Week 9 Summary/Plan
Just to recap, lock things off, square things away and a bunch of other metaphors before we wrap up week 9…
A reminder, there is NO CLASS next Friday 29 September, due to the Grand Final Eve Public Holiday. Wednesday’s session will feature an extended clip (perhaps the whole film) from Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 weirdfest Beyond the Black Rainbow.
Friday: Organ visit/orientation/induction for those planning on doing something for it. For everyone else, carry on with project work, or drop by to Building 94 for consults with Dan.
A recap on Wednesday’s session:
Today’s (Wed) session was a means of broadening out from the different immersive stimuli studied so far (in class and in your audits) to start a consideration of literary form. (We just decided that comedy was as good a place as any to begin that discussion.) As interminable as the Stewart Lee might have been as a chunk of standup, the mechanics — particularly when compared to Eddie Izzard, Louis CK and Robin Williams — were of interest. SL’s approach is high risk. His act is consistently based on him playing the character of a smug arsehole. He berates his audience, tests the limits of their endurance with repetition, relies on the long arc of gradually compounding incessancy for the slowburn. (Think Peter Griffin’s knee injuries and his repeating intake of breath/”ahh” exhales as a small scale example of the same principle. Why does that get funnier with each one?) Within Stewart Lee’s macrostructure – framed by decisions about sound (mike vs off-mike) for tonal shifts – are fine tuned microstructural elements – discursions with the audience, surprising breaks to the proscenium arch format, editorial discussions with the director about shots, throwaway reveals about what he had intended – and still intends to do. Given that none of you were familiar with his work, this could have been a frustrating throw in the deep end. If you felt that way, try this 4 minutes from Carpet Remnant World to see how he pulls apart the mechanics of audience responses. And if you’re interested in his dissection of writing, check out his Oxford lecture “On not writing”.
Eddie Izzard, by comparison, is more of a traditionally rewarding standup experience. Gags come every minute – many of them involve mugging (pulling faces), disrespectful frames identifying the surreal stupidity of things like colonialism and genocide – and his overarching character is endearing. The opening discussion of his transvestitism balances a sense of the educational with the strongly personal. He’s also happy to learn from the audience “Don’t link those two ideas again…” compared to Lee’s utter contempt for everything and everyone “If you have EVER paid ANY attention to any structured art, Madam…!”. For Izzard, with the audience on board (in the broad frame) and comedy pellets delivered regularly (on a small scale) this is cleanly enjoyable. The balance between safety and danger is there – some of his topics skate towards poor taste – but they are clearly contained within an endearing front end. Compare this to the sheer chaos of someone like Ross Noble, or the barely contained energy of Robin Williams — the former will often plan a mere 10-15 minutes of a 2, sometimes 2.5-hour show; the latter has clearly planned and worked through his material, but the energy makes it seem manic and chaotic.
For more on different styles of comedy, planning, writing, etc, check out this extended discussion between Chris Rock, Louis CK, Ricky Gervais and the inimitable Jerry Seinfeld.