Exposure To Comunicate
I was first exposed to stand-up comedy between the age of 8 or 9 years old. All this time I thought the defining moment happened during the fourth grade, but after doing some math, I was wrong. Either it was my first try at the third grade or the second. It’s the same grade, so I’m right either way.
I guess if I’m going to dig into what will be a three part series. I should probably hold off on theatrical and emotional bullshit. After all, isn’t it my job to first draw you in with the set-up. So instead, let’s start with my first run in with comedy.
“Richard Pryor: Live in concert” is the first live performance I watched. First released on vinyl in 1978 under its original title, “WANTED: Richard Pryor Live in Concert” . Both the vinyl and video were shot and recorded from Pryor’s 1978 tour. Then 1979 the video was released on Betamax. The first full length film featuring only stand-up comedy. Wikipedia, you’re the best, I never knew that.
Now thanks to my Uncle Ted for his inappropriate decision making, I was afforded the opportunity to see this video. Hell, I should give credit to my mom too because she’s the one most responsible. She forced me to tag along so she could see it, which took place at my Nonna’s house. As fate would have it, mom figured I couldn’t possibly fully comprehend Richard’s humor. Sorry, you couldn’t have been more wrong. Underestimating my intellectual thought process single handedly set the wheels of my future in motion.
Now, maybe because I wasn’t laughing with the rest of my family, mom figured she pulled it off. I did get it though. Every word coming out of his mouth was hilarious, brilliant and true. I was in complete awe and that’s the only reason for not laughing. I tried wrapping my head around the fact he was even doing it at all. I had a harder time comprehending that. It was a mind blowing concept to think someone with just a microphone could make thousands of people laugh until they were breathless. There wasn’t anything complex about it. He was simply breaking down the fabrics of life and then explaining it in a way everyone could relate to. This nearly popped my already compromised little cerebral palsy brain. I understood exactly what I was watching, and for me, his performance was literary magic. In that very moment, I was given all the necessary tools to cope with the cruelties nature throws our way.
Not long afterwards, I managed to secretly listen to, “George Carlin :Class Clown”. Although Richard Pryor was my true inspiration and driving force. It was Carlin that helped me practice fundamentally the most important piece of great comedy; comedic timing.
I listened to his album over and over until I could quote every line, with the same timing and unique nuances. I rode around the neighborhood on my big-wheel wearing a fucking stupid kettle over my head performing Carlin’s act to all the older kids. Only God knows why I was wearing a kettle, because it sure in the hell doesn’t make sense to me. I was Little Lonnie Appleseed ripping off Carlin. A weird boy still on a big-wheel because I couldn’t manage balancing while walking. Successfully riding a bicycle was never happening, not for many years to come. You never steal other people’s material, I learned that too. If I hadn’t though, I wouldn’t have learned the timing I have today. The gritty streets of Sellwood became my first comedy tour. Me and Carlin were a huge hit.
Memories like this remind me, humor is a weapon. It’s used to fight back against nature’s cruelty; because isn’t life just one twisted joke anyway?
*Nonna: The Italian word for grandmother.