[continued from part iii]

where was i? oh yes, trying to finish this thing – maybe i should have gone all Hollywood book-movie and split part III into two separate parts for greater box office…

AMERICALAND… AND THE PRESENT DAY

i refer to it as Americaland, because i’ve never been a big fan… and specifically of the materialistic aspects of the country because clearly there is a lot of amazing stuff in this land and a lot of incredible people [as there is a lot of crap like the portion sizes of drink and popcorn containers, the mayonnaise [don’t get me started – you do not know what mayonnaise is, Americaland!] and people who keep allowing Miley Cyrus to perform – and some less than exciting people – I’m looking at you Westboro Baptist “church”].

but it was never a place i particularly wanted to go to [until some of my family moved here] and after Cape Town [i grew up in Joburg and didn’t know better so it was really just the idea of leaving everything i knew as a 12 year old], Stellenbosch and Holland you would think i would learn to not tempt God with ‘places i don’t want to go’ [right now i’m letting him know in no uncertain terms that i never want to to go to the Bahamas and stay in one of those huts out in the ocean with a wooden walkway to them – i won’t do it!] but each time the journey has been an incredible one, largely due to the people and sometimes the opportunities in those places.

one of the tough things of leaving Cape Town was leaving my crew of 11 years at TheatreSports where i had been paid [well petrol money one way at least] to be funny in front of crowds [of 12 or more people] week in and week out. so i have definitely missed that.

and so in the absence of any official outlets for being funny, i had to come up with my own…

ENTER BRAD FISH 

Brad Fish is my alter ego and probably the number one answer to the question, ‘What were you thinking?’ and the answer is honestly that i don’t know. i can’t remember where i came up with the idea [altho i do imagine i was influenced by my friend and ex-youth member Theran Knighton-Fitt who has a funny alter ego called Tharin and so in all likelihood this is simply another of my plaguirising issues, but i feel that since we were in different countries i could possibly get away with it]

[which reminds me of a funny sidebar story – i studied primary school teaching and my first prac teaching experience was at Rondebosch boys primary school teaching grade 4 boys and it wasn’t a particular fun experience for me – i was given to a disillusioned teacher who was giving up teaching at the end of the year and so didn’t care very much about anything. years later it turned out that a bunch of the boys i taught ended up in the Claremont Baptist youth group i was then leading and we had a lot more fun together. a funny-ish story happened while i was teaching there but it was only years later when Theran started coming to the youth group that i made the connection that it had happened with him. one day i was filling in for the other grade 4 class teaching Afrikaans [not my strongest] and this young kid came up to me and asked me how to spell some word and so without skipping a beat i started spelling “W…O…O…R…” and he [who turned out to be Theran] started writing in his book… when he was finished i asked him what it spelled and he read back “woordeboek” which is Afrikaans for ‘dictionary’ and i responded with ‘yes, look it up!’ – he was not impressed but that might have been the comedy highlight of my teaching career]

Anyways so i came up with a concept that i thought might be funny, wrote my first script and recorded the first ever ‘Dangerous Things You Can Least Expect’ [an excellent title, still!] video titled ‘Paper’ and with really bad lip synch which i figured out later was related to my laptop needing natural light to video well:

25 videos later i had a series  that never quite threatened to go viral and the one that was viewed the most was the episode i did on Birthdays which i helped viralise by sticking it on everyone’s wall on Facebook when it was their birthday [and with 4000 plus Facebook friends that was a lot of sharing, which as you know is caring] – they definitely have moments but i don’t think i ever quite nailed it largely because of me needing to sneak one in every now and then when i got a bit of a script together and also doing it in five takes or less, but preferably one and due to filming them on my laptop in one continuous take with no editing or anything like that.

but they did build up a small and faithful following and it was for this handful of people, who have been so so generous in making me feel like i created a worthwhile form of entertainment, that i kept at it although largely due to busyness and lack of fresh ideas have slowed quite dramatically in recent times. one great thing that came out of doing the videos was connecting with my mom’s brother’s son [my cousin] David Fee and his family of 10,000 [or something like that – lot of Fees in the United Kingdom] who, possibly due to some chemical imbalance in the drinking water in Scotland, loved the videos and became some of my biggest fans – and so i have discovered [and come to love] a whole new branch of my extended family and doing the videos was enough for simply that.

