I love Monty Python. I’ve only seen a couple episodes of Flying Circus, but I’ve got the movies practically memorized. It seems to be that way for a lot of fans. Monty Python and the Holy Grail could be one of the most quotable movies ever made. It also ranks up there with The Princess Bride as the one that I’ve probably seen the most times. One thing that I’ve learned from Monty Python is that cross-dressing is funny. I’m not sure why. I think it has something to do with debasement. Comedy is all about humiliating oneself, about making oneself look like an idiot so that one can point the finger at somebody else and mock them relentlessly. What’s more humiliating than a man who needs a shave putting on a wig and dress and speaking in a slightly higher register? The “women” in most Monty Python sketches couldn’t be mistaken for the real thing at fifty yards by Helen Keller, but they’re still funny. For whatever reason, I don’t find homosexuality to be inherently funny the same way that I do cross-dressing. So much modern comedy is based on taking two men from popular fiction and showing them cuddling. Some of it is funny—I’ve seen stuff featuring C-3PO and R2-D2 that was kind of amusing—but most of it is hackneyed. No, the mere idea of two men loving each other is not a joke all by itself.
I was part of a student sketch comedy group as an undergrad. Some of my work was a hit, and some was a bit too dry and intellectual for a crowd that really just wanted cheap dick jokes (and was also likely intoxicated.) I revisited my alma mater last year to see one of our shows, and lo and behold, there was a scene featuring a gay male (it’s never female) relationship as the main joke. See, what if the prince from The Little Mermaid were actually gay? It’s funny because then we could show him swishing around wearing flamboyant colors and nuzzling noses with a guy! I should note that despite the ridiculous amount of nuzzling that this scene contained, there was no actual kissing—you know, that thing that people do when they’re in love? Because while two men acting swishy is the funniest damn thing in the world, making out is just icky.
I’m not going to come down too hard on this scene. I can’t remember who wrote it, but odds are good that I’m at least friendly with them. How sophisticated can you really expect something that was written, produced and performed by college students to be anyway? All I’m really angry about is a lack of maturity on the part of the general public. Someday, we’ll all grow up and get bored with this shit. I’m bored with it already. In the meantime, there’s Cat Stevens. A couple years ago, I was in a scene with the aforementioned comedy group that required me to go insane. That is, I was playing a psychopath and got a little bit carried away. Grabbing the arm of my costar during rehearsal, I gripped too hard and gave her a bruise. Throwing a book offstage during a performance, I missed hitting her in the head by about six inches. After opening night, I had to go home and listen to Cat Stevens for at least an hour. It was around that moment that I realized that maybe I shouldn’t devote my entire life to acting.
Spirituality is difficult to incorporate into comedy. Mike Myers tried it with The Love Guru and made a movie so bad that I refuse to even watch it to find out how bad it is. No, I don’t think I’m being judgmental. Look at the poster. The tagline, for those of you too lazy to click on the link (most of you, I’m guessing) is “His karma is huge.” What in the name of Satan’s gooch does that mean? Karma, unless I’m gravely mistaken, is not quantifiable. It can be good or bad, but not big or small. Shouldn’t the man who spent over a decade developing this character and studying Eastern philosophy know that? Yeah, I get it: it’s a dick joke. Ha ha, that’s hilarious. But it’s not a double entendre, which might make it funny. It would have been funnier to just change the stars’ names to Anita Lay and Alpha Kenny One.
Comedy doesn’t have to be intelligent, although there’s nothing wrong with it if it is. What is has to be is funny. Listening to Weird Al Yankovic again after falling in love with him as a preteen, I’m shocked by how well most of his work holds up. He probably appeals more to prepubescent boys, but that’s just because he is so cheerfully unpretentious. In fact, he has shown more longevity than many of the artists he parodies. His career is still going strong. What has Coolio done lately? So many stars burn out young. Which of the current crop of big names in the music industry will still be standing in 20 years? The ones who fare best, in my experience, tend to be the ones with a hint of self-awareness. That doesn’t guarantee success, mind you. But it certainly helps in telling a good story.