Comedy has been a lifelong fascination for me. Between Saturday Night Live, Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, countless movies, and far too many others to name, I’ve always felt a deeper connection to the world of comedy beyond the laughs. For the last couple of years, I have been asking myself why comedy strikes me so deeply. It feels like there’s more happening than we realize. But what is it exactly, and why does it matter to humanity?
As a personal project and just for fun, I’ve decided to dig deeper and start exploring these questions. Of all people, I have to give credit to Jeff Ross, probably best known for his role as “The Roastmaster General.” On the first night of Hanukkah last year, my friend and I attended An Evening with Judd Apatow at 92Y where he performed new bits, shared videos from projects and told stories. Near the end, he brought up Jeff Ross for a conversation, during which they talked about the HBO show “Crashing” starring Pete Holmes and Jeff said something to the effect of “Even though it’s a half-hour comedy, I find myself crying. It hits me right in the heart… So what is that?” Yes, Jeff Ross. What is that?
Not unlike other forms of expression such as music, dance, or theatre, comedy creates a bond between humans. Even the most divided can find commonality in a poop joke (Sarah Silverman makes this important point in her latest Netflix special “Speck of Dust.”) Poop joke or not, when people share laughter it’s a beautiful sound and feeling. When a comedian executes their craft with precision and the result “kills” it’s not uncommon for me to not only laugh but blink away some tears from the beauty of when everyone is on common ground, even if only for just a moment.
I’ve read several great books that invite you into the world of comedy and humanity, among them being “Sick in the Head” by Judd Apatow, “And Here’s the Kicker” by Mike Sacks, and “The Improv: An Oral History” by Budd Friedman and Tripp Whetsell. Common threads I see in all of these are community, connection, vulnerability, passion, support, levity, and well, laughter, of course. All I can safely conclude for the moment is that comedy is a gift to humanity and I’m going to have a good time figuring out why – even if I never find the answer. Which I highly suspect to be the outcome. Because there’s always more happening than we can know. Dammit.