Search Terms Make Me Laugh

This is basically the first blog I’ve ever had.  I know I am late to the party, but it was something that I wanted to try and I if I’m in the mood it can be a lot of fun.  One thing I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how addictive it is watching your blogs stats.  Worpress (this blog is a wordpress blog, everyone) has some cool analytics software built in to the back end so you can see how many people came to your site, where they came from, what they clicked on, etc.  Most of my traffic comes directly from Facebook when I post links there, but there are a handful of views each day come from somebody doing a simple google search. Of all the data WordPress gives you, my favorite by far is knowing what search terms somehow landed people here.

I’d like to share some with you.

So this seems like a pretty standard day.  “Sex for Singing” is a little odd, but it makes sense that they would end up here, it has 2 of the 3 title words.  I mostly wonder why it has 4 independent views? did 4 different people google this? if it was just one person, why did they click on my blog 4 times?  You’d think after the first time they would figure out that I’m (probably) not going to hook-up with them no matter how well they sing.

This one is pretty standard. What I realized when I began looking through these is that there are people on the internet that just google Taylor Lautner all day long.  At least this day I also came up in a search including NYC.

Oh Goodness.  I know that “sex” is in the title of the page, but “Hot rough sex” you have come to the wrong place, sorry.
can anyone make sense of “football players downs their short pants”?  at least my friends Jerzy Jung and Christiano Ronaldo made it.

The weird things here are A) the search for “Taylor Laughter” – that made me crack-up.  and B) that I have never in my life blogged about Alan Valdez.  I didn’t even know that was.  just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything I googled him myself. … yowza.  I should do a blog or four about this guy:

Mike Fink…. Yes I wrote about my secret crush on a tall tale. I wonder why was he all the rage suddenly on November 2? Meanwhile, Lautner stays in the race.

Seriously, who googles this?  And it was even on 10-10-10.  You should have been out celebrating dude, that only happens once every millenium.  Even the Taylor Lautner people too the day off.

And lastly, today, which seems pretty average up until this one desperate persons cry help (?) at the bottom there.  Luckily I have also blogged about It Gets Better.  Watch a few and know that people out there care.

Anyway.  In general I’m disappointed in what drives people to this blog.  I guess I’m not posting enough intellectual material?  if you’ve got a topic suggestion (about comedy, music, sex or seriously whatever) leave me note and I’ll see if we can make this place more than a stop over for horny Twilight fans.  AND, Thanks very much for being part of my first blog journey, be sure to subscribe if that’s something you do.  Peace out. :)

NYC So Far: Xanadu-Moustache

New York City is so big and so anonymous that usually everything around me seems to feel a little timeless. It’s like everything you’re seeing and every practice was always here and is going to always be here. For these reason I really like when something comes along that gives New York City a timeline and actually offers me a chance to chart how long I’ve been here.

Sometimes you can do this with new buildings or billboards. Sometimes you can do this with neighborhood safety (in just two years in NYC I’ve watched Harlem be gentrified). One easy example of these things is theatre shows. It is always very satisfying to me as a discussion piece for how long you’ve lived in the city. I, for example, moved in the fall of 2008-  just in time for Title of Show (on Broadway) and Xanadu.

I also have been able to build a timeline of New York with public art installations.  These pieces come in for a few months, invade a section of the city, hopefully are appreciated, and hopefully are remembered. When I first moved here the big art project was the waterfalls that had been installed into the east river down around lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  A recent project near my office placed Mannequinesque bronze statues on the rooftops of all the buildings facing Madison Sq. park.  Apparently the NYPD got repeated calls from people freaked out by “jumpers” on the skyscrappers. Showing here.

Sometimes the boy talks about the Central Park Gates.  I did not exist then.  it’s lost on  me.

All of these are very fancy very invited art pieces.  It’s also fun to watch the graffiti fads come and go. Currently, I love is the moustaches on the subway posters.

There are many of them. They are everywhere.

I think they are so funny.

And my personal favorite:

I think these are hysterical.  I always like anything with a bit of meta-humor (like Title of Show actually). And I feel like when this all dies out in a few months I’ll be able to tell people I was here during the “summer of  the Mystery Moustaches.”

Axis of Awesome

For my recent birthday a group of friends teamed up and bought me joy in a box, otherwise called a keyboard. I was ecstatic, but when I sat down to play, MAN was I rusty. I have gone too many years in college and New York City with my old keyboard resting at my parents house far far away. So I’ve been brushing up.

