On Mondays we post pieces that fit that month's theme. In April our theme is "April Fools". We're making the most of the excitement of comedy festivals around the nation and asking funny people how it's done. Today Lou Sanz brings the series home with the perils of finding funny everywhere.
A few years ago when I was first starting out in the comedy performance biz a colleague, in hushed voice over a few drinks – look a lot of drinks - revealed to me a dirty little secret about working in the game.
'Listen up Lou – you listening? - good – Look, when you've been doing this a while you'll inevitably find the funny in everything. Everything Lou. It's just fact. It will happen in the most intimate, important and sensitive moments in your life and it will be your undoing and the reason behind all your greatest successes in life. Finding the funny in everything will either destroy you or make you.' We then ordered another round of tequila with a side of regret, and I remember little else of what happened that night except I woke up in her house surrounded by empty Bryan Brown film DVD cases and to this day I don't know why.
Now look, this wasn't news to me. In fact it wasn't news to anyone. A comedian's very job is to find the funny in everything. Remember the 90s? Yep, we even found the funny in airplane food. If there was funny to be found you could be guaranteed a comedian was lurking nearby thinking 'tins of tomato soup accidentally placed in the chicken soup section at the supermarket – I bet I could write a whole hour about that...'
It wasn't until about two years ago though that I fully realised what my friend had actually meant that fateful afternoon. It wasn't a warning to me about a life potentially filled with finding humour in how 'glass fruit never actually looks like real fruit – I mean what's the deal with that?' It was a warning that at sometime in your life, in that most important vulnerable moment that you, a comedian, might find the funny.
Let's take last weekend. I got engaged. Yes, I know, I'm now a complete woman with a fuller sense of identity than I've ever had before, but moving on – the proposal. It had been a long weekend. I was tired. I was watching CSI. Our dog was quietly farting next to me. I was too lazy to move. My boyfriend suddenly appeared in front of me holding a ring out. I knew what it was. I knew it was a ring. It was meant for me. It was very romantic, but there was another voice inside my head; looking at that ring, looking at my boyfriend kneeling down in front of me. It was this voice that took over - 'Oh man, I'm not putting your toe ring on you again. It's over man. Just move on. It's 2014'... the words tumbled from my mouth.
He didn't laugh. He pushed on. I'd have to up my game.
'Will you marry me?' he asked.
'Can I turn the TV off first?' I quipped back.
'I want to spend the rest of my life with you.'
'But I was just about to mop the kitchen floor.'
'That can wait. Will you marry me Lou?'
'Yes. But can I put a tracksuit on though, before we start sexy times?'
'Sure Lou. I'll call my mum and tell her the good news.'
And than the dog farted again but this time loud enough for both of us to hear.
Yes. That's what happened. In one of the most important moments in my life, with my beautiful boyfriend knelt in front of me, baring his soul there was a voice deep down inside of me going, 'Well there's your tight five for Friday. Well done Lou.' Not my finest moment.
It's not uncommon for comedians to claim right to taboos – the breaking of them, the making of them, the raising of them. Paedophilia, rape, Hey Dad, airplanes that go missing, bitches being crazy – they're ours, we'll find the funny in them because we're social commentators and if you're not going to talk about those things as a society and just continue to sweep them under the rug, well we're going to come and clean your house and air out those rugs. It's what we do. We'll find the funny in things that we're not meant to. It's our job.
Is that what my friend meant though when she warned me about finding the funny in everything? The more I reflected on it, I thought no, otherwise we'd all be out of a job and open mic nights would be filled with office workers talking about how their girlfriends won't do butt-stuff...
What she meant was – you'll find the funny in moments you should be present in, you'll find yourself removed from them, observing them, wondering how they'll fit into your next set and in doing so maybe miss a moment of personal growth, or in my case, like with my proposal – a moment you will never get back.
Now of course I don't want this discussion to end on a downer. Most of the time I'm perfectly present. I know what's going on and I behave accordingly. After all I'm not a monster. I still take time to find the funny in how my partner steps out of the shower – I mean have you ever noticed that? How your partner steps out the shower? I mean what's the deal with that? And I also ensure that every now and than I find the funny in less appropriate moments – let's go back to the proposal shall we.
So after I said yes, he started to cry. I looked him deep in the eyes and asked him why he was crying. He said it was because he was so happy.
'Oh is that because I'm the first one to say yes! BOOM! BAM! Enjoy the veal! Good night'
And just like that, I dropped the mic, he kept crying and I mopped the dog's piss up off the kitchen floor.
Sam van Zweden was Writers Bloc’s Online Editor from 2013 - 2015. A Melbourne-based writer and blogger, her work has appeared in The Big Issue, Voiceworks, Tincture Journal, Page seventeen, and others. She’s passionate about creative nonfiction and cross stitch. She tweets @samvanzweden.