You’ve Just Got to Laugh | Tipping Points at The Emerging Writers’ Festival 2017
June 30, 2017 § Leave a comment
In June this year I Skyped in to Melbourne from New York City to participate in a 24-hour playwriting event, which was part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival. Four writers, four actors a director and a producer were involved. The four writers had 12 hours to write a piece (given a brief at the start of the time) and then the actors and director had 12 hours to prepare them to be presented at a reading the following evening.
The theme, broadly speaking, was our changing climate. More specifically, we were given a “collective reality” with a series of facts about Australia in the year 2030.
The following is my piece:
You’ve Just Got to Laugh
By Angus Cameron
An actor (probably one?) enters with a microphone, and addresses the audience, mid speech.
Others join where appropriate.
It’s easier to laugh, don’t you think?
Just laugh. Like.
Have a giggle. Take the piss.
Laughter. It’s the solution. Right? The only solution.
It’s got to be.
You’ve just got to laugh.
I dare you. I dare you to laugh. Go on. Do it.
I double dare you . . .
Don’t be scared.
No nerves here. We’re all friends.
Like I said at the start, leave your hang-ups at the dock please, this is the time for laughing. The S.S. Laugh-A-Lot.
Go on . . . Give us one . . .
Don’t find it funny right now? Not funny enough yet? I get it. Feedback taken on board. No tips for me, fair enough.
What about a . . . Just a chuckle?
Two actors walk on stage.
One sits, legs spread, as big spoon, the other inside, the little spoon.
Finally, the little one sneezes and the bigger one flails around in shock.
Look, maybe it’s not the most hilarious thing but it is funny, huh?
Don’t worry, I’m laughing too. We’re all in this together. We’re all laughing. You’ve got to. You’ve GOT TO LAUGH.
The actors leave.
Comedy is the best medicine. That’s what they say. That’s what they tell us. Comedy is the best medicine. Well, I must be the most heathy person alive with all the laughing I do. Don’t know how many times I’ve given this talk, how many groups a day, how many days a week but believe me — y’all need to catch up!
And I feel better for it.
You will too.
A laugh a day keeps the world at bay.
I’ve always thought—
An actor enters and stands quite close to the audience.
Turns and speaks:
“How fucking dare anyone out there make fun of Britney after all she has been through!
She lost her aunt, she went through a divorce. She had two fuckin’ kids.
Her husband turned out to be a user, a cheater, and now she’s going through a custody battle. All you people care about is . . . readers and making money off of her.
SHE’S A HUMAN! (ah! ooh!) What you don’t realize is that Britney is making you all this money and all you do is write a bunch of crap about her.
She hasn’t performed on stage in years. Her song is called “give me more” for a reason because all you people want is MORE! MORE-MORE, MORE, MORE!
LEAVE HER ALONE! You are lucky she even performed for you BASTARDS!
LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE! . . . Please.”
It’s been a roller-coaster, right?
The 21st Century. You can see it. Take a quick look back. Take a moment to think about it, bobbing away in your seats like seals at a Bar Mitzvah.
It’s a funny one. It’s a funny century. The one we grew up in. That’s what I love. So much to laugh at. So many gags. Looking back at the highlights, I can’t help but smile. Look over the edge and you can see it all. All the laugh. All the good times.
This is what we’ve got. This is what we’ve made. And I for one am very, very happy with the lols. All of them. Never before has there been so many people laughing, think about that.
True, there’s never been this many people, but still!
You’ve got to laugh. You’ve GOT. TO. LAUGH.
I know I do.
Actors begin to walk around the stage.
They all drop to the floor and lay, still.
Finally they get up and leave.
Do you get it? That’s the the thing. That’s the funny part about comedy. You’ve got to get it. You’ve got to understand what’s going on. Even if it’s just someone falling over, or falling overboard, you just KNOW it’s funny. In here. You know in here. It’s funny.
But you’ve got to know, you know? That’s the point. Even if all you know is that it’s not you. You know something. It’s not you falling over. Something happened to someone else. That’s funny. That’s comedy. Right there. Needs an audience. Someone needs to see it.
Happens to you, not so funny. You fall over, much harder to laugh.
You can always laugh at yourself, not saying you can’t, just saying it’s harder.
But, you can only laugh at yourself if someone else is around. You can’t laugh at yourself by yourself, that’s insanity. That’s the definition of insanity, right there.
So laugh. You’ve got to. You just have to laugh. Because you get it. You understand. You know.
Once you get it.
Then you’ve got to share it.
No point laughing alone, you know? No point. We’ve established that, rule one, you’ve got to know, rule two, you can’t laugh at yourself by yourself, and three, if you find it funny, you share it. That’s what happens.
The actors line up, neutral, then, all at once, pull a dramatic face at the audience.
You know the other thing about comedy? If you’ve got to explain it. It isn’t funny. Taking it apart kills it. Like a fish. Cut the little swimmer open and it’ll never do so again. Can’t bring back the dead. No way. You try and recreate a joke and it’ll never be quite the same. Might be funny but it’s not the same. Funny for different reasons maybe.
The point is, once you start to take it apart, there’s nothing left. Boring. Dull. Dry. Dead.
That’s not going to get you anywhere. And you’ve got to get somewhere. We’re all going somewhere.
Where? Who knows.
Honestly, who knows.
But you’ve got to go somewhere. In life.
Laughing is the thing. It’s the whole thing.
It’s in the moment. It’s there.
One time only.
Thanks for coming.
And no one wants to get involved without a bit of laughing. Because without it, what is the point?
One actor walks on stage, another approaches rapidly about to interview them.
