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They love the process, the art and the final product. Even with the resurgence of comedy on the internet, self-made stuff and podcasts. Suddenly a portion of those people who love comedy in that way instead of becoming performers took an academic or a deeply critical tech into looking at comedy. I can remember a time when there were no people who cared to have an in-depth discussion of one album versus another in the way that music nerds talk to each other or film nerds talk to each other. Until when there are not real academics writing books and having these conversations, but part of the success of podcasts is this rise of those fans who want to know about the process and think deeply about it.

Which is strange because to performers, a lot of them are against this idea of overthinking comedy. They think that sex, the magic and the juice out of it, but for some of us the magic is in digging deep into what makes it funny. There are a lot of arguments against that, but if you were to build one and say that it is, I would point to Hannah Gadsby.

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Here is a much talked about comedy special that has built into an analytical theory about what comedy is. While the benign violation, in my opinion, is a useful idea. There is a difference between intellectual life and the artistic life. A lot of comedy, first of all, is intellectual on different grounds but also a lot of us is instinctual. It is impossible to ultimately wrangle down an art form. As an anthropologist, I did focus on modern American culture and in specifically through the lens of the artist and production of art in America.

There are a couple of different ways that temporality matters for art. One is the amount of time it takes to produce it from concept to final product. The other is the amount of time it takes for an audience to take it in and have a response. The slowest art form, I would venture to say is price sculpture. They have the slow response time. The feedback is years later. White supremacists are going to be fighting with somebody else about whether or not to take this down. The fastest temporality and the reason I started observing stand-ups deeply is because it has the fastest temporality in all three of those scenarios, which means I get to observe these processes more quickly than I would in any art form.

Something it happens on Twitter now and you get up on stage later. Not only do you already have a joke or the beginning of a joke with that, but also off the cuff remarks, things in the moment.

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You get immediate feedback from the audience as to whether they groan, they liked it, they laughed, you lost them at the end. Especially in New York, you can get off stage and go right back on another stage and make those adjustments in the moment. The negative temporality attached to that is the short shelf life. They are about addressing the present and getting feedback in the present, even recording it and putting out a special is already a dead form of the art. He reminds me a lot of comedies because he worked on multiple art paintings at once.

The most obvious thing with them is most of them are not appreciated until after their death because their ideas tend to not be of the present, but of the future in their field. There are some that operate closer on that spectrum to comics, in action performance of their art. Why did I bring this up?


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While we can loosely apply theory to both of those comedy, they are distinctly different because one is trying to find that sweet spot and the other one is stumbling to it. The whole work of being a stand-up comic is refining that sweet spot. Try again. I wanted to make sure I always end with the same question and I have a feeling that both of you will have rich answers to this question, which is what are you reading, watching or listening to that is good that stands out? I know we both liked Russian Doll.

I watched it twice already too and you had an interesting theory. I also had one. Russian Doll is a series that has one season on Netflix starring Natasha Lyonne. She co-wrote it. Maybe like grownup Kids. Do you remember Kids? I read a memoir, which is not good. Her documentary about her was outstanding.

The author was clear about having spent about one observing comedy before writing this. If someone who came from outside, someone who watched Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy growing up, used to watch Saturday Night Live and liked comedy. Maybe fancied themselves as being funny around the lunch table. I got introduced to the world of comedy because I started trying to answer this question.

What makes things funny? One of the first things I watched was the movie Comedian, the documentary comedian about Jerry Seinfeld going out on the road post-Seinfeld. It was like someone had turned the lights on. I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. It may be the case that book will be useful for novices. Nowadays, podcasts and there are other ways to find out about this, but that time, living in Boulder, Colorado.

It was unusual. It shows you how much things have changed.

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In , there was a book that came out called The Last Laugh. There were no books about comedy. All of the comics of his generation talk about this one book. It gives you a behind the scene of what it was like. It was a different world. We all have different points of view on it.

Chappelle has a comedy special where he talks about this book Pimp by Iceberg Slim. Is this ringing a bell? He comes up with this over-the-top grift where she thinks she killed the guy to get her not to leave.

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He tells this whole story. Chappelle, when he returned, the truth is he never went away. He was performing live constantly and he was talking about this stuff live. He was giving a variety of cryptic answers. My feeling on why he left, you should read the Kindle single. When I did that piece, I went to Ohio where he lives. I talked to a wide variety of people, people who knew him when he was a kid. There were many different answers.

The most intriguing piece of reporting I unearthed was his best friend in high school who went on to star in The Real World. He was the African American guy.

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  6. The first guy that got kicked out of The Real World. His name is Kevin Edwards. That guy who came up with Chappelle in DC. There was a great local DC comedy scene said that when Chappelle was sixteen, he was obsessed with Bobby Fischer. Bobby Fischer famously at the height of his fame, disappeared. Even from a purely financial point of view, that turned out to be a savvy move.


    Thank you because I was curious and I enjoyed that story a lot. It was fascinating. Luisa, you had talked about anthropology and being an anthropologist. As an anthropologist how you try to see, interpret the world, turn off and recognize them and so on. Have you thought about this in this way? Do you think the average comic would make a good anthropologist?

    I do with a whole lot of schooling. They might make it more about them than anthropologists do, but that same acknowledgment is there.