the one that came the closest to being brilliant in my opinion though – or let’s say the one with the best idea – was this one that Brad Fish did warning us about the dangers of too much violins in society [with the solution obviously being that we needed less violins, and a lot more sax]:

i am a little proud [in the good way] of that one…

while Brad Fish tried to branch out into the ‘How to…’ market with his ‘I can learn you a thing’ series [https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoH9GUY5WnThkZ2aZW_qZjmWO5zLZwlbz] and ‘Doing it with Brad’ [https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoH9GUY5WnThlYvjoUGBsrXNVhPjAOUkv] these never quite got going [time, inspiration] and only led to 1 and 3 episodes respectively…

one episode that received surprising interest was this one he did on punctuation:

…which somehow made it into at least 4 schools in the Pretoria area in South Africa and in one school the whole English department showed it to their classes [i don’t know how they weren’t all fired] which led Brad to make a special video just for that school as a form of thanks… so yes teachers, looking for some educationamalism, look no further – Brad Fish can have help you out wiv it no problems.

and so who knows what will happen with Brad Fish in 2014 – maybe it’s time to retire him or maybe, if time and inspiration permits, there will be occasion to improve the quality and presentation of the videos and to draw in somewhat bigger audiences that way, but in the meantime i am happy to keep my 10 to 20 fans happy with irregular episodes as the ideas hit…

i should add this, that while there was a pocketful of loyal fans and i really enjoyed making Brad Fish videos for them, there was a huge part of them that was purely for me, in an attempt to keep my sanity. i started making DTYCLE while at the Simple Way where tbV and i were residents for close to two years and while there was a lot of good that came out of that, there was a lot of difficult and frustrating and even angry-making at times and i think a huge part of making the Brad Fish videos at times was just giving in to the silly and just having a few minutes to move to a place away from some of the mess i found myself in at times… Brad Fish – cheaper than a therapist!

BRETT ANDY

There is and will ever only be one Jack Handey [and judging by his first novel which i excitedly bought this year titled ‘The Stench of Honolulu: A tropical Adventure’ maybe even he has gone – what a piece ‘o crap!] but he brought us such classics as:

‘Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them, and you have their shoes.’

‘When I was a kid my favorite relative was Uncle Caveman. After school we’d all go play in his cave, and every once in a while he would eat one of us. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Uncle Caveman was a bear.’

‘To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.’

‘Somebody told me how frightening it was how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared.’

Love me some Jack Handey. And so much so that i figured [as some other oke did before me] that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and so i started trying to get my brain into Jack Handeyesque mode and came up with my other alter ego, a funnyish guy called Brett Andy – as with the real Jack, not all of the ones i came up with were great, but a couple of them i thought came close to hitting the spot:

‘Do you think if minutes were edible, they’d taste good enough that we’d want to go back for seconds?’ [Brett Andy]

‘I would imagine a horse drawn carriage would be a really ugly thing. For starters, it must be almost impossible to grip a pencil with hooves. Plus there is all that fine detail around the edges to consider.’ [Brett Andy]

“I wish I had the balls to do that, I thought, as I enviously watched the juggler.” [Brett Andy]

and then in full on homage mode:

‘Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then, walk half a mile in their shirt, followed by another full mile, this time in their pants. Walk two more miles in their underwear and then criticise them all you want.

Also, they’re naked.’

[Brett Andy]

Every now and then i go back to the blog [where you can find the rest of the quotes here] and delete some of the saddest ones in an attempt to gather a collection that is purely fun or funny, but there is still a long way to go. Although i do think i hit funny enough times in there to warrant reading through the whole list at least once. Maybe in 2014 i’ll find moments to tune my brain back into Brett Andy mode again cos that was fun.

