Hashing out my stories

Archive for July, 2015

Women and the Errors of Comedy

A while ago – in Nashville, Tennessee – I sat in a comedy club to see my friend and colleague Malinda May perform. It was her graduation night after having completed a comedy course. Our husbands, Malinda’s friends, family and other colleagues were all gathered to watch her first official outing. She was last on, so we watched all the other comedians – most of them male.

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Malinda May – Gorgeous! See her on Twitter and say hello – if she drops the drawbridge!

Without trying to be snarky, I can safely say that – in a nutshell – the night flatlined with only a few small blips on the radar, until Malinda came out. I’m not just saying that because I know her, as she did some fresh material I had never heard, was natural, original and didn’t have to try so hard. I’m sure she was sweating bullets before she came on – but she was clearly the best of the evening. Here’s why.

The routines presented by the previous comedians were largely pedestrian and obvious. I was always able to see the punchline – or – it had been done before, like they had modelled their bits on other famous comedians. It was like watching re-hashed routines – watered down and delivered with cringe-worthy, fake bravado. Having said that – let me say this: anyone trying to break into the world of comedy has my admiration – and sympathy. It’s a hard slog and takes intelligence, guts and perseverance.

I understood that they were fledglings – having just completed their course – and that they would (hopefully) continue on and hone their craft. What I will say is – it’s all well and good to appreciate the styles of other comedians, even if it means adopting skills such as delivery, material and timing – but I think the most important thing is to create your own style and just be yourself. That’s probably one of the main factors that brought you to the decision to take it to the next level and perform onstage: you’ve been told by family, friends and co-workers that you’re hilarious and should be a comedian.

Personality is just as important as your skills and material – but don’t let it dictate the routine or overshadow it. I know that sounds odd – but hear me out. Another fault is the reverse – letting your routine overshadow your personality. They should all be working together to shape your act – moving like cogs and wheels in a well-oiled machine. It might work for seasoned comedians who know how to use it to their advantage – but when you’re starting out, maybe it’s best to keep it all in check until comfortable.

One guy was bizarre, in the way he – all of a sudden – broke out into crazy dances. Those parts were my favorite, as I love impromptu nonsense and silliness – but there was something creepy about the rest of his routine. It’s hard to articulate – but I got the sense that he dwelled in his mother’s basement and might’ve been a snow-dropper! I know that sounds mean but I was truly creeped out by him.

The others were okay but the most I could offer was a single snigger – it was more of a “snig” – as I could see the punchlines a mile away. It was like they let their mediocre material do the work – like reciting poetry you don’t understand or have little faith in. Not that I’m an expert on comedy – but I believe that a comedian needs to own the material and then inject their personality into it (if they have one!) – rather than put it out there like an old newspaper and hope someone reads it.

I imagine that – for the most part – nerves were the main factor, but good material can get a laugh out of me, even if the delivery is lacklustre. I’m sure that they will continue to work on their acts and some may even break through. I certainly hope so – as I really felt for them. I admired them just for having the balls to get out there.

Now – the women. I hate being negative about women in any shape or form – seeing as I consider myself a feminist – blah blah blah. Also – being critical of female comedians should be a no-no, as we need more of them. I was, however, disappointed that they too were – by and large – pedestrian. I will say that I was able to give more than a “snig” – and I wondered if it was just that they were female and I was able to identify with them more.

The problem was – that they also seemed to be going along the same old lines, did some clichéd routines and were borrowing from the styles of more famous comedians, especially male. I could tell that they’d watched a lot of comedy – which is great – but their own personalities seemed to be hiding behind their material. I wondered if it was due to the fact that they were afraid to be “too female” in a male-dominated art form.

Tina Fey (Vanity Fair). It's great when someone of this caliber does this - cliched and embarrassing when done incorrectly - as one of the women did that night!

Tina Fey (Vanity Fair). It’s great when someone of this caliber does this – cliched and embarrassing when done incorrectly – as one of the women did that night!

Then – Malinda came out – just being herself. She had an issue with the microphone and incorporated it into her act as seamlessly and naturally as a hot knife through butter. Then she launched into her bit – complete with singing (she has a great voice too) – and surprised the hell out of me. It’s a testament to her that she made me laugh hysterically – with material I had never seen or heard – seeing as I know her personally.