The new addition also means friend Robert and I have no excuse NOT to begin writing our musical.  However, until we all have the skills needed to really move forward with that we have entertained ourselves by playing a lot of Green Day and other bands that have simple, repeating chord progressions.

On that topic, I had a good laugh this week when my friend Syche of the Cameraphone Diaries sent this video my way. These guys are called the Axis of Awesome and they are a musical comedy trio out of  Australia.  In the video they play an oddly hysterical piece called “4 Chord Song”-  it’s GREAT. To pass on Syche’s viewing advice to me: “If you haven’t seen this before, watch it all the way through, it’s worth the 5 1/2 minutes of your life.”

The Funniest People Then (1997) and Now

Yesterday I had my last Summer Friday of 2010, but I made the best of it.  I met up with good friends John and Robert in Queens to play the fastest growing lawn game in America: Mölkky.  Out of Finland, Mölkky is an extremely addictive hybrid of Darts, Bocci Ball and The Price is Right.  For a very creepy video of some gameplay click here, for actually information visit Mollkyusa.com.

On the way to the park John was explaining how last night he had watched a free dance concert at Lincoln Center and that the James Taylor Dance company was really great. Robert and I laughed, and Robert asked if he meant the Paul Taylor dance company.  John did mean Paul Taylor,  but I kept thinking about modern dance set to James Taylor music and was like: hell yeah.

I love slips like this. I think it’s so funny when people misremember, or replace a name with something more familiar to them.  And oddly, the first example of this from television that i could think of was Tim Allen in Home Improvement.  About once per episode he would have a conversation with Wilson over the Fence. Wilson would talk wisely about thespians and reincarnation.  Moments later Tim would come inside and in a very knowledgeable tone tell his wife about how he might be re-incinerated and come out a lesbian.  (I actually cracked myself up just typing that).

Now, all of this thinking about Tim Allen reminded me of a magazine article I read a long time ago in which they ranked the funniest people alive (or on earth, or something like that) and Tim Allen was #3. I also remembered that Jim Carey was #1, and the cast of friends collectively was #7.

I figured that this has to have been an entertainment weekly article, so I visited their main site and started flipping through there archives… what a trip that is! looking at the EW covers moving backwards. I passed cover stories on: Tom Welling, the first Harry Potter movie and the first Survivor, Twister, and Mark Wahlberg back when he was still Marky.

I never actually found THE article I remember, but I did find one from 1997 that still blew me away. In an article title The Funniest People Alive by Kristin Baldwin and David Browne lay out the following list:

1 ROBIN WILLIAMS – The #1 funniest person alive: A mad ad-libber for the sound-bite generation

2 JERRY SEINFELD – The titan of trivialities

3 ROSEANNE – Head of the crass

4 JIM CARREY  - Manic of a thousand faces

5 ALBERT BROOKS  - Neuroses by any other name…

6 EDDIE MURPHY  - The nutty transgressor

7 GARRY SHANDLING – Late-night parody animal

8 ROSIE O’DONNELL – The whirl next door

9 RICHARD PRYOR – Control and substance

10 HOMER SIMPSON – D’Ohs of reality

11 BOB NEWHART 12 MONTY PYTHON 13 GEORGE CARLIN 14 BILL COSBY
15 LEMMON & MATTHAU 16 CAROL BURNETT 17 WOODY ALLEN 18 DAVID LETTERMAN
19 ROWAN ATKINSON 20 MEL BROOKS 21 BILLY CRYSTAL 22 MARY TYLER MOORE
23 BILL MURRAY 24 SPINAL TAP 25 TRACEY ULLMAN 26 STEVE MARTIN
27 WHOOPI GOLDBERG 28 HOWARD STERN 29 ELLEN DEGENERES 30 TOM HANKS
31 BETTE MIDLER 32 DENNIS MILLER 33 BILL MAHER 34 KEVIN KLINE
35 LILY TOMLIN 36 RODNEY DANGERFIELD 37 GOLDIE HAWN 38 PENN & TELLER
39 JANEANE GAROFALO 40 STEVEN WRIGHT 41 ALAN KING 42 TIM ALLEN
43 JACKIE MASON 44 BEN STILLER 45 CONAN O’BRIEN 46 DANA CARVEY
47 PAUL REISER 48 NATHAN LANE 49 JOAN RIVERS 50 BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD

Poor Tim Allen doesn’t show up until the 40′s on this list. Then I found an EW list from 2009.  This list is the top 25 (counting down) funny people 12 years later- one decade if you round down. So check it out:

25 Will Ferrell 24 Catherine O’Hara 23 Sarah Silverman 22 Dave Chappelle
21 Demetri Martin 20 Diablo Cody 19 Craig Ferguson 18 Jack Black
17 David Letterman 16 Amy and Dave Sedaris 15 Sacha Baron Cohen 14 Ricky Gervais
13 Ellen Degeneres 12 David Cross 11 Conan O’Brien 10 Kristen Wig
9 Larry David 8 Amy Poehler and Will Arnet 7 Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) 6 Chris Rock
5 Steve Carell 4 Jon Stewart and the Daily Show Team 3 Tina Fey 2 Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Report Team
1 The Judd Apatow Posse

Names in red appear on both lists. why such major turnover?  and what was the secret to Ellen, Dave and Conan’s staying power?

I suppose one big catch in this research is that we are trusting EW to tell us who is funny, and they can’t keep publishing the same list… that would be idiotic. But assuming they even somewhat represent the trends of the time – we are a finicky bunch.  Attractiveness clearly changes with age. I think it’s more understandable to say that someone used to be hot rather than they used to be funny.  Are our comedy taste so different now? Are we changing the definition or do funny people just lose it?

The Rule of Three: Part 2 of 3

So, Yesterday I discussed stretching a joke out by employing the newly invented rule of 6 (thank you thank you). Today I’m going to quickly discuss another way to subvert the Rule of Three… not that it necessarily needs subverting.

Now, today’s topic is the Overly Long Gag, a name I pulled from tvtropes.org. In the words of tvtropes: “The concept is that something happens repeatedly, to the point of boredom. Then it keeps going, to the point where it, in theory, actually becomes funny again. Essentially, the sheer length of the gag becomes the gag.”

The article goes on to mention the Sideshow Bob-Rake gag from the Simpsons. Knowing that The Boy loves the Simpsons I decided to see if he thought this extended gag was funny to him.

Me: So I was reading about Overly Long Gags online, like Side-Show Bob and the rakes.

The Boy: Oh My God! I love Side-show Bob and the Rakes. The noise he makes is so funny, seriously. It’s like a oooh!, well no it’s more like mmMGNGN! and he like shudders….. like this… and it just keeps going and now everytime he’s in an episode he steps on a rake and it hits him in the face. It reaches the point where you’re watching a sideshow bob episode and you’re just waiting for him to step on the rake- you actually feel cheated if he doesn’t, I think there was one episode when he didn’t step on one, and I was like: WHat?! but then the next episode with him he stepped on a rake I was like: Ok , there we go.  And then I think there’s even one where his son steps on a little rake and you’re like: YES YES YES YES.

As I walked next to him I was thinking to myself: this is getting so overly long I feel like gagging myself. I also think he may have scared away a woman while punching the air on the YES YES YES’s.

Usually I am hard to please using the extended gag, but I do love traditions.  And There is something to be said that comes from the pleasure of predicting what’s coming up. That said, nobody could have predicted or explained why the only video of Sideshow Bob and the Rakes is in black and white and in German.

The Rule of Three: Part 1 of 3

As I mentioned in the last post, this weekend was the Samuel French Off Off Broadway festival finals. One of the lucky plays selected for Publication is a “scathing comedy” about child beauty pageants called Skin Deep, written by Mary Lynn Dobson. This hysterical one act shows stage moms and life-long beauty pageant hosts obsessing and repeating the same points over and over.  So much of the comedy came from the repetition of bits that I started to pay careful attention to Mary Lynn Dobson handled the joke repeated.

Most people in theatre have already heard of the rule of 3. Wikipedia lists the generally agreed upon definition as: ” a principle in English writing that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.”  And “the third iteration is the most pleasing or most effective.”  SO sure, I mean, how often have I heard that the third time a joke happens is the funniest?

