Tag Archives: standup

Is your laugh genuine or strategic?

Is your laugh genuine or strategic?

Did you know we've been laughing for 7 million years?

The Quarter Review of Biology recently published a study on laughter.  There are two kinds.  (Of course, Osho wrote about four kinds, so science is still lagging behind on this front…)

Thee first kind of laughter is a) spontaneous and b) stimulus-driven.  The study says that just because someone is laughing with you, doesn???t mean that it is spontaneous or stimulus-driven, which is the natural kind of laugh that mirrors ape play, which arose around seven million years ago.

The second, ???dark side of laughter??? kind of laugh is strategic and sometimes can be cruel. "One type of laughter arises spontaneously from the perception of a certain class of events, while the other is used strategically in interaction to influence others or modulate one's own physiology," said Gervais, who is a researcher in the Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University in New York.  Here's where I read the article.

In laughter yoga, I aim for my laughter to always be the first kind of laughter.  But I don't think this study gets at the whole picture.  Laughter needs to be practiced to become part of one's life if it's been missing for a long time.  That's why in laughter yoga, we encourage one another to laugh, through exercises designed to create that spontaneous first kind of laughter.  Don't feel discouraged if it takes time to remember how to laugh spontaneously.  It's still a practice for me.  I'm even starting to laugh at standup comedy again after years of training myself to slap the table with a straight face and say in a deadpan tone, "That's funny."  But it takes practice.

So come practice.  Come take a laughter yoga class with me.  Or come see a standup comedy show!


Solo Performer and Comedian Joe Klocek on Secrets

Solo Performer and Comedian Joe Klocek on Secrets

Master head shot I met Joe in 1998 when I first started doing standup.  He was about to start headlining at the Punchline then, and his comedy has grown and ripened into a fine french cheese.  It's riddled with self-deprication, wit, and charm.  He is one of the best "riffers" in San Francisco history, on and off stage.  We did his show last Sunday (I was performing a bit from my new, new show for the first time.)  I have to say the crowd was a little quiet, and that had me feeling some nervousness.  Back stage joking around with Joe was actually about three times as much fun as being on stage with the crowd.  I forgot how much fun Joe is to kid around with.  

Here's five minutes with Joe Klocek on standup, solo show/solo performance, storytelling, and comedy in general. Joe's new venture is a monthly show called Previously Secret Information, in which performers walk the line between storytelling and standup comedy.

Alicia Dattner: How long have you been doing stand up?

Joe Klockek: 17 years.

AD: But, Joe, you're like so proficient at sstand up why start telling stories that aren't all funny? Isn't what people want just the good stuff? Just the funny stuff? Like, that's the part non-comedians can't do on their own. That's why you're here, isn't it?

JK: I love stand up and will always be a stand up. I found that editing a incredible, often times life changing event in my life down to only the funny parts started to feel like I wasn't respecting those moments fully. These stories have love, loss, hope, death and faith all told honestly without over the top dramatics. A good edits an adventure down to a series of 30 second jokes. I like to think of this show as the story behind the punch lines. Its for people who want something a little more thoughtful in their comedy.

AD: What kinds of stories do you tell in this show?

JK: I tell one story about losing everything in the Utah desert after I hit a cow with my car. I have another one about taking a stuffed animal to a food court in a mall and then security tries to kick me out. The stories are funny sometimes tragic always entertaining episodes from my life.

AD: What kinds of stories do other comics tell? Who else has performed in this show?

JK: We have had a lesbian explain breast feeding an adopted child, a man tell about helping his father with a plumbing disaster and a woman tell what she wanted to say at a funeral for her mother. 

AD: Who are some of your favorite performers that walk this line that you're proposing we walk?

JK: This might be cocky sounding, but I don't know. The goal is to take elements from solo performance and stand-up comedy to get at something real where the audience doesn't feel sperated from the storyteller and the storyteller feels they are in a place where always getting a laugh isn't bad.

AD: What's the craziest thing you've ever seen?

JK: I once saw a mostly naked man get on the 38 Geary holding a jar of peanut butter, crakers and a guitar. He yelled, "Does anyone have a knife?" The bus was silent for a second then a woman reached in her purse and took out a butter knife. She handed it to him and he sat down quietly to spread peanut butter on his crakers. But that is another story.

AD: Anything else you want to share?

JK: Come see Previously Secret Information at the StageWerx theater.  

Sure I’m laughing… but is it comedy?

Sure I’m laughing… but is it comedy?

laughter yoga
Alicia Dattner leads laughter yoga every week..

I have seen a lot of standup comedy. I have seen thousands of comedians perform in the last dozen years. And I’ve performed somewhere between one thousand and two thousand times… What did that do for me? I laughed a lot.

But I also got pretty jaded and, well, admittedly, a little bitter. I got so into analyzing the jokes, comparing comedians, cataloging bits, and thinking about what makes the funny… I stopped really laughing after a while. When I did laugh, it was either kind of fake, or just a smile… a “that’s clever” smile. I lost the actual pleasure I went into comedy for in the first place. The physical sensation of uncontrollable paroxyms shaking my body. The sense of being totally powerless, driven to pleasure. An itchy sort of pleasure… Joke-tellers are tickling your mind.

