Archive for the 'Facebook addiction' Category

5 comedy techniques that have stuck with me

January 28, 2011

Andrew Hicks

While on the phone with my dad the other night, we were talking about comedy and my history with comedy, and he asked me, “Well, what are some of the early types of humor you liked that still stick with you?” I was a little tired, a little brain dead, and my immediate answer was, “Uh… as a kid until now, I’ve always enjoyed silly stuff. But not all silly stuff. Some of it’s stupid silly, some of it’s intellectual silly, and there’s good and bad examples of each, which kinda makes it all more silly.”

I stopped right there, as I was making not a single lick of rational sense, but my dad’s question led me to think a little bit about which forms and methods of comedy I appreciated early on and still carry with me. So I wrote this:

5 COMEDY TECHNIQUES

THAT HAVE STUCK WITH ME

DEADPAN

At the age of 11, after seeing the 1989 Tim Burton movie, I became obsessed with all things Batman. The ’60s TV show, in particular. I took it rather seriously at first, but as I grew into my sense of humor throughout adolescence, I started to appreciate the deadpan genius of Adam West and a few of the veteran character actors on the show.

Neil Hamilton, who played Commissioner Gordon, was a master of finding the super-serious side of funny in the often-outlandish dialogue he was given and performances he was surrounded by. The man was a brilliant straight man, whether he realized it or not. The style and rhythm of his dialogue delivery influence me to this day.

Also, I fell hard for Airplane! at an impressionable age. I loved the combination of obvious, elementary-level jokes and straight-faced performances of Leslie Nielson, Peter Graves and Robert Stack. I recently learned that the studio balked at the casting of dramatic actors in those parts and wanted Chevy Chase, Dom Deluise and Bill Murray instead. Which would not have been nearly as sublimely silly.

 

INSIDE JOKES

This is more tried and true in real-life conversation for me than in written or performed comedy, but when I connect with someone on a comedic level, I relish developing and sustaining inside jokes with that person.

The magic of Facebook has allowed me to create and expand a central group of writers and comic thinkers, and we stumble on new inside jokes every day, lending a sense of inclusion and continuity to our humor.

As an occasional stand-up comedy performer, I strive to create shared references with an audience early on and cash in on it more and more as my routine unfolds. I’m not quite consistent at achieving this, but I get better and better, IMHO.

 

IMPRESSIONS

As mentioned numerous times in this blog, I have a lifetime devotion to Saturday Night Live. I started watching at 11, in the apex of the Carvey/Hartman/Hooks/Jackson/Lovitz/Miller/Myers/Nealon period. Immediately, my favorite SNL thing to imitate whenever I got the chance was Carvey’s George Bush.

Then and now, I have a soft spot for SNL’s comedy characterizations of famous people from pop culture, politics and sports. Most of the impressions I’ve been doing for 15 years or more — Carson, John Travolta, Ed McMahon, Paul McCartney, Tom Brokaw, Pat Robertson — owe their existence to old SNL.

Since being married and having a wife who straight-out tells me most of my stable of voices sounds pretty much the same, I’ve started to downplay that amateur SNL side of my comedy… Aw, who am I kidding? I’ll spend the entire night doing bad Jerry Seinfeld if someone’s there to laugh. Even if that someone is 2 years old. Actually, especially if that someone is 2 years old.

 

MUSIC-BASED COMEDY

When I’m not writing about daytime dad things, a lot of my humor revolves around music. Pop music, hip-hop, rock,old stuff, new stuff. Funny observations about songs and artists. I like song parodies as a genre, though most of them aren’t that great. I never liked movie musicals, but I liked a lot of older TV show theme songs, which are funny for reasons right and wrong but decidedly very geeky.

As a mid-teenager, I went through a brief but pretty intense “Weird Al” Yankovic phase, and now still think he has a couple dozen songs I’ll take to the grave. Only one of my standup bits relies on rewritten pop music for its humor, but right now I’m wishing I would have learned to play guitar in my youth. My father-in-law has contributed a spare acoustic guitar to the cause. Have not yet gotten around to doing anything with it. Unfortunately.

POP CULTURE/TOPICAL COMEDY

I’m sure it started with being in junior high and trying to figure out what current events SNL was parodying and Dennis Miller was cracking his lofty, obtuse jokes about, but I also got into David Letterman for several years as a teenager. The peak of it was during the O.J. years, where Letterman first declared sanctimoniously — to HUGE applause — that he wouldn’t do O.J. jokes because “I don’t find anything funny about double murder,” and later devoted hours of monologue time to the Juice.

Anyway, there’s something fascinating yet revolting to me about our celebrity culture, irresponsible government and corporate-owned media that makes me want to stay current enough on the news to instantly crack wise about whatever’s going on out there. I still strive to stay on the level of Stewart and Colbert, “Weekend Update” and late-night talk show monologues when it comes to current events. Some of my jokes are far better than others in this respect.

There’s more, of course, but these five things formed a pretty wide base for much of my humor over the years and still now. If you’d like to share any of your old favorites and comedic influences, please hit up the comments section.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, newborn Silas and Tiffany's parents.

