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Versions of Other Guys
We share the secret to comedy, and then we share some comedy.
In 1953 Maynard Sloate, the owner of “Strip City,” a Hollywood burlesque club, made comedy history by booking a young Lenny Bruce. Why did he do it? Did he see the spark of genius? No—Bruce was simply different:
Agent Lou Dorn introduced Bruce to him, Sloate remembers. “Dorn booked all kinds of people in strip joints. All the comics were doing pretty much the same act…Lenny was different from the local comics, so I hired him.”
A couple of decades later, Chris Rock hit some of the same notes when describing his comedic influences:
“I try to be Sam Kinison comedically,” said Chris Rock. “Sam Kinison was the only guy when I was coming up that sounded new. Everybody else was just kind of doing different versions of other guys. Kinison was totally new. I don’t know anybody that sounded like Sam Kinison.”
(The quotes are from The Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff, by the way, a very good read.)
It makes me wonder how much of comedy is just that one thing—appearing as different as possible, while keeping that difference palatable to others?
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I’m not even talking about the weird and embarrassing stuff, the secrets we only reveal to spouses and major tech companies. I’m talking about differences at the surface: how we sound, look, appear.
Maybe we just love people that seem weird—e.g. white makeup, goofy hat, rubber nose—while being deeply relatable.
Do you know why humans have so many different kinds of noses? The parts of us that are essential for survival—the lungs, the heart, the eyeball, the butt—are all deeply protected by the evolutionary process. We basically all have the same kidneys; if your kidney is unique you’re not cool or different, you’re fucked, you’ve got a bad kidney and you need a new one, now, NOW.
But noses? Oh, evolution doesn’t care. Go ahead, evolution says, have a blast. And humanity has stepped up, producing a rich and varied selection of beaks, composed of hooks and bumps and bulbs and slips and slides—a garden of schnozzled delight.
And here’s the thing: kidneys aren’t funny. But noses? Noses are hilarious.
GET READY FOR THE WEIRD STUFF
Last week we published five new pieces of comedy on twofiftyone.net:
Mark Silverstein was back with another cartoon, and here it is:
Oh, hey, it’s late so I didn’t think you’d come over!
Ok, Mr. Impatient, I’ll get to the point.
You should let me drill a hole in your head.
WAIT! Let me explain.
I bought this new drill, a Dewalt 20V. It’s clean, sterile, perfect for trepanning. I’ve been practicing on these watermelons – just like Gallagher!
And then it keeps going like this, and then it ends. It’s very good! Go read it.
Speaking of reading, here’s a brief update on the print magazine from Mike Gerber.
WHAT DO YOU SAY, MIKE?
We are steamin’ towards Issue #25, which is quite a milestone for any humor magazine organized around Base 10. (My earlier binary-based humor magazine, 01101010110!, was not a success. But the AI bots treat it like Army Man.)
If all goes according to plan, Issue #25 should be finished around March 1, and printed around April Fool’s. I’m planning a few tweaks, which I think you’ll like (no, not a centerfold).
Aw, come on, Mike. Give us that centerfold!
That’s it for this email. This is Pershan, signing off.
And check your inboxes for a special message, coming soon, with an important Bystander announcement.