So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!
There is a hush as the joke lands on the audience. I wait as my cheeks burn with the words that have just sizzled out of my mouth. Were they funny words or not? I wait. The laughter starts and their happiness interrupts the silent room. I can move on. While there might be 40 people merely interested, one person with passion can fill a room. Passion comes in many forms, but my passion starts and ends with a punch-line.
I was an early giggler. My brother would make funny faces and, even at 3 months, I knew that was comedy. My Dad would make silly statements (that were usually untrue) and I’d have to uncover his meaning. As I got older, it was easier for me to recognize the satire between the lines. My mother was a character waiting to be mimicked, and I mimicked her to the point of many a “get to your room” and “stop repeating what I’m saying.” I was a blatant observer of others and my keen eye only added to my ability to make people laugh. While all those around me helped me develop my talent, passion isn’t static – it snowballs into something uncontrollable and, with a little luck, something profound.
When you are honing a skill you have to learn from the greats. I always appreciated Shakespeare’s tragedies, but I really loved any scenes devoted to the Groundlings (the socially degenerate of Shakespeare’s time). Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing is absurd and hilarious, never making sense, but always making his own sense. The troupe of actors in A Midsummer Night’s Dream made me chuckle as they took their roles so comically, and disastrously, serious. What I learned from the fool of “Twelfth Night” was the greatest lesson of them all – comedians speak the most truth. Shakespeare takes the fool and shows the world that a passion for humor shines a light on the destructive nature of others. A fool’s passion can, sure, make the world smile, but that humor is based on the observations of a cruel world.
While I don’t pretend that my passion makes great change, I know it makes change. If I can “make em’ laugh” then I can make them think. If I can grab the attention of others for more than five seconds maybe they will see, for just a moment, that change is needed, that society is faltering in some way or that the individual has the ability to be better for the whole. In this moment, when the hush occurs and the joke lands on the audience, I wait for the laughter and I wait for the thinking to begin.