She performed a tight set and was hilarious with her self-deprecating humor and wonderful sense of the ridiculous. Later, I analyzed my reaction and wondered if I found her the funniest – by far – just because I know and love her immensely. I realized that no – she was definitely the best – simply because she was natural and injected her own unique style, personality and intelligence into her act. It did not seem like she was a fledgling comedian who had just completed a class. She was a pro and stood out from the others because she didn’t have to try too hard. She’s a natural.

When it comes to comedy, anyone can make me laugh if they have these attributes – whether male or female. However – I do find that some female comedians tend to fall back into the typical style dictated by the males. It’s like men have claimed the artform as their own – and women are only allowed (by invitation) – provided they are not better or do not deviate from their station.

For example: men can be crude and crass – swear like a motherfucker – and talk about whatever they want, no matter how contentious or taboo; but if you’re a woman – watch out! It’s probably society at large – not just the male comedians – who have an issue with women being crude. It’s perfectly fine for a man to find fault with women – particularly in terms of sex – but a woman who pokes fun at men and their foibles is labelled coarse, to say the least.

All of a sudden – rules apply. Statements such as “There’s no need to be so crude” and “You can be funny without swearing” or “Do you really have to talk about gross things like periods, childbirth and orgasms?” – are usually only directed at women. If a male comedian talks about masturbation or blowjobs – it’s hilarious. If a women talks about cunnilingus or farting – it’s disgusting.

The fact is – most women I know (and have known) – are downright disgusting when in a group of other women: and that’s the way I like it! That’s also why I love comedians such as Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Whoopi Goldberg (in her day), Roseanne, Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler – to name a few. I also love Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy – the list goes on.

She makes me piss my pants every time. Intelligent and silly - wonderful!

She makes me piss my pants every time. Intelligent and silly – wonderful!

What’s great about these women – as well as many others – is that they are not afraid to be themselves, regardless of any sexist criticisms or putdowns by their male counterparts or the media. As far as I’m concerned – that’s what makes them great. I can’t stand when a comedian (male or female) is obviously toning down their act or opinions – based on what they might fear that society or the PC police will think.

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Awesome! Love her so much.

We go to see comedians to hear the shit we are either too polite or afraid to say ourselves. That’s what makes them funny. They are our mouthpieces – verbalizing our secret thoughts, dreams and fears – dishing it out and taking the hits for us. Like how music expresses our desires and emotions – comedy affords us the opportunity to vent – even if it’s a third party doing it.

This is how our humanity is defined – by making fun of it. If we can’t laugh at ourselves – we’re doomed to repeat our past mistakes. When Sarah Silverman adopts a stage persona that is innocently and ignorantly racist – it reflects the inner workings of society’s mindset. Putting it out there makes us face the ugliness of it. To say that it should be kept silent is to avoid the issue – allowing it to fester. All races have their peccadillos. We are different – and the same at the same time. It’s the culture that is hilarious when held up to the scrutiny of the comedian – not necessarily the people within it. It’s not personal.

I remember hearing a statement about female comedians – saying that, “Women are not funny.” What was depressing was discovering that Jerry Lewis said it. He was my favorite funny person when I was growing up – so to hear this was a gut-punch, to say the least. I remember seeing “The King of Comedy” by Martin Scorsese – hilarious black comedy with Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhard. She was a crazed fan who – along with Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) – kidnapped the Jerry Lewis character and did one of the funniest routines I have seen on screen. Talk about righteous! (Apparently Mr Lewis wanted the slapping scene to be more violent. Maybe he wanted to punish her for being funnier than him?)

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Beautiful

When Bill Hicks (among many others) made fun of religion – it was funny because it was true. It was what most of us were thinking. Also, when he said that, “It’s not a war on drugs – it’s a war on personal freedom” – he was dead right. When Lenny Bruce poked fun at the establishment – he was crucified for it.  The same thing happens to women who dare to be confident, loud and proud – especially when they’re not the perfect “10”.

One of my top three favorites of all time - Bill Hicks.

One of my top three favorites of all time – Bill Hicks.

