Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Confessions of a Bill Hicks Completist

This morning at 1.30am I was sitting in front of my pc... happily clicking away.

NO!... That's NOT what I was doing... I'm bored with that. In fact I had made a VERY important find. On a whim before switching off for the night, I'd done a Google search for "comedy bootlegs", and on the third or fourth page of results, something wonderful appeared.

I found what seemed to be a newish website of Bill Hicks Bootlegs... which in fact was what it was.

On first look it appeared to be the usual suspects - mp3s of concerts that I'd already got on disc... But NO!... On closer inspection there were three Chicago gigs from 1989, 1990, and 1991 which I did NOT have available - and what's more - two of them I'd never heard before... and still haven't at this moment. For a Bill Hicks "completist" like myself, this makes for a Red Letter Day... whatever that means.

If you want to check out the site yourself, it's called www.countsofthenetherworld.com, but to make it easy for you, I've put a link on this page and on the Bill Hicks page of Geoff Parfitt Online.

Go ahead... Enjoy! That's what I intend to do.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

London Calling

It's Saturday night, and I've been sitting at home watching a DVD. (For information, it's last year's film "Festival" about performers at the Edinburgh Fringe. I'll give it **)

Yes... I'm sitting at home in front of the telly. I wish I was in London. I wish I was on stage at the Comedy Store, doing a storming...

No! Let's be realistic. I do wish I was in London... but waiting on the stairs at the Wheatsheaf pub in Rathbone Place (W1) before doing a ten minute spot with other C-list comedians for Ivan Stewart in that small room in front of a small audience... including those bemused tourists in the front row with very little English.

That's show business... and that's where I belong. Tomorrow I MUST get back to working on my new material.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Aristocrats... A Surprising Joke?

"The Aristocrats" is a joke... A long joke... A very long joke... A very long joke with a surprise ending.

As such, it shouldn't be a joke that I like, or be a joke that is told by real comedians. But IT IS... and is actually the subject of a documentary - that is now available on DVD - where over 100 comedians have fun telling that joke, and celebrate how that joke is part of the common heritage of comedians.

And here's why. In one of the USUAL jokes of this type, the surprise ending is the climax we've been DESPERATELY waiting for, where something is revealed - AT LAST! - that titillates the listener. You know the sort of thing. There's usually a deformed baby, or a man biting his own penis, or a homosexual doing what homosexuals do.

In "The Aristocrats" we KNOW how it's going to end. The punchline is always the same. The surprise at the end is actually a disappointment. It's like the final whistle of an entertaining football match that you never want to end. And WHAT a football match!! I don't want to spoil it for you, but there's always some REAL ACTION.

As I said in my first posting about this movie - after I'd been to the pictures see it at in November - I'm rather tempted to work on a version of this joke myself. It should be fun.

There are lots of people out there who like a nice long joke with a surprise at the end.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Where Do Jokes Come From?

GOD!... Since Wednesday I've been trying to write this posting - making notes, notes, and more notes - but it has refused to come together. So... Let's make a last stab at it, before I can move on to something else, which I'm dying to do.

It's the BIG question. Where DO jokes come from?... Because if we don't know, we won't know where to look for more new ones.

The problem with the question is the word "joke". It covers such a multitude of humour, long and short, good and bad, simple and sophisticated, that the question has a different answer depending on what kind of "joke" you mean.

I'm dealing with one aspect of this question in my activity as a working comedian. I'm currently on my latest comeback and knocking out new material, which for my latest stand-up incarnation is stuff about REAL experiences, ideas, and feelings. Jokes... but with a point of view or something to say.

And in that version of the question, I'm actually OK. I feel like I know what I'm doing. I've got three journals of notes for new material, and I've got the "Killer Stand-Up Writing Guide" which is a brilliant guide to writing those kind of funny lines... or "jokes".

BUT... last Tuesday in my latest Comedy Writing class, I wanted to answer the same question for my students. I'd asked them to each bring along a copy of a joke - that they would have liked to have written themselves. Then I was going to try to tell them where their jokes had come from... so we might create more jokes of a similar ilk and quality.

THIS was not a wholely successful exercise. I quickly came to realize that the kind of jokes my students like - AND want to write - do not always support the same kind of analysis as the kind of jokes that I like - and want to write.

When the joke in question is just a long-ish contrived story leading to a surprise ending based on something titillating or even shocking... then there is NO obvious target or point of view... AND if we DO strive to see what is being laughed at in such a joke, it is often a deformed baby, a homosexual, or a penis in some situation. A long "knob gag" or - for any Americans reading - a long "dick joke".

Where do THESE jokes come from? Hard to say. Some say that these jokes are created in prison. But all I can say to help people who want more of these jokes is to advise checking out the the joke books in 'The Works'. I've bought a few joke books in there myself - for inspiration when writing sketches for Belgian TV.

By the way... Subject matter is not the issue. I LIKE shocking humour. I'm NOT adverse to knob gags... but I prefer short ones. Write about what you know!