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This is now an advice column
The First Question: 'How Can I Be Funny Like You'
Before we dive in, a brief explanation: this newsletter is now an advice column. Why? Simple. Because the ‘advice column’ format:
is a great excuse to write regularly 👍
gets me out of my own problems and into someone else’s 😅
might be a way I can help people. stretch goal. 🍄
I floated the idea on Twitter and received my first question from a friend of mine named James in Seattle, WA.
Q1: How Can I Be Funny Like You
— James from Seattle, WA
A1: James, I'm sorry but I think you've got me confused with someone else. Another Alex maybe? Perhaps Alex Edelman, a way more successful comedian with whom I share many traits (from Boston, Jewish)? I've reached out to him for an answer to your question. Waiting to hear back.
I sort of want to end the answer there. That would be funny. But alas, I am not funny, so I shall continue.
I’m battling against the urge to continue down this road of self deprecation by questioning the very premise of your question. I want to tell you, “I am not funny, James.” But that’s not a good look, so instead I’ll share a quick anecdote from my early days in the Austin improv community that I hope to god relates.
I learned how to improvise at The Hideout Theatre, a blackbox theater in the heart of downtown Austin with a coffee shop and just about the best teachers and fans I’ve ever known. The theater had a tradition where, after every show, the whole cast would rush out of theater and into the coffee shop and wait for the audience to file out and say hello. They’d often stop and tell us how much they loved the show and sometimes even single out one of us and say something like “you were so funny!”
As much as my ego craved / lived off these compliments, I was awful at receiving them. More often than not I’d respond with some real dipshit retort and diminish their praise much the same way I began my answer to you. I’d say something real dumb like, “You thought this was good? This was…okay. Now let me tell you all the reasons why this sucked."
Many n00b improvisers were guilty of the same. One night after a particularly egregious display of this ‘not so humble negging’ (the opposite of a humble brag), our show’s director and a co-owner of the theater, Roy Janik, decided to take us to school. In the most kind and loving Roy way, he explained, "When someone gives you a compliment after the show, just take the compliment. It isn’t your job to question the compliment, or correct and educate the person giving the compliment.”
He said that the compliment isn't even about you. It's about them. People give compliments largely for their sake, not for yours. It is your job simply to receive it, fully and wholeheartedly.
So, given that logic, I shouldn't have written any of the above. I should now, knowing what I know, delete all of this and begin again with a simple and kind "aw thanks man, I appreciate your kind words."
But I won't, because I’m a weak man. And maybe, just maybe, the above is an obtuse way of showing you how you can be funny like me - by being honest and sharing your vulnerabilities in a humorous way. He was answering the question the whole time 🤯
Not buying it? Me neither. Let’s try one more time.
Your question: “how can I be funny like you?”
My answer: you can't!
But you can be funny like you. *cue inspirational music* Even better, you already are funny like you. There's nothing to it (put your back into it, James, for god's sake).
Still not satisfied? I can’t get your money back but I can share a few tidbits on how to be funny or, more specifically, now to connect more with the funny that’s already in your life.
Explore the weird: Notice when you find something odd, different, or funny. Explore why it is weird for you. Inside of that reason why is a whole lot of comedy, probably.
Speak the subtext - In a conversation, the subtext is the unspoken stuff that’s going on inside of you or between you and someone else. The subtext throughout this post has been that I am an insecure and self centered prick. Now that I said it, it’s funny! If you can name it and call it out, it’s usually funny. And if it isn’t, just comment on how your trying to call something out that wasn’t there was rough, and that will be funny!
Love the mistakes - Enjoy the lower status world of being the one who loses, who fails, etc. That is funny. It’s also humbling and prevents you from looking like a pretentious prick. Win win!
This is, by the way, the hardest thing in the world. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution’s got nothing on how trying to ‘win’ in life makes you suck at comedy.
Increase, hold and release tension - People on TikTok are doing this better than just about anywhere else. Watch them and become a social media superstar. If you do, I want 10% of all your followers.
Fart - When all else fails, and it will, James, it most definitely will, let one rip. Then another and then a third. Farts are funny. No way around it.
Have I helped James? I hope so. Either way, give me a good rating on Advice Yelp would you? I really do need this.