We’ve passed the 2000 year mark. This is the future, and we’re still the small minded bigots and sexist assholes that we were fifty years ago. It’s time to put on our grown up pants and stride through the childish horseshit that prevents us from evolving. To the fledgling female comedians out there – please do not listen to the ignorant “pigs and fishes”. Be yourself and allow the stupid criticisms to roll off you like water off a duck’s back. In the scheme of things – when the dust clears – those idiots will crawl back under their rocks and you’ll still be standing on the stage, splitting our sides and hopefully making a living out of it.

I’m counting on it!

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Dream Blogging – Meandering

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I had these dreams last night, and seeing as all three “bled” into each other, I am going to interpret them as one dream. It started with me waking up to a knock on the door at about 2am (in the dream.) I was in a house that was a mix of my current home and the one I grew up in. When I answered the door, it was someone who was supposed to be some kind of a maintenance man – but his vehicle was also a food truck. He had brought his bain-marie to the front porch and had different dishes he wanted me to try. They food was all orange, like mashed sweet potato and grated carrot pie, etc.

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As he served the food on a plate, I went into the kitchen and brought out a pie I wanted him to try.

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As this was going on, my husband came home from work and was a little annoyed as he was wondering if I was having an affair. I explained what was going on but he still wasn’t convinced and started asking questions about the validity of someone bringing food in the early hours of the morning.

Then I was in a building (a work do?) and we (my husband and I) decided to leave and get food. We walked past a group of toddlers who were lined up to pee.

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The front boy was peeing against the wall. We all thought it was adorable. When I got outside, I was in my office clothes but barefoot and didn’t care. We walked down the street and looked for a rerstaurant that had the food we liked. Then I had shoes on.

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Robert and I continued walking down the street and were with other people (his parents?) and we went into a church.

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It was massive – almost like a community center, and there were people in a waiting area, waiting to see the “organizer/planner” as well as waiting to go into church. I felt surly towards them for being gullible sheep – but kept my mouth shut. When I saw someone going into the office to see the planner, I noticed that the planner was attractive and wondered if that was why Robert had scheduled an appt with her.

I walked past the congregation as they listened to the minister, and went through a door on the left – as I needed to pee. I went into a bathroom where a lot of teenage girls were getting ready for sunday school and some of them were peeing.

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There were open toilets in a row – white porcelain – some higher and larger than the others, as well as different types of toilets. When I went over to check them out – I decided not to pee as they were dirty. I went outside and started to go for a walk and went around a corner of a wall where the ground became like a cobblestone path – only the stones were huge and jutting out of the ground, some like rocks.

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Then I was watching a woman who had also escaped the church session, and she was having difficulty walking over the cobblestones, so she took off her clogs/slippers.

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She was walking through the garden singing a Stevie Nicks song and I thought that it was a new one as I hadn’t heard it before. I walked over to a small veggie patch in the center of the garden and started gathering zucchinis.

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I was happy to get them before they grew too big and tasteless. I then realized that I’d better not pick too much as the people in the church might like them big and tasteless. I also saw cauliflower growing in sections – rather than a whole, circular cauli – but growing in flowerets.

There were other veggies – like large misshapen green peppers and when I looked around I saw that the rest of the garden was like a cold store of veggies, with lots of onions stacked up.

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THEMES: Wandering, peeing, food, leaving the crowd, relationships, life path

SYMBOLS: Orange, food, vegetables, shoes/barefoot, urination, toilet, church, music, path, garden

EMOTIONS: Sharing, suspicion, wonder, annoyance, satisfaction, sustenance.

ARCHETYPES: Animus – husband, maintenance man, little boys, attractive woman, teenage girls.

INTERPRETATION: I have been focusing on my health and eating habits lately, so the veggies represent my idealizing of the healthy life. The man delivering food in the early hours is interesting (to me, at least!) If a male in a woman’s dream is her Animus (the representation of how she feels about men and how she interacts with them) – then the reciprocal nature of the interaction might show how I want to meet men on the same level, share experiences etc. This is how I operate in my marriage – as my husband and I have a good relationship where we take each other’s needs in consideration and treat each other fairly – regardless of attitudes towards gender roles, etc.