Interviewer: Back here live at the Waterfront Village with my friend the zombie, Jonathan. You’re looking good Jonathan and just got an awesome face paint job. What do you think?
Interviewee: I like turtles.
Interviewer: All right, you’re a great zombie. Good times here at the Waterfront Village.
When things get tough we can remember the good times. The memories we make. The laughs we have. And we have many, by now, we have many.
So, laugh more, God damn it! Laugh more!
Are you laughing?
Are you about to laugh?
Would you like me to laugh a little bit more just to get the ball rolling, the boat rolling, rolling in the deep! Get it? Do you? Remember? Rolling in the Deep? Classic. Hilarious. Gets them every time.
If you’re feeling nauseous. Focus on something fixed. Don’t watch the water.
And you know what else? Laugh. Look. Just laugh. You’ve got to. You’re going to. It’s going to happen at some point. It always happens eventually. So why not now?
It’s the best time. Now is the best time to laugh.
What’s the problem? What’s the problem with laughing? It’s not hurting anyone. It’s the best medicine. Remember? The best.
The actors spread themselves out and dramatically, seriously, sing:
“Seven a.m., waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (My friends)
Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?
It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend
Gettin’ down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend”
Is there anything else you came to see? Or is this it? Is this what you expected? I went a bit off book. The facts and figures get a bit fuzzy these days. You probably know them anyway. There’s a book below deck. Or an app you can download. You’ll get the important bits and pieces I’m just here to fill in the blanks, you know?
This is getting a bit . . .
I’m a little . . .
I’m just going to focus on something fixed for a . . . Okay . . . Okay, that’s. That’s better.
Where was I?
When I was younger.
When I was younger, I remember watching this show my grandparents showed me, about a man, who didn’t speak, I think he could but he didn’t. Some British guy. And he had a Teddy. And he would get into all kinds of problems, really small ones, but everyone thought it was so good, so funny, and it’s because he didn’t do much talking. It was all physical. Really universal humour. That’s pretty key, too. Make it accessible. Really, really accessible.
If you want to make ‘em laugh, make it accessible.
I remember a time, when I was just a boy, and there was another man on the television, bit like the guy with the Teddy, but I was told this was a very important man, an Australian, and he stood there on the TV, and he stood there and he ate an onion.
How funny is that?
I always thought that was universal good times. Eating an onion. Instant classic.
I’ll never forget that strange man with an onion.
One actor interviews another actor:
“Tony, you’re not saying anything . . .”
. . .
“You’re not saying anything, Tony . . .
I’m 30 but I still remember. As though it was yesterday. That’s the power of a good joke. You probably remember a whole bunch, too. Right? Of course you do, look at you.
Do you ever lay there, like, maybe at night, you’re trying to sleep and just remember something really funny. Completely out of the blue. And start laughing to yourself. You can’t help it. You just laugh. You think, wow that was so funny and here come the chuckles all over again.
Ohh, hello! Maybe you can laugh by yourself. Maybe it’s not totally insane. Okay, right, you can laugh by yourself if you’re remembering something. But you can’t laugh at yourself by yourself in the moment it happens. I think that’s an important distinction to make.
Anyway, make it accessible. There are lots of kinds of humour. So, not all eating onions. Or talking to Teddy.
Could be satire.
Commedia del arte.
Spoof. Or is that parody?
Puns are good. Everyone loves puns. And, as you know, you’ve got to laugh at puns.
Physical comedy. Yeah, that’s pretty universal. Because you know all you need to just by watching. Wit involves language. Parody involves knowing what the original looked like. Bit harder.
Who knows what the original anything looks like, am I right? I am right. Just look around.
An actor walks on stage, stops, proclaims:
“The rent is too damn high!”
So, yeah . . .
I think that’s.
That’s about it.
You’ve probably seen enough. I hope I have been informative. I know these tours are expensive. So, money’s worth and all that.
I just wanted to, to finish up by saying,
We’re no strangers to love
You know the rules and so do I
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of
You wouldn’t get this from any other guy
I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling
Gotta make you understand
Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you
Another actor enters
Oh, my goodness, everyone, I’m so sorry.
You’ve gone on one of your “you’ve just got to laugh” rants again.
No I haven’t.
This is seriously the last time. Seriously. The last time.
I’m so sorry everyone.
I haven’t, I told them all the things.
This is unacceptable employee behaviour.
We’ve warned you about his.
We told you what was going to happen.
I need this job.
Let’s not do this in front of them.
You all had fun, right?
We had fun?
Please get below deck immediately.
I’m so sorry.
Give me another chance.
You need to leave, now.
If everyone can remain seated while we dock, that would be great.
If there are any major concerns, please speak to me afterwards about a refund.
No, it was funny.
They’re not here for funny. They’re here for the reef. For facts about the reef.
And what are the facts about the reef?
By now, in 2030, 58 to 81% of the Great Barrier Reef is bleached every year. 40% of The Great Barrier Reef is dead, with no prospect of recovery.
Isn’t that fascinating?
The world is truly a wonder.
Thanks for coming on the tour.
Tipping Points: A 24 hour play project
24 hours. Five writers. Four actors. One director.
Their brief: envision a future earth where imminent and inevitable ecological collapse is inseparable from our most intimate and mundane human encounters.
Witness the raw culmination of a rapid response performance process, where a show is written, rehearsed and performed all within a day. Stick around post-show for a Q&A with the creative team.
Produced by Christian Taylor
Directed by Olivia Satchell
Written by Angus Cameron, Kim Ho, Tariro Mavondo, Jean Tong
Performed by John Desengano, Anna Kennedy, Ian Michael, Yvette Turner
Presented in partnership with Melbourne Fringe.