A Serious Face

Apparently, my problem is that I’m so serious.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by other comics how funny I am — except when it really counts. There are several variations.

“You are so much funnier in person than you are on stage.”

“Just keep doing shows and your real relaxed personality will show through.”

“You need to talk to the audience more.”

“You are one of the best riffers I have seen. Why don’t you do more of that?”

I have all these ideas for witty, semi-spontaneous things to say before I go up. When I go up on stage, I clam up. I freeze. My IQ drops 40 points. I turn into an Al Gore robot version of Richard. I need to be taken seriously!

The Sunnyvale Sun writes “But in Silicon Valley, jokes about computer software fly like subway jokes in New York City, and one Sunnyvale venue is harnessing that slightly awkward energy into a monthly event.” I can’t help but feel that this is directed at me. (See http://www.community-newspapers.com/archives/sunnyvalesun/20060726/cover1.shtml for quote in context.)

Now consider comedian Dan Wilson. There is something about him that inspires me… his carefree attitude, his willingness to laugh at the absurd, his dirtiness… I don’t know. He is a muse to me… showing up at Ron’s on Friday and seeing him waiting in the back (I like to think he is waiting for me) is one of my favourite things about that venue. I start talking to him, and for some reason, it just comes out.

Here’s a video he took of me.


You can see a little combination of the frozen deer-in-the-headlights Richard along with the spontaneous, scrambling, super-spaz Richard that just seems to come out of nowhere. My favourite part is at the very end, you get a few frames, a foreshadowing really, of me going back to completely serious. If you needed brakes to get from silly-to-serious, I would be changing my brake pads waaaaay too often (and getting some serious thrashings from the g forces).

It’s not quite Kubrick cinema, but it does provide some insight into my problem.

How do I reproducibly get — and stay — in that “special place”, where the free association and improv can come out and stay out?

Or, would it be best for me to admit that I am awkward — and to embrace it?

Are these even related?

Do I need to hire Dan to be in my straight man? My muse? Or just be in my entourage?

Comments welcome.