The fact that the man was offering orange colored food might indicate the sharing of energy (as orange represents energy or the life force) and the fact that I offered a pie in return, might show how I take the energy offered and make something new. My husband coming home and being suspicious could indicate an unconscious concern regarding my appreciation for him or even how I express myself in terms of my dealings with other men.

Seeing the children peeing against the wall brings to mind the pun, “pissing money up a wall.” I have been trying to be more careful with money lately (especially with my promoting and marketing of my novels and business.) The others waiting in line could symbolize how I’d love to share more with my son and grandsons – or perhaps – how much I have to give and feel like it’s taking too long? I mentioned to Robert that the children were adorable and he agreed, so it could represent my love for his boyish nature.

Walking down the street dressed in office clothes – but barefoot – could be showing how I travel through life being two people. The responsible professional – with the impetus being provided by my free nature or desire to be an individual. I am usually an honest, straight forward person – and people often tell me how it’s refreshing to see (especially in the workplace!)

Going into the church (which was like a combination of church and community center) indicates how I operate in a crowd and how I view and interact with others. I’m mostly agnostic – bordering on atheism – so my attitude towards the church-goers was based on that, but I feel that it was more like not wanting to be a part of the throng. It’s funny though – there was a sense of sadness, as a small part of me felt that I was missing out.

The attractive woman (organizer/planner) – was helping people get their act together in regards to spiritual and personal life. She could be symbolizing me and how I want to help people, however I was jealous of her and my husband having an appointment with her. I am usually a passionate person – but have become more complacent and easy-going as our relationship evolves.

Going into the bathroom and needing to pee, could have simply been dictated by my real life need to pee – as I awoke busting to go to the toilet. As a dream symbol, urination (especially in public) represents the need to offload negativity or unwanted refuse – as well as the way you “offload” in public. (I have been quite aggressive at work lately, due to feeling like I’m being used as a dog’s body!)

The fact that the toilets were dirty – and then deciding not to go – could symbolize my fear of absorbing other’s filth or negativity. (Or the fact that I couldn’t go – as I was busy dreaming!) The teenage girls might symbolize how I feel about younger people these days, or my attitude towards getting older and forgetting how it was to be young and carefree. (Trying so hard not to be a curmudgeon!)

The cobblestone path is obvious to me. It feels like the “rocky road” is not the road rising to meet me – rather, blocking my progress and showing the possibility for tripping up if I’m not careful. Also – obstacles in my path and issues I have to deal with in order to move ahead. The woman taking off her clogs represents how I need to be myself in order to traverse my life path successfully.

Hearing the Stevie Nicks song (apparently a new one I hadn’t heard) – could symbolize my desire for a new “soundtrack” to my life. For me – Stevie Nicks is spiritually aware – and I have been contemplating re-dedication to the pagan life. (maybe that’s what I’ve been missing lately – indicated by my sadness with not being part of the crowd at assembly.)

I have been using zucchinis a lot lately, so its appearance in my dream is obvious. Worrying about choosing only the smaller ones for better flavor could indicate my desire to ensure quality – not just with food. I was mindful to leave some behind – so they could grow some more – as the churchgoers might have liked it that way. This could symbolize my attitude towards religious people wanting blandness or mass appeal – or it could show that I’m taking the essence from a collective spiritual path? (I think that’s a bit of a stretch – but who knows?!)

Seeing the vegetables all stacked up gave me a lot of pleasure – which also indicates my happiness with eating healthier etc. The fact that there were a lot of white onions could symbolize purity – or that I need more onions – or less, as I use onions quite a lot in my diet. Maybe this was telling me to use less!

SUMMARY: I’m on the right path, but there’s more to push through – as long as I stay true to myself. It’s time to tune in to my spiritual side again – to complete the process of becoming whole. I must temper my attitude towards the “throng” and not be too judgmental. I must also take better care of my husband and pay more attention to his needs – balancing the give and take.


Dream Blogging – Falling Birds

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This is a short dream I had recently, where I was walking down a city street and saw grey birds falling out of the sky. I saw two land in separate trees and something told me that there was an ecological disaster causing them to fall. When I went up to the first bird, it was limp and laying on a branch – but still moving a little. I picked it up and held it in my hands, wondering how to help it.