THE BIGGEST LAUGH I SEEK

so let’s try wind this baby down… i guess when it comes down to it, there are always two laughs i am hoping to get:

the first one is my own – i have to think something is funny to do it [altho there is a corollary to that and i doubt i can explain this well, but there is a certain type of occasion or crowd or joke where i know it will not come across as funny to many people or even anyone and yet i like it or think it is clever or funny and will do it anyway – i have told Val a couple of times ‘this is not going to work’ or ‘they’re going to hate this’ but there is something about delivering a moment that is satisfying for me to have delivered even if others don’t join in and sometimes specifically because others don’t join in – i wish i could think of an example but sometimes the fun for me is the knowledge of how it would be received and doing it anyway – this falls in line with the ‘higher grade’ joke i spoke about before where sometimes i will choose the five people laugh [at clever humour] over the crowd laugh [at something easy or silly] and that for me remains satisfying – my laugh is more important sometimes than the crowds.

this falls closely in line with my preaching and one habit i have which i’m not sure anyone really gets is pretending to be nervous or overnervous before i do something that might make other people nervous [ie speaking to a crowd of 1000 people] as a means of dealing with my nervousness… again a bit of a hard one to explain but the act of feigning nervousness, not only allows me to use the word ‘feigning’ which let’s be honest, but also takes away any possible nervousness for me that might be there. what it doesn’t do though is help those around me who think i am incredibly nervous when actually i’m not. so maybe it is the act of transferring any nerves i might have on to those around me that helps me avoid all nervousness together or something like that. having said that, one of the points is that i won’t attempt something [in the speaker/joke department] unless i believe it is going to work – if i believe it’s going to fail that is when i will not attempt it. if i think it might fail but might work then i’m fine with taking that kind of risk but there needs to be at least some small part of me that thinks or believes that this thing is going to work – that’s where i get my confidence from [and is one of the areas in which i am different from my friend Alan Committie i think, because i don’t think that thought or analysis slows him down, but possibly because he believes he is going to be funny every time whereas i know that has not always been the case with me? i don’t know] – but that is a peek into one of the internal workings of my brain.

and then the second and possibly toughest laugh to get is that of the beautiful Val [you might know her as tbV although you shouldn’t cos only i am allowed to call her that] who claims that she doesn’t want me to lower my standards or something lame like that… when i get Val to laugh then i know it is good… although to be honest i think she has only watched two Brad Fish videos and she laughed out loud at both of them… but yes, it is something i appreciate as she doesn’t just laugh at everything i do or pretend to, so i know that when i get one out of her that i have nailed it!

so it is great to be with someone who at times keeps me humble and at other times brings me joy when i do get the laugh – she also has the ability to make me laugh which is great as i generally am not someone who actually laughs out loud [which might be why i hate the concept of the ‘LOL’ and that is probably the first time i have ever written it… no, it’s just cos it’s dumb, if you’re writing Laugh Out Loud – see, i can’t do it twice – then you’re probably not!] but there are times when she has the ability to do that and i think that is one of the things that makes a strong marriage – being able to laugh well together and there are many times when we definitely have that.

AND FINALLY, IN CLOSING

so there you have it, i did not even get to the point of why i started writing this, which was kinda bemoaning the fact that i’m not so sure if i legitimately am funny these days and particularly with my struggle to write funny because i really want to be able to write funny blog posts – not all the time, but on occasion – and i am not sure why i can’t because i do think there is enough evidence in other places to suggest that i definitely am some type of funny. so maybe that will be something i will work on in 2014 and if you have a topic you would like to see me try and write funny on then please leave it in the comments section cos i find i work well from a starting place…

some brief and final bullet points in closing:

# i have kind of held to the notion that ‘women aren’t funny’ for a long time now which would have probably have gotten me beaten up on the TheatreSports stage where, looking back, there is no doubt that over the years there has been an abundance of proof that women definitely can be and are funny. i have been privileged to work alongside some very funny women. and i don’t think i ever truly meant that no women ever are funny and it might be the whole vibe of men being offered the best parts and so we just haven’t had the opportunity to witness it as much but in years gone by i could name ten to twenty funny men without even thinking and when it came to women it was Whoopi Goldberg [we’re talking ten, twenty years ago] and that kinda sucked. but today there are so many more funny women and hopefully now that they are writing and directing more we will also get to see more of them on the screen. but Tina Fey and Amy Poehler really kicked that one out of the park as far as i am concerned – i think Kristen Wiig is amazing and i also think that Sandra Bullock is great – Melissa McCarthy has potential but i feel she has been sadly stereotyped as foul-mouthed obnoxious toilet humour women and so i hope she can escape that. and new SNL lady Cecily Strong i think is great and is going to do so well. and more… so partly i have needed to chew some humble pie on this one, but i do think that largely my lack of being able to name many funny women was indicative of a man-heavy Hollywood machine which is hopefully crumbling as there are clearly some very funny women out there [and a little secret of my own is that somehow i used to hold on to that theory despite having been the biggest fan of the Carol Burnett show which featured some incredibly strong and funny women of which Carol was queen – love me some Carol Burnett!] So apologies ladies, but cheering on the spaces that are being created for more of you to be able to show me the funny. special mention must be made to April on Parks and Rec [Aubrey Plaza]. Flip.

