The Belly of the Beast-Night #66

Somewhere in Hollywood when the clock strikes twelve, I find myself watching a sort of performance. A boozed, late-night, pants seat excursion, built to pray on the whims of the barely lucid. Comics, jugglers, even a dummy act: the artistic equivalent of the perfect cart taco to carry you through into tomorrow’s epic hangover. This is joy, pure and simple. In this tiny room in these tiny hours, the strange and abstract rule . Throughout the show, performers ecstatically solicit our attention in the hopes that together we can create an event on the scale of some forgotten Dionysian ritual, pouring into the streets, rabid and crazy-eyed, begging for more.

I was ready, I tell ya.

My compatriots, however, were reluctant to leave their seats.

It quickly became apparent that not only was I the one person prepared to charge the stage, but I was also the only person laughing, responding, or, as it often seemed, breathing. What gives? This was a great, if bizarre and largely improvised show. I would take vaudeville over a “traditional” production any day of the week. And maybe the best part about a comedy show where the audience is so close to the performers is that we are encouraged to talk, yell, and throw things back. Let us not forget that such audience participation has its very roots in the theatre of yore, from tribal community dances to Shakespeare himself ( whose plays I believe should cease to be performed as they no longer have any relevant meaning, but I suppose that’s another blog.)

For centuries, the will of the audience dictated exactly what happened onstage and how. Should an audience content themselves to incite a brawl half way through the show, the actors, not to be outdone, would more than likely join in.

But passions of that nature are rare in this age.

Now, we just have irony.

“If irony is the ethos of our age — and it is — then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living.”

Even the New York Times admits that if adult men who wear Rainbow Brite back packs are the leaders of tomorrow, we’re in trouble. It’s important to think about the consequences of building our entire identity on a one-off joke, especially when it’s the best joke we’ve got.

Here’s the thing about irony. Because you’re not creating anything new, the humor is finite. Without invention, you’re just repeating something someone else did with a smirk on your face, and because that comedy only stretches so far, it’s not actually that funny. More so, because irony is now basically just a big contest where one person with a mustache tries to be cooler than another person with a mustache, when told the most uproarious joke in the world, neither will laugh, just to prove how cool they are.

Such was the case this night. The laughs were few. The mustaches were many.

And as I leave the theatre, walking out into the drizzly two o’clock haze, I regret not laughing louder, responding faster, jumping onstage and yelling, to the abhorrence  of my peers, that this is the only godforsaken life we have! Why not go big?!

Ah well, maybe next Saturday.

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About the Author: Jen Davis is a stranger in a strange land. Following a life of wandering and re-location(where am i? WHO AM I?) she made a decisive (drunken) decision to forsake all things holy and move to Southern California. She recently received her BA in Theatre while narrowly avoiding a minor in philosophy. Jen has staged plays, mimes, sword fights, and cakewalks throughout the Pacific Northwest, most recently as Associate Artistic Director of Toy Boat Theatre Company. She seeks to revitalize and re-establish the theatre as a necessary part of American life through producing, writing, and generally crying out to anyone who will listen. Her marketable skills include learning to juggle, baking, and persistence.

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