When I went to the second tree, I saw that the bird was a little more alert. I got close to it and it opened its beak – to reveal a tiny, grey, 3D printed cube inside its mouth.

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I saw that the other bird also had one in its mouth and tried to carry them both into a building – to find a work colleague to help the birds. As I walked along, I worried that the birds would die, and when I got to my work colleague, he was blase about them and said they’d get better soon. I felt that he was brushing me off.

THEMES: Environmental calamity, illness, looking for answers.

SYMBOLS: Sky, grey birds, 3D cubes, beaks/mouths, trees.

EMOTIONS: Worry and concern, confusion.

ARCHETYPES: Birds, Animus – work colleague

INTERPRETATION: I get the feeling that – yet again – it was telling me about my physical state. I’ve been improving my diet and exercising of late, and also discovered that my Thyroid medication was too strong. Birds symbolize ideas and thoughts, as well as vehicles for escape and freedom. I feel that they also symbolized my “high hopes” for my books – falling out of the sky representing the lack of sales etc.

I have been disappointed with the progress/success of my writing and even told my husband that I felt like giving up. He told me that it was just a slump and to keep going – that one day, I would have success if I keep plugging at it. Also – the pleasure I get from writing and sharing ideas and stories is one of the main reasons I write.

The 3D cubes in their beaks/mouths is a mystery – although I could interpret them to mean concrete, or three dimensional ideas and solutions within the fallen or failing ideas. For example: the birds (ideas, my books etc) are not staying afloat due to the methods I’m using (and not using) to market and promote. The 3 D cube could symbolize the fact that there’s something solid there, but I have to find a solution.

Trying to get my work colleague to help could indicate my frustrations with the public and potential readers – not seeming to be interested in what I have to offer. In regards to the environment, it could represent how I feel about not wanting to jump through the hoops and produce what I feel are frivolous works – just to garner attention and sales.

It might also indicate how I’m feeling about my frustrations at work and my life in general – especially when I’m low or depressed – thinking that, no matter what I do, it’s an uphill battle with no reward.

SUMMARY: I feel that I need to analyze this dream more, but it does seem to symbolize my “malaise”. I’ve been half-hearted lately, in terms of my writing – so maybe this dream simply reflects those feelings, and indicates a need to be more scientific or well-rounded. Trees can symbolize the integrated Self (they were mostly barren) – so maybe it shows how I feel about myself and my life lately. The ideas and thoughts are there, but they can’t seem to get off the ground. I don’t know. I seem to be going around in circles!


Human First and Foremost

All else falls away in the face of oblivion. No race, no creed, no sex, no religion. Pushing these man-made attributes to the shadows – I see crystal-clear reality. No matter the gender – we are human. No matter the color or status – we are human. No matter the orientation – we are human.

We strain after the labels in order to slap them on each other – tagging and cataloging – even though we loathe being tagged and cataloged ourselves.

I will not be defined by my sex. It does not speak of my intellectual pursuits or creativity. I will not be a slave to the ugly machine – which dictates impossible standards of beauty while vilifying my humanity.

I will not expect a man to be a man, without tears or mercy – pumped like a grotesque, cancerous mass – dressed up as swagger. I will not expect a woman to be a woman, without strength or honor – trussed up and acid-washed to a bloody pulp – dressed up as sweetness.

If our hearts and minds are barred from meeting on common ground, where we can share our jubilations and fears – without resorting to a monkey dance in a cookie-cutter mask – I’m happy to pass you by.

I do not identify with any one race – even though four dwell within me. They are not beacons for others to flock to – to sway my focus. They are circumstantial and simple genetics – nothing more. They do not feed my psyche or prompt my interactions. I am a patchwork person like the rest of you, and I will not pledge allegiance to one over the other.

Poverty, destitution and despair are not the polar opposites of wealth, opulence or happiness. They are inter-changeable. We open our mouths and our spirits pour out – mangled and strangled by the refuse we absorb willingly.

We can sing in harmony or screech in discord.

It’s all down to a choice – not suggested or directed by the machine, but rather – by our humanity. What is right is what is good is what is natural – without fake holiness or smug science.

I can see my history – aligned with the horror as well as the beauty of the world. I will dust it down, wring it out and wrench myself into the person I was destined to become: Human.

Human first and foremost.

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