Please Stand Up

The Second City.
Chicago, Illinois. 2019.

“Live, Laugh, Love” has got to be the most disingenuous, unnerving catchphrase in modern history. It has become much less a mantra in practice, and a bit more of a 13-character stencil that can be neatly lacquered on virtually any non-porous surface.

We’ve all seen this tagline etched on a social media bio, gallery wall, or stainless steel water bottle for which “I’m entirely unapproachable” would be more fitting.

But… what if we truly prioritized the virtues of living, laughing, and loving above all else?

I recently stumbled upon an incredible theory about laughter. It speculates that sincere laughter is ‘the sound of understanding’. In more words, it is the product of an acknowledgment that any one concept simply exists, and is collectively recognized. This explains why we may unexpectedly laugh at content that is embarrassing, shocking, or otherwise controversial.

For this reason, our laughter can often be our “tell”. While it does not necessarily indicate approval, it validates the underlying shared human experience.

Consider, for a moment, Dave Chappelle’s comments on voting for Hillary Clinton for President:

“That sh*t was like watching Darth Vader do the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. That b*tch is mean as hell. She’d already Karate-Kid-swept Bernie Sanders legs from underneath him. But, it was the lesser of the evils.”

Dave Chappelle, Equanimity. 2017.

Whether you voted for Donald, Hillary, Gary, or wrote in Dax Shepard… that bit should make you laugh. You don’t need to agree with Dave on any part of the joke for it to be funny. Instead, you simply need to understand that Hillary Clinton may have been perceived by some to be a ‘lesser evil’.

This supports the notion that the human objective for communication is not unanimity. Rather simply, it is empathy.

And that, kids, is how Dave Chappelle nearly established world peace.

Together, we’re here to finish his work. We’re about to geek out about some stellar comedic content and the hidden gems of shared human experience tucked neatly inside.

This time, we’re zeroing in on a show that spurred the inception of this blog: Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. In this series, Jerry showcases his love for dashing automobiles, hand-crafted coffee, and brutally honest conversation.

The only thing more entertaining than the punch-ups on this show, is the visible effect Jerry’s presence has upon his guests. He turns big name comedians into doe-eyed, nervous, vulnerable puddles of people-pleasing energy (even if only for a moment).

Each episode broaches a new life lesson with deliberate flair. Yet, three specific recurring themes prescribe an evolved approach to comedy and communication itself.

  • Stay humble. Relativity is attractive. Not the Steven Hawking kind. But, the kind that reminds your audience of your humanity. Bonus points if you remind them of their own.
    • Jerry explains to Sarah Jessica Parker that ‘mothers never have headaches, they only have SPLITTING headaches!’. We can all relate to the Big Fish-style hyperbole of our parents’ lives that regularly infiltrates our memory. SJP considers these qualities she has unknowingly adopted in her own parenting style.
    • Tina Fey shares that eating junk food serves as a ‘mini vacation’ from a stressful day. If you can’t relate to this, please leave.
    • John Mulaney remembers walking into a middle school lunchroom, and reading every teenage girl’s face assessing him and simply saying an inaudible “no”. If you can’t relate to this either, please leave for real this time.
  • Be weird. When you have the audacity to express your unfiltered self, you give permission to those around you to do the same. This liberation keeps them coming back for more.
    • Fred Armisen is the king of weird. Jerry & Fred decide that bats are great because they’re not birds, they’re the color black, and they’re like ‘hamsters with an idea’. Weird, but not wrong.
    • Fred & Jerry also take turns asking incredibly deep questions about each others’ creative process just to leave the table while the other begins to answer. The camera pans to the empty chair across from the rambling mega-star left behind talking to himself. This makes a blatant mockery of how serious we take ourselves, and I’m here for every second of it!
    • When Jerry mistakes a freckle for a spot of chocolate, Fred explains, ‘Ahh, actually just had that freckle put in’. Without pause. Do you understand how genius this is? I’ve never had a good response for my freckled face being the way it is when it’s called into question.
    • Tina Fey orders a wheat puff milkshake because it’s the oddest thing on the menu at an NYC diner. When it turns out to be exactly what it sounds like (puff cereal, sugar, & milk), they state that they “know what it is, but… why it is?”. They conclude it must be keeping the local geriatrics fortified for battle.
  • Keep it honest. Don’t sacrifice your standards for a cheap laugh. When you play close to the heart, you’re more likely to build a meaningful connection anyway.
    • Tina opens up about the struggle of balancing feminine projections and comedic aspirations. She right-sizes her turmoil by recognizing it could be worse, as “some people work in coal mines”.
    • When John explains he is nervous to have kids due to his lack of traditional faith (and the ensuing questions about heaven), Jerry doesn’t snag the low-hanging fruit. Instead, Jerry professes “kids don’t need anything, they just need you”. Swoon.
    • Jerry shares a moving story about a mechanic in his father’s shop that rode his motorcycle to work on a particularly stormy day. He asked the man if he wished he had a car, but the man coolly remarked “no, I just wish it wasn’t raining”. This personifies steadfastness, and literally sends chills down my spine. Be this guy.

Dare I say, might successfully harnessing these lessons help us reintroduce the real spirit behind “Live, Laugh, Love” into daily practice? Because if not, I have to stop by Hobby Lobby and return some things.

The Genesee Theatre.
Waukegan, Illinois. 2018.

In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few delightful shows: Second City, Tom Segura, John Mulaney, Jim Breuer, Colin Jost, Jay Pharoah, & soon, Joe Rogan*.

However, I have been absolutely humbled by the powers that be when it comes to ticket reservations. Anytime a love interest buys tickets to a live show, we always break up before said event. You bet your sweet ass I’ll see the writing on the wall next time, Fandango man!

RIP sweet, sweet Kevin Hart & Tom Segura tickets. Catch ya on Netflix.

I am always looking for new comedy content, so feel free to share your live show/podcast/series/specials recommendation details in the ‘Contact’ form on my main website.