Thanks mucho to Los Angeles-area comedian Grant Lyon who got me off my lethargic ass and into a Salem gem that I've been meaning to check out, but hadn't until last Saturday night, the Capitol City Theatre (tagline: serious about comedy).
A good one too. I really appreciate Grant emailing me his free ticket offer. Grant said that he likes to offer them to local bloggers in towns that he visits. Which, after Salem, was a 7-hour drive to Sacramento.
Yeah, stand-up comedy is a tough gig. Yet Grant and the woman who opened for him, Carmen Morales, both looked fresh and energetic. (Of course, they're a heck of a lot younger than I am.)
The Capitol City Theatre vibe felt exactly right for a comedy club. Dark yet welcoming. Small round tables with chairs close to the stage. Beer, hard cider, popcorn, and other goodies for sale from a friendly staffer.
I'm not a big laugh-out-loud person. I smile, both inwardly and outwardly. This doesn't make me the best sort of audience for stand-up comedy in a small club, but fortunately I was surrounded by more voluble people.
Grant and Carmen (I now feel like I know them, so like using their first names) clearly enjoyed feeding off of audience reactions. That's part of what made this LIVE stand-up comedy experience more enjoyable than watching comedians on TV, which I do a lot.
For real -- and I'm not saying this because of the free tickets -- Grant and Carmen were top-notch entertainers. Right here in semi-sleepy Salem. I'll share some You Tube videos of their acts below so you can get a feel for their styles.
(Carmen said she had time before the show to look for witches, but didn't see any; um... you need to head to Salem, Massachusetts, girl.)
Being philosophically minded, I've been pondering a bit what makes stand-up comedy so appealing. Don't want to overthink this -- funny is what feels funny -- but here's a few thoughts spurred by Grant and Carmen.
I think experiencing stand-up comedy is like looking at the famous duck-rabbit image.
There's one reality here. A drawing. But the mind can see it in two different ways: as a duck or a rabbit.
What a good comedian does, and for sure both Grant and Carmen fill this bill, is shift our perception of a truth so we see it in a fresh way.
To me, the important word in what I just said is truth.
Comedy needs to be based on how the world really is, or it isn't funny. For example, Grant had a pleasing bit about global warming and those who deny it. It would have been irritating, not entertaining, if he'd made fun of people who accept the scientific consensus about global warming.
(Maybe this would have gone over at a Trump rally, but that's a sad commentary on today's reality-denying right-wing politics.)
I can't think of one instance where Grant or Carmen joked about something that wasn't true. Even when they talked about personal things that can't be verified -- like Carmen's father going on embarrassingly about how much he wants to make love to her mother later, during a dinner when Carmen's friends were over -- had a decided ring of truth.
So, yeah, good comedy makes us look at life through laugh-filtered glasses. We still see the same reality. It just looks different. Not less real, but more real in certain ways.
Carmen had an enjoyable bit about twerking. She nailed the animalistic nature of it, riffing about how the first female twerker could have been out picking berries in prehistoric times when she spots a hunky caveman who looks like he'd be good at providing raw meat of several different varieties -- dietary and sexual.
So she turns her ass to him and wiggles it around in a wordless Come take a closer look at this hot stuff, dude message.
Grant, to offer another example of reality-enhancing comedy, talked about how in the course of science getting us to live longer, he didn't want to be a 130 year old guy who gets all crotchety about cultural trends that are passing him by.
Sure, when Grant was younger he was chill with same sex marriage, but being able to marry a clone of yourself -- NO WAY! says old man Grant.
After the show I complimented Grant on coming up with this creative idea: of how we can't foresee all the social changes that are going to keep arriving, many of which we aren't going to feel comfortable accepting, yet we feel ever so proud of our with-it attitudes toward current changes like legal weed, gay marriage, and using whatever damn bathroom your gender identity demands.
If you get a chance, go see Grant Lyons and Carmen Morales. And if you live in Salem, Oregon, check out the Capitol City Theatre comedy club. "Headliners" on Friday and Saturday nights; open mic night on Thursday. (I'm tempted... ).
Here's the videos of Grant and Carmen.