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Examples of Dad’s geekiness

January 27, 2011

Andrew Hicks

 

  • Likes to refer to Sarah’s rainbow bib as “Roy G. Bib.”
  • When burping Silas, will frequently pat his back to drum beat of “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie while singing, “Let’s burp!”
  • Got a good laugh out of a little kid on “Barney” saying, “She’s like a brother to me.”
  • When Silas peed on Dad’s leg while flashing a huge grin, wrote a Facebook status about it on phone before cleaning up.
  • While half-awake, could have sworn Elmo was singing “Skeet skeet skeet skeet” on “Sesame Street.”
  • After breaking ankle on neighbor’s stairs last fall, wanted to purchase said stairs and comically reenact Stephen King‘s practice of buying and destroying the car that hit him in 1999, when he broke every bone in his body. Later found out King didn’t actually do this; he just bought the car and had it junked.
  • When Silas smiles, sometimes calls him “Smiley Silas” because it rhymes with the name of Billy Ray Cyrus‘s uber-famous teenage daughter.
  • Occasionally uses the prefix uber-.
  • Upon learning Sarah would automatically laugh when hearing the word “sassy,” Dad tracked down every Phil Hartman quote he could find from 1991 Sassy’s Sassiest Gentlemen” SNL sketch.
  • Now can draw Elmo’s head in seconds with five pen strokes.
  • Built most of this blog posting around months-old material written on a yellow legal pad. (Sorry, this actually belongs in the companion piece “Examples of Dad’s Laziness.”)

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

My 3 favorite ladies -- Tiffany, Sarah and my mom. Christmas 2008.

Week With No Facebook

December 22, 2010

If you missed reading my two parenthetical updates to the last blog post — although I don’t know why you’d miss it; you compulsively check this site twice an hour for updates — the Post-Dispatch article on me hasn’t run yet. As of December 18th, it was scheduled to run on December 19th. As of December 19th, it was scheduled to run on December 26th. As of now, it’s scheduled to run on January 2nd.

Yours truly, known procrastinator, jumped the gun on promoing the article. I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t even talk about the article. It might get bumped again. It might get bumped two more times. It might never run. Print might die before then. Jesus might come back before then. (“I heard there was supposed to be a really good article in the Post-Dispatch today about some writer fella, so I came down to check it out. What, you bumped it again? Fine, I’ll be back in two thousand MORE years. Get your stuff together, human race!”)

We’re in the homestretch of the holiday season now. I’m at the point where I can’t hope to send out Christmas cards to relatives more than one state over and have the cards arrive before Christmas. I’ll have to scour the Hallmark store for the Merry Belated Christmas/Happy New Year/I Know You’re Not Surprised This Card Is Late But It’s Better Than Nothing section, preferably some cute card with Ziggy on the front. You gotta love that pathetic, bald loser Ziggy. You know, I might send out Christmas cards late, but at least I have a full head of hair. Though I almost certainly lose maturity points for trying to compare myself favorably to fictional characters from the funny pages.

My timeline’s all screwy right now. Christmas is three days away, Hannukah has been over for two weeks, and I think they moved Kwaanza to March this year. Today is Wednesday, my body thinks it’s Friday, and to figure out today’s date, I had to summon the brain cells that are usually only used once every ten years to determine which Dakota capital is Bismark and which one’s Fargo. (NOTE: That debate got a heckuva lot easier when the movie Fargo came out, and I could simply visualize North Dakota as being Almost Canada.)

Even screwier, I’ve followed my newfound buddy and comedy partner Chris “Woo” Trader into a social networking experiment known as Week With No Facebook. Keep in mind, I didn’t sign up for Facebook until July, on the day Silas came home from the hospital. In the time since, Silas has more than doubled his body weight, and I’ve probably quadrupled my time spent idly on the Internet, both on my laptop and on my mobile. If I’m outside watching the kids, and I get even a millisecond’s stab of boredom, I check Facebook. If I’m inside putting the dishes away, and I think of something even marginally clever to tell a specific someone or just whoever on Facebook might read it, I pull out my phone and type away.

My comedy and writing output is at a quality and quantity level not seen in almost a decade, but Facebook time eats at Real People time. I’ve found myself pretending I wasn’t just typing on my phone when I hear my wife’s footsteps approaching. That’s cause enough to take a week away from the Facebook machine, and in that time, I’ve finally gotten some good work done on a book editing assignment I’ve been procrastinating on.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be keeping some kind of diary about my time away from Facebook, but I haven’t. Typical for me. The vast majority of this hypothetical diary would read:

    3:15 pm: Kids sleeping. Wanted to go on Facebook. Went on Twitter instead. Nothing of interest. 

    11:45 pm: Took a break from book editing. Wanted to go on Facebook. Checked email instead. Nothing of interest. Went to The Onion A.V. Club instead. Killed a half-hour.

    1:30 am: Maybe if I just check and see how many notifications I have on Facebook, it will sate my curiosity and won’t be cheating. No, it’s definitely cheating. Can’t I claim my Week With No Facebook was actually just a work week? It’s been five days already. Enough is enough.

I logged off Facebook at midnight on Friday. You’d better believe I’ll be right back on Facebook at the stroke of midnight tomorrow. I might even do what I’ve done on more boring New Year’s Eves and celebrate the midnight changeover in other time zones first. (“Hooray, my WWNF is over in London! Let’s read some status updates… Hooray, my WWNF is over in New York! Let’s post some pictures from 4 years ago.”)

I think my weeklong Facebook blackout will help me appreciate and maximize my time on and off Facebook, and now that I’m reminded you can email status updates without even logging on, I might start doing one day on/one day off or just have set times of the day when I go on Facebook.

Some of this sounds feasible, and some of it sounds like the old alcohol justification arguments I used to pull on myself: “I’ll only drink vodka, because I handle myself better, and the hangover’s not as bad… I’ll only drink beer, because it’s not strong, and I know exactly how buzzed I’ll get with each beer… I’ll only drink two nights a week… I’ll only bring 10 bucks to the bar with me… I won’t drink before the kids are asleep.” Lots of experimentation and justification there, but I’m going on three months sober, so obviously anything’s possible.

Right now, though, maybe I should just keep my new goals simple. Like, for instance, how about getting the cards out before Christmas next year?

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah's first Christmas