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Funny, Fearless, and Not Afraid of Failure: Finding Creative Inspiration in Comedy Podcasts

Funny, Fearless, and Not Afraid of Failure: Finding Creative Inspiration in Comedy Podcasts

I’ve always thought comedian Victor Borg looks exactly like my grandfather – but my grandfather was never funny. Both men were European Jews born at the turn of the century with history written on their faces and ancient countries on their tongues. My grandfather, the venerable man who believes in hard work and a quiet home, disagrees with most things.

Victor Borg made me laugh out loud at the age of eleven while my parents were at work. From the worn-out VHS tape, Borge began his show staring at TV viewers – I was sure – with a book in hand and promising to read this great volume of literature aloud. But Borg’s unique comedic trick was to pronounce punctuation alongside the words: a series of zips, sizzles, and bobs that exploded from this old man’s mouth. I was a shy kid who loved to draw and write alone.

I spent hours in my head dreaming of heavy stories, but I was too nervous to read aloud from a textbook in class — an origin story familiar to many who have grown up calling ourselves the book. And here was this Holocaust survivor in a suit on stage, making berries with his mouth for the world to laugh at. CanI thought, alone on my couch, Being funny in public was brave.

I wanted to make something new like this guy who looks like my grandfather. The performance continued to terrify me, but I started letting the humor into my scribbles, making comics for my school friends and adding jokes to my stories. Then in my twenties after early tastes of rejection and a stint in art school where I was too shy to make friends, I looked into the crater of a life of solitary meditation and decided to leave the berries of the burg behind. I traded in art for a serious job that required serious hours and came with my co-workers ready—another common story that makes the world go round.

As a child, the VHS tape showed me that humor gave a creative spark and a sense of kinship. As an adult, comedy podcasts have helped me find my way back into the world of creativity. Before I developed confidence in seeking out other writers and artists—before I could even name myself with those words again—I found community secondhand by listening to comedians who were as supportive of each other as possible during my long commutes to and from work.

My favorite shows then and now extend a behind-the-scenes pass to borderless conversations in the green spaces of comedians: a peek at how creative people talk to other creators when they’re not afraid to look silly — even when addressing the most serious topics. They offer each other staggering lines, congratulations, and cut-offs on takedowns while understanding that they are all in this together: an upside-down life that honors strange assumptions and ignores the expected stench. These explosions of open acceptance remind me over and over of the joy of fearless making.

Creative work can be a single serious process. We spend hours silently debating the weight of a word, and spend a lifetime worrying about where our pictures deserve in the world. Then performers try on things, bouncing ideas off the audience or watching them sink like a lead balloon. Many of us choose to write because we are naturally introverted, and we find a comfortable outlet for our wandering minds on a blank page. Poet Adrian Rich demonstrated in her collection of essays that silence in solitude “can be fertile, and it can engulf the imagination.” The arts of the possible. Hemingway went so far as to claim that “writing, at its best, is a solitary life.”

Even the most lonely artist sometimes needs a safe room from their peers for our strangest thoughts and perceptions, a place to say “what if?” and “Does anyone else’s brain function in such a wild way?”

But even the most reclusive artists sometimes need a safe room from their peers for our strangest thoughts and perceptions, and a place to say “what if?” and “Does anyone else’s brain function in such a wild way?” However, it can be difficult to find a reliable and open community. In a 1984 interview with Paris review, writer James Baldwin noted that he had never seen a real community of writers and added, “I don’t think any writer has ever seen it.” There is some comfort in knowing that even literary legend could not find a consistent set to draw upon. Fortunately, my comedy podcast is always there for me now.

The first show I participated in was You made it weird With Pete Holmes. The premise is that comedian Pete Holmes is very embarrassed while interviewing other celebrities and comedians he admires; The show lives up to its name. Holmes’ guests pester him mercilessly—because he talked a lot, because he’s religious, because he’s divorced, and because he’s tall—and he loves that Holmes. He also pokes, and seems to only bring them closer. Listening on the bus or in my car after a long day of meetings was brutal, uncomfortable, and inspiring. After the Homes episodes, I would scribble my thoughts into a Google Doc on my phone, unnumbered phrases that I sometimes couldn’t coax into meaning after five minutes. But the point was, it’s been years since I was that girl watching Victor Borg spits the comma, and I’ve finally been writing again.

I’ve listened for hours and days (maybe months, if I’m honest) of comedy podcasts since the discovery You made it weird. I listen when I’m too tired to be creative, too sad, or too distracted. I listen when I can’t figure out why an article won’t come back with me, or why I’m yelling so loudly that it hurts. I listen when my novel’s draft gets stuck at a plot point that won’t budge, or when my story races forward at dangerous speed. I listen when the 10th rewrite is still wrong and my inbox is full of rejections.

Every time I listened to the comedians laughing at each other’s misunderstood jokes, I let that joy overwhelm me, washing away my inhibitions with a bit of humiliation from trying anything. Failing is funny, and correcting it can be funny too. Even trying is funny, and that’s part of what makes creative life fun. During my years listening to Pete Holmes, I learned how to write novels.

Next was Poog With Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak, a comedic take on public vanity that served as the soundtrack to reviews on secondly Unpublished manuscript. Poog Featuring two brilliant comedians who happen to be health-obsessed, their Achilles heels embrace with puns about proper hydration. They admit to spending a lot of money on products that don’t work and discuss how they prepare for their successful shows (such as Berlant’s recent KateNovak