between personal and social time. I seem to waver between two extremes. My weekends are either packed with things to do or they’re wide open, leaving me to just laugh at my loneliness. If I ever figure it out, you can be sure I’ll blog about it.

  3. This definitely resonates with me. This week I upset more than one person in an attempt to just have some alone time. I think writers like us need a little more alone time than other people. How else are we supposed to gather our thoughts and get into that introspective zone in order to write? Sometimes it is hard to find that balance.

    • You’re right. Half the battle of writing is finding the time. I think I need a decent amount of time to just warm up and get in the zone. Then there’s the editing and self conscious period where I wonder if what I wrote is actually any good. Writing takes time and focus. It can be really hard. If you spend too much time on your own, you end up with nothing to write about. You do too much and you don’t have time to write. Gotta love it.

  4. So, um, was that date at the comedy club any fun?

    This post reminds me of something I read on another blog from a writer who was trying to learn how to write humor. Anyway, she was trying to figure out why something was funny, as if she could somehow figure out the “recipe” for comedy, and replicate it in her writing. She then posted the absolutely most humorless piece of fiction I’ve ever read and asked at the end, “Is this funny?”

    Humor (I think) is very subjective. I adore Arrested Development (the greatest sit-com ever, can’t wait ’til May, when it returns on Netflix), but never was much of a fan of Curb (though there were some brilliant episodes), or Louie (more depressing than funny), and It’s Always Sunny is mostly four people screaming at each other for thirty minutes (there are occasional funny bits).

    I’d be interested to see where your research into humor leads you–

    • The comedy club date was actually fantastic. Haha, I realize now that I didn’t make that very clear. At all.

      After doing some reading and thinking, I think that I’m not so much interested in what makes things funny as much as what sort of truth the jokes actually tell. By this I mean, what it reveals about the person, human nature, or society. It’s still all pretty vague, but I’m hoping to nail it down eventually.

      I have mixed feelings the return of Arrested Development. Part of me is really excited, another part is sure I’ll be disappointed, and yet another is just hoping Buster is still living at home. I think it’s one of the best written comedies I’ve seen. Each time I watch it I appreciate it all over again.

  5. Ashley,

    This post strongly resonates with me. For the past 7 months (since we moved to Canada) I find myself spending much more time with books, movies, and knitting needles than I do with people. Of course, my husband is here, but he and I are on opposite sides of the academic spectrum (he is a scientist). Because he is currently in grad school, he spends long days at the lab and often works weekends. I feel like I should be going out of my way to meet more people here, but like you, I am comfortable being alone. I may not always enjoy it 100%, but it is easier and often less exhausting than social situations – especially since I am so far away from all of my friends and family.

    There is nothing wrong with being introverted. You do go out into the world, it just isn’t as often as most extroverts and television would make you believe is enough. For example, I watch How I Met Your Mother (Sex and the City, Friends – take your pick) and constantly wish I had a tight-nit group of friends who hung out every day. The truth is that I would probably be smothered with that kind of co-dependence on so many people.

    I like the few close friends I have back home. I wish I saw them more, but I don’t recall seeing them all that much when I was living closer to them. Even then, I remember spending a lot of time at home doing what I do now.

    Mindy

    • I’d have to agree with you about the group thing. I go on social binges and after a week, all I can think is that I want to be alone in my bed. I think it’s just a matter of putting what I need first instead of trying to make other people happy or trying to be what I think society thinks I should be. Twisted, I know.

  6. It’s interesting because I was just having a conversation about the idea of social connections last night with my boyfriend. I had been thinking about ditching Facebook for a while, but my excuse was that “I wouldn’t have a way to connect with people (such as my relatives or former friends who may have some lingering interest in my life).” But at the same time I don’t reach out to these people, or most people who are sort of directly _in_ my life, because in the moments where I have a little time to breathe, all I want to do is be alone.

    He pointed out the hypocrisy of my Facebook dilemma, stating that if I wanted to be connected with those people, I would already be making the effort, instead of apathetically posting links to my newest blog posts and hoping that people will read them. It does feel like a vain thing, sometimes, to expect that people will be even remotely interested in reading my often shallow musings, but another part of me feels like that is one of the few ways I can adequately express myself or forge a connection with someone far away, even though it represents minimal effort on my part, and far more effort on the parts of those who actually follow my activities and click on my self-indulgent links.

    But sometimes you just need one of those days to yourself, you know?

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