Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Comedy and School

I realized later in life that I had been studying stand up, TV shows, movies and sketch comedy as a kid. Shows like "Always Sunny", "The Simpsons", "South Park", "Family Guy" "The Whitest Kids U know", "Mad TV", "SNL", and comedians like Ralphie May, Jim Gaffigan, and Nick Swardson, etcetera. Watching their specials because they made me feel good, and I could connect to things that they were saying. Listening to them share their struggles and experiences, and seeing them use these struggles to make a living and generate laughter for others was amazing to me. 

Watching Ralphie May talk about doing acid, and how to do it properly made me think “Oh wow, you can talk about this stuff and not get in trouble for it? Also, you can do acid and it doesn’t ruin your life.” And with Ralphie May being overweight, he inspired me to feel confident about myself. I still didn't for a long time, and can still struggle to.

Jim Gaffigan talked a lot about being lazy, and overweight, and this also helped me feel better about myself as a shy and depressed thirteen year old. Nick Swardson talking about staying up until 6am playing video games and getting angry with ten year old German kids beating him online made me think, “Oh you can still be successful in life even if you play video games that much.” Stuff like this made me feel good, and assured me that I don't have to listen to everything adults I am in contact with tell me, especially teachers. Because these people that I like and who make me laugh are saying things that I agree with and go against what is "supposed" to work in life, according to authoritative figures.

In my traditional schooling they taught me to go for what is safe, and to get good grades so I could get a decent job and have stability. Watching comedy specials and TV shows and movies showed me the exciting and fun aspects of entertainment and life, and that you don’t have to stick to a traditional path. That’s what initially got me into comedy, I was at Souther Illinois University in Carbondale, and not liking being in university there. I was obsessed with trying stand up and I did, and did it 17 more times before I left there after a year.

I was in a couple of film classes, and some of the teachers were still saying things like “If you don’t pay attention, you won’t pass the class, then you won’t get a degree and will end up on the street...” These people actually believed this stuff, so looking back I’m not that mad at them. At the time I was pissed off about people saying that shit to me. I think it’s a toxic thing to say to young people, most of us believe that and go to school under the illusion that we need a degree to be successful. This same teacher was about 40 years old and shared that she was still in debt to her education, and she believed it was worth it. She was nice enough, but I felt that she was perpetuating a vicious cycle of going to school to get to degrees to be in debt. 

Some of my friends went to school for accounting or some malarkey. Got through their classes, and studied for their tests using Aderall and other drugs to stay up late and study, and to do well on tests. They suffered through their classes, binge drinking and snorting amphetamines throughout their time at school. Complaining and trying to forget their classes during the week. Now they are graduated, and some are still taking these drugs and binge drinking to forget about their shitty jobs. Because they bought into the illusion that you “NEED” a degree to get a safe job. 

I may look like a hypocrite, because I am currently in school for acting, which you don't need a degree for. I am meeting a lot of people in this field in Chicago, have been able to travel to Prague, and England for terms abroad, and won't be in debt when I graduate. My parents and other people encouraged me to go back, I did after taking six months off, and am glad I did. I had amazing times studying overseas! I am lucky that my parents can afford it, otherwise I would have stuck with an Associates degree. Back to comedy.

I some comedy, people think about what’s in front of them, what is seen as the status quo, and rebel against it because there is something not right about following the system. Because the system is meant to keep us in line, and to go with the flow because it’s easy for the system to make us stop asking so many questions. I'm not really sure what "the system" is, maybe the government, or some powers that make things hard for people. I'm a low key conspiracy theorist I suppose. And feel like people and things want us to sit down and shut up, rather than go for our dreams. It’s important to have philosophies, to challenge what everyone else is doing if it doesn't feel right. And to think and discuss things that are going on in your life.
Satire really spoke to me as a kid. Being able to make a point about something was what I felt I needed to do to be truly heard. And having my own thoughts validated by older, smarter, funny people made me see it as possible for myself. Watching funny stuff growing up made me believe that I could do it, because I had similar thoughts and ideas about life. It would upset me when I heard my friends say they were not creative. For awhile I didn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to make a living making people laugh. Pointing out the flaws and hypocrisy’s in society and humanity, and exploring the human condition. 

I think I somehow connected school and comedy here. Ultimately I am glad I went to Columbia College Chicago. I have met some great people, learned some great things, and am so grateful for spending a month in Prague, Czech Republic, and six months in Bath, England where I met some incredible students, friends and teachers and a truly amazing girl who I am in love with (Georgia). I am ready to graduate in December, and be done with it, and am glad that I did it. And have been doing some form of comedy since I started October 23rd in 2013 at an open mic in Carbondale.