# there should be a thesis on this and maybe there is, but one of the best laughs [if not THE best imaginable laugh] has to be the inappropriate laugh – i was once asked to leave a Student Christian Association missions trip meeting [and rightly so, by the late Rory Prest] because i got into an uncontrollable laughter loop because of some private joke someone had with me that kept setting me off. the most inappropriate laugh i have ever had was when i bumped into a friend in a mall and he told me his dad had cancer [or possibly even had died of cancer] and i burst into laughter [and have no idea why – presumably the shock of the situation – but you cannot explain that one away – that was quite definitely the worst laugh of my life] – but funeral laughs and serious meeting laughs and church laughs tend to be the most incredible laughs and the ones you don’t get to enjoy because you spend the whole time biting your tongue or your hand or something to try and make them stop [anyone have any stories of this? please do share below]

# i should have added my friend Megan Donald to the best laughs to get – a few years ago when i was one of the pastors at the vineyard church in Stellenbosch my friend Megan and i used to go regularly to watch bad [as in lame, not as in dodgy] movies such as Vin Diesel in The Pacifier which gave us some classic lines such as ‘We’re navy seals – this is what we do’ and ‘It’s my way – there is no highway option’ and such classics as ‘Monster House’. and ‘Shark Boy and Lavagirl’ [altho i think i always called her Lavalamp girl for some reason] in 3D – our quest was bad lines which became private jokes between us and i used to use them to good effect by sneaking them into sermons in which case Megs would suddenly burst out laughing in church and no one would no why. one of the best moment of those, which was not directly movie-related was the one time we went to see some movie and i think we couldn’t get in or something and ended up at a restaurant and someone told us the joke, ‘Why are pirates cool? Because they arrr’ and i made a big deal of the joke and it had got huge airplay between us and then a few days later at church, with Megan sitting in the front row, I asked the inevitable, ‘Why are pirates cool?’ and decided to follow it up with the more misdirectional, ‘Because they wear eye patches and they fight with swords’ and so everyone else just stared at me for not being funny whereas Megan burst out in her great Megan laugh…

the biggest moment of backfire of that was after Megan and i saw the less lame but quite hectic movie ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ which is an incredible movie but pretty hectic and graphically violent and so not the normal thing i would be happy watching and Megan spent at least a third to two thirds of the movie hiding under her jersey… one classic scene in the movie has the hero making her way through this room where there is this table filled with a feast of food that she is not allowed to touch and this creature at the table has a face with no eyes and then he grabs his two eyes [can’t remember where from] and embeds them into the palms of his hands so when he sticks his hands on his face he can see out of them – quite disturbing but also funny and bizarre and as we walked out of the movie i turned to Megan and said, well you know what i’m going to do – next time i preach i am going to put my hands in the position and you are going to explode in laughter… turns out the very next day i am asked last minute to read a passage in church by the main pastor, Chris, and it just happens to be the one talking about the body of Christ and the line ‘the eye cannot say to the hand i don’t need you’ and as i am reading i am thinking of how i can use this passage to make Megan laugh when suddenly i get to that line and just as i read it i burst out in uncontrollable laughter [great if you know the story but less great if you are the pastor and congregation and the youth pastor is reading an innocent passage and suddenly bursts into laughter] – so big payback for all the times i got Megs… but we had Megan and Crazy Dave [who had what could only be described as a guffaw of a laugh] and Sune who also had a huge laugh and any time we could get any of them laughing [or the one time all three together] it was a moment to be proud of…

# My friend Belinda Goodrich from Baptist music and drama team, W.O.W. team that i was one for a year used to find me particularly funny and one joke in particular [which isn’t really all that funny] used to slay her when i told it [or later just said the opening line] and so that was a huge boost to my confidence and i used to whip it out often:

There was once an old spinster who tried to hide her fading eyesight from a prospective suitor so she stuck a pin into a tree. The next day they were out walking and she pointed at a tree far in the distance and said, ‘Hey, isn’t that a pin sticking out of that tree?’ And as she ran to retrieve it she tripped over a cow. 

