I’m back on the standup trail again, after a long hiatus spent writing and having various surgeries. It’s different this time around. I’m ten years older and my hair is “executive blond”. I am no longer the fresh young face on the circuit. Instead, I am the battle-worn 45 year old face on the circuit. I’m lucky though, two litres of water a day has kept this battle-worn face baby smooth. So has not smoking and quitting drinking. I look like I’m in my thirties. Just ask guys in their 20s I’ve courted. Why am I back in the clubs trying to make audiences laugh, when I should be home curled up in front of the TV watching gruesome footage of the latest suicide bombing in Iraq? Because if you watch enough footage of suicide bombings, followed by stories about celebrity misbehaviour, juxtaposed with commercials for banks and skin crème and pizza pops, you’ll go mad. Doing standup comedy is like being a part of a fight club. You feel every joke bomb like a blow to the head, and every bit kill like a sweaty embrace. You feel. I’m learning that in middle-age, having brain and body totally engaged at once is a rare and pleasurable sensation. I am greedy for it now. I have been reborn.
Yes, the standup world has changed. Audiences are younger. My frame of reference may need sharpening. I don’t have a cell phone, I don’t have cable, I don’t have a satellite dish, I don’t have high speed internet. I am on Rogers Most Wanted list. It takes me 25 minutes to download four pictures. Why am I not more wired? Simple. I don’t want or need these things. Yesterday’s convenience is today’s necessity. Tomorrow we may find robots essential. But for today, I prefer to give the kid down the street ten bucks to mow my lawn, rather than a cyborg. Come to think of it, with his IPOD taking permanent shape in his ears and his trigger-happy text messaging fingers, the kid down the street is already a cyborg. Get a jump on the competition, Billy! Why not.
It is hard for me to relate. I like listening to birds.
But I persist. I’ve enjoyed riffing on middle-age, how I used to line up for Clash and Sex Pistol tickets and now I line up for a two dollar box of Bran Flakes at Price Chopper. There’s quiet satisfaction in saving a dollar fifty on cereal. That ought to stick it to the man! No need to protest at G8 summits. Younger audiences intimidate me a little. They can be quite conservative. What I may lack in celebrity knowledge they make up for in ignorance of world events, politics, science, religion and anything that doesn’t revolve around their own precious selves. In short, nothing much has changed since I was a pus-filled youth. The only thing different now is the accelerated speed of stupidity and lack of regard. Plus ca change and all that.
I’m not interested in playing only to the Bran Flake set. One of the hippest comics out there is George Carlin. At 70 he’s as relevant as ever, a sharp social satirist who’s not afraid to tear into American culture (or lack thereof). No subject is off limits: suicide, genocide, natural disasters -- all are fair game. Age shouldn’t matter when it comes to comedy; voice and originality should.
So come to the cabaret mein chum. Check out some live comedy. You never know, you may see someone in your demographic on stage, live and alive.