The only way I truly find that uncontrollable laughter these days is watching reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos on Youtube. I consider myself a relatively intellectual person with relatively refined tastes… But something about watching people fall while dancing, get kicked in the groin,houses fall over, pants falling off… It kills me! Something to do with shutting of my brain and letting my limbic system take over. I laugh so hard that I start to cry–and then I’m bawling and laughing, tears, drool, happy and sad,gleaning some perspective on this short, crazy life we fall into and are pulled from… It’s very spiritual. But I decided there has to be another way to get my rocks off like that.

What’s a comic to do? Laughter Yoga. Of course! When I returned from traveling in India last year, I resolved to become a certified Laughter Yoga leader. I trained with Lydia Gonzalez, who trained with the Indian inventor of Laughter Yoga, Dr. Madan Kataria. And now I lead Laughter Yoga every Tuesday in Dolores Park.

What the heck is Laughter Yoga? Do you hold poses and laugh? Yeah… but mostly we just bounce around and giggle. Shut off the brain. We laugh for no reason, we act like idiots, we roll down hills, we do yogic breathing, sun salutations… It’s great. Plus, did you know that laughing reduces hunger cravings? I just read it in a study!
Wanna come? It’s Tuesdays at 6:00 pm in Dolores Park, at 19th Street, on the East side, just to the left of the steps. Look for the sandwich board sign and silly people. Suggested donation $10. You can sign up in advance at eventbrite.

Shatner Does Palin, Pulled from Youtube

Shatner Does Palin, Pulled from Youtube

A couple of nights ago on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, William Shatner took parts of Sarah Palin’s goodbye speech and rendered them in a way that only he can. He and maybe Ginsberg. With bongos and bass behind him. It’s comedy because it’s classic beat-style poetry.

“[The cold, though…] doesn’t it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs? And then in the summertime such extreme summertime about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago, than just some months from now”

Can’t find it on Youtube? That’s because NBC would prefer that you view their copyrighted material on their own site, where you can see the sexy Gatorade ad first. I understand that. We all gotta make a living. So, the poetry of Alaska’s frozen plains, brought to you by Palin, brought to you by Shatner, brought to you by NBC, brought to you by Gatorade, brought to you by examiner.com me, brought to you by me. Now if that’s not community and connection bringing us all together in a swirling matrix of love and commerce, I don’t know what is.

See the clip here.

Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…

Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…

Phoenix: I am inspired by the magical bird who, every 500 years, builds a nest, sets it alight, and burns in its own fire. It then rises anew from the ashes and lives again. Reminds me of Passover. Like the flood story from the Torah, a version of the Phoenix story exists in China, Japan, Russia, Egypt, Greece, originating in… you guessed it, India (Garuda, the bird of Vishnu.)

Show Report: Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…
I’m sitting in my friend Abby’s dining room in Tucson, Arizona. Abby’s three month old baby, Juna, is adorable and amazing. Bouncing Juna in my arms is at once peaceful and thrilling. It’s sunny here with a light breeze that carries the tune of morning songbirds. The air is dry and intermittently dusty, the land dotted with cactus. Dogs bark at night in packs, reminding me of India, but with less death-cries. Today I visited my comedian friend Robert Mac and threw some ideas around for my show about India, “Eat, Pray, Laugh!”

I put on my show “The Punchline” five times in the Phoenix Fringe Festival these past few days. Emotional spaces opened up in my later performances that I had been longing for–there were whole shows, not just moments in which I truly enjoyed myself. I expanded into my characters more playfully, freely, deeply. It was both inspiring and relieving to know that it gets better and better as time goes on.

The audiences were so great… they really enjoyed the show and got what I was offering (although smaller crowds than I would have liked.) Here’s one among many awesome reviews from a fellow Fringer/Storyteller from LA:

“You have a lovely show. I really enjoyed it. You are a very skilled writer and performer, with great command of the story arc… the Distraction Dance was awesome.” -Antonio Sacre

Tucson is less weird than Phoenix. Phoenix is very hot and you can’t walk anywhere. The only kind of “alternative” lifestyle that seems to exist there is the punk genus. If you don’t go to the university and walk around in a bikini and shorts all day, (where is the beach, young ladies??) and you want to be different, you have to be a punk. It’s very sad. The people from the ASU theatre department are great, and really dedicated to bringing more grassroots culture up into Phoenix with the Fringe Festival. Keep on fighting the good fight. Anyway, I stayed in the Hilton by the airport for $45 a night (thank you, Priceline) and was able to get in the jacuzzi every day and watch HBO, so that made up for various shortcomings of the city.

A final highlight: yesterday I drove up to Arcosanti, 75 miles north of Phoenix. It’s an experimental community centered on the architecture and ecology ideas of Italian Paulo Soleri. Soleri, a Guggenheim fellow now about to turn 90, completely re-imagined architecture and city planning such that people, culture, and natural space are the focus, instead of, say, cars, roads, and parking. His city plans are like hives, built to maximize open space and human interaction. Some deep part of my soul called out to me, yearning for such a place to live and work. Even though 50,000 people a year visit Arcosanti, and they’re actively building a city big enough to house 7,000 people, the pace is a snail’s. They need an infusion of millions of dollars to really build it. Maybe they can get in on that stimulus package…?