However, in this play I can remember two occasions when Ms. Mary Lynn told the same joke 4 times each(!). In these cases she was still able to keep the joke fresh by tweeking it for that fourth and final run. For example: In a very funny scene one of the overly excited, raspy, fidgety, old pageant judges explains that she’s looking for a young lady who has that special somethin’, a young lady that just says (bellowed:) “LOOK AT ME! look! HEY! Look at me LOOK AT ME!”  The actress was terrific and sold really sold this moment as a crazy old lady. Then she sold it again twice more: LOOK AT ME! look! HEY! Look at me LOOK AT ME!”.  and each time people laughed because it was so absurd that this woman would continually come back and yell this line during the same interview.

After the third delivery of the line I waited carefully to see if the writer would break the rule of three- and she did. She took here time, there was a nice break from the earlier jokes and then it came, in the middle explaining the “no-guns” policy, because if a 5 year old beauty queen points a loaded rifle at you and says “LOOK AT ME! look! HEY! Look at me LOOK AT ME!….then you’re gonna look.”

So this got me thinking that there has to be a a way to extend a joke. if slight changes keep it fresh then we should be able to go beyond three repetitions with some new rules…. SO I offer the rule of 6. A guide to comic gestures or phrases repeated in performance:

first time: it happens. it’s either funny, or not funny.

Second time: it remains funny or it becomes funny because it happened again.

Third time: it’s so damn funny! this shit has happened three times!

Fourth time: it’s funny because you tweeked it.  the punchline answers a different set-up, or the person doing the gesture is now in drag, or perhaps the line was changed into Spanish?

Fifth Time: (this gets tricky) It Doesn’t Happen-  and it’s funny because of it.  Imagine: everything is set up for the person to say it, but they don’t. Maybe their trying to think of an example for someone, and the repeated punchline is perfect… but they just… can’t…remember anything right now….  It’ll still be funny because to the audience can remember. And the audience loves getting the understated joke.

Sixth Time: It just happens again. In it’s simple form. After the 4th time and 5th time which changed it up there is space to bring back the classic version, and it satisfies immensely.

I have yet to actively identify steps 5 or 6 in anything- but they sound nice don’t they? Now, string of repititions has to stop at around six, otherwise it becomes something else: The Overly Long Gag. I’ll discuss this tomorrow in Rule of Three: Part II.

Getting Philosophical

Yesterday I had fuzzy memories of a poem I wrote in middle school. It was an English class assignment (of course) in which we had to show emotion in a poem.  What I ended up writing was a poem about animals being jealous of Human beings laughing because animals cannot laugh.  Now I know that hyenas laugh… we’ve all heard that, but I actually dug into this and started wondering: do any other living creatures have a sense of humor and experience comedy?

I’m beginning to think that Comedy might actually be a large division between the animal kingdom and humanity.  I can find evidence of artistry, song, play, language and community in animal lives.  Some of these may not be natural examples (since I’m sure elephants only paint on canvas when given the materials), but all the same they seem to be teachable.   Can any animal understand comedy?

Then I realized that comedy itself is kind of odd. Why do we laugh at things that: rhyme, are uncomfortable, have two meanings,  are taboo , don’t make sense, or even make sense but we never thought of it before.

The more I thought about this the more I can wrapped up in how complex and mystical we are… and how big and mystical the universe is and how we think we know everything but really don’t understand anything at all. After a while that got uncomfortable so I watched some videos on youtube to reset.

But I was still curious, so decided to go where all the answers are.

I opened Google and typed “Why do we la” into the search box.  The search engine read my mind and filled in the u-g-h at the end for me.  Clearly someone else has googled this before.

Yahoo Answers was a big help…

Yahoo Answers tries to answer "why we laugh"

Once I moved past Yahoo, I hit Howstuffworks.com which does have an article explaining theories on laughter.

­I learned that: “Philosopher John Morreall believes that the first human laughter may have begun as a g­esture of shared relief at the passing of danger.” And that “Many researchers believe that the purpose of laughter is related to making and strengthening human connections” because laughter leads to human bonding. These theories are supported by the impressive statistic is that you are 30 times more likely to laugh in the presence of another person than when you are alone.

How Stuff Works discusses 3 additional theories for why things are funny: incongruity theory (we laugh because the outcome was unexpected), Superiority Theory (we laugh because we feel better than other people), and Relief Theory (we laugh to relieve stress).

The thing is … none of these has competely explained to me why I laugh when I see Tina Fey dancing. So in the end, yahoo Answers may have gotten it right.