My dad is now 63. I am now tired.
As I am my father’s son, I begin wondering what will happen over the next forty years that will lead me to owning a vaguely successful health food store. I do not look to be on that path, but I also know that is where I will end up. I have to. Maybe the series of accidental demolitions of bridges that I have set aflame will force me off to the woods where I will attempt to drag in some hip urban fad into this sleepy town because I miss the life of culture. Maybe thats the path I will follow. He had the first espresso machine and vegan microwave patties on my island. I’ll have the first storytelling and feminist burlesque show in Incorporated Township #6, Iowa.
There was a professor in college who hated me. I took a class outside of my two regular disciplines of math and theater because I was going through a phase of being interested in African American history. He was a moron. We had very similar beliefs politically – both thought socialism shouldn’t be perceived as some silly idealistic fantasy, wanted to have constant discussions about gender and racial identity, but he hated me. He hated me because he didn’t like the way I brought up topics in class. When I wanted to discuss something that was possibly problematic, I would throw out a theory that I wasn’t sure if I believed or not and asked that we discussed it. This is how I had been taught to analyze in mathematics. Follow a path until you find that it is not the right path and then you are allowed to turn around and start over. Even theater was about analyzing characters, both good and bad, and sometimes this meant that a character you originally thought was good was bad or somewhere in between.
He wanted me to have lengthy internal discussions and research before I said anything. It was his way of maintaining his importance in society. As a professor of an intellectually interesting but completely useless discipline, he was attempting to force his usefulness by demanding that people listen to him not only to hear the amazing amount of information his mind had amassed, but also to form their opinions because he must have better opinions as someone who had spent a lot of time and money studying.
I wrote a paper comparing Chris Rock and August Wilson, using 90s mockumentary CB4 as my main evidence. He hated this. It was a good paper. It was a paper that was well researched and well conceived. He hated it because it compared Chris Rock, a man who was some stupid comedian, to August Wilson, who was one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century.
It was pure pretension that led him to dislike my paper, dislike me, and be a white guy who wore African beads despite referring to African Musical Ensemble as a minstrel show. Pretension is comedy’s biggest enemy. I overheard this same professor once explaining to someone how there was a giant dinosaur in the Mall of America who was playing in front of these kids and how this was just another form of capitalist propaganda. I couldn’t agree with him any more. He said it with a serious tone because he demanded to be taken seriously. How do you not see the hilarity of that situation? It’s a giant stuffed dinosaur telling kids how to shop! That sketch writes itself. Comedy is not the absence of importance, comedy is the explanation of what’s important in a way that can be palatable to discuss. Comedy is not demanding that you be seen as important, intelligent, and god’s gift to humanity but instead focus on the actual issue at hand. Comedy is humility. Comedy is the opposite of pretension.
I am a professional bridge burner. All of this burnings have occurred because I refused to stop making jokes just because I was discussing something serious. Jokes help me get to the deeper truth. The jokes are typically at my own expense or at least taking our beliefs to the extreme so that we can see the absurdity of both our points of view. Others are stubborn. Others refuse to acknowledge any mistake they might have made. Others are pretentious.
Maybe I will follow in my dad’s footsteps. I’ll follow them in that I will have a group of people who hate me, and I will have a group of people who like me a lot. This will be divided along the lines of who understands my form of communication (aka: people with a good sense of humor). I’m comfortable with that.