[must have been in the telling]

# in terms of people that make me laugh, i have a lot of people in my life who do that and i am so grateful for them – any of my best guy mates – Duncan and Rob and Reegs [especially when it comes to good old innuendo] and also MJ the Phillip and especially my mate Dreadlocked Mike can make me laugh a lot and i love spending time with them when that is happening – some of my best times are sharing laughs with those guys. my TheatreSports team on so many occasions and in so many ways and the best part of that has often been making the laughter happen together – i can’t thank these guys enough for letting me play with them. And there are a whole host of other people who on occasion or consistently have made me laugh and if i were to list them all, surely i couldn’t. but thank you each and every one of you. laughing is fun.

when it comes to Hollywood i am a big fan of funny Jim Carrey, who we haven’t really seen for a while – next year they are releasing the sequel to Dumb and Dumber and i just don’t know that i’d hedge bets on that being funny – could go either way – but i used to love him on In Living Colour [back before he was famous] and then as Ace Ventura and some of his other earlier roles [what i have really appreciated about him though is how great he has been in some serious roles – Man in the Moon and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind jump to mind] and beyond him there have been a bunch of others but i have been noticing a growing trend of those who used to make me laugh not being able to make me laugh much any more. It started when Pauly Shore had his hair cut because in California Man [Encino man to Americaland] and Son-in-Law he was great and then he cut his hair and he was rubbish… and in more recent times Adam Sandler [great in Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmour and others] has been going backwards at a pace of knots and even Will Ferrell has just gotten worse and worse and it looked like he might redeem himself when it was announced that Anchorman II was going to be made and the previews looked semi good and i got way too excited and it was the second WORST movie of the year for both tbV and i [R.I.P.D. beat it hands down] and just such a disappointment – where have all the funny guys gone? And maybe it’s that the women are taking over? Or maybe it’s just that they all moved to tv because Steve Carrell and both Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt [from Parks and Rec] are incredibly funny as is Adam Scott actually and Rob Lowe has been an amazing re-invention as a truly funny guy on the show… but on the big screen, it has been a while since we saw some genuine funny.

# probably what i have enjoyed more in the last few years is serious guys playing comedic roles and Christopher Walken [who i never used to like cos he creeped me out] is probably the top of that pile – John Malkovich in both the Red movies as well as Helen Mirren in particular [talk about funny women] embraced the silliness of their roles with such seriousness that they became even more funny.

# authorwise my hero is Terry Pratchett who has such a gift and his Discworld series of comedic fantasy contain such brilliance and humour that i can’t imagine a time when he hears his first sentence in all caps and his writing is no more – i have found Jasper Fforde and in particular his ‘Thursday Next’ series to be what i call a poor man’s substitute but i feel like he is finding his funny and getting stronger from book to book. Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ autobiography was a great addition to things i find funny this last year and look forward to more from her.

and i could continue, but this time i really won’t – so thank you for joining me on this journey – i’m sure there is much more to say and write but i’m glad for the chance to have been able to at least share some overview of my relationship with funny – i am very serious about being funny in the best of possible way and hope that it is a skill that i am able to grow and improve and diversify as time goes on. i will probably continue my attempts at going viral or semi-viral or something with the main intention of drawing an audience for all of the much more important stuff i feel i have to share on here.

thank you to all of you who have laughed with me or at me or with me at me – i hope that it will prove to be a great decision of mine to have chosen funny over neutral and i hope that in small and big ways i have been able to put smiles on a lot of your faces, particularly in the mouth area.

As Brett Andy might say, ‘I realised I’d been making a mountain out of a molehill. The mole family in particular was not amused.’ 

dreadssmell

[To return to the start of this series and read how Brett Fish found his funny… or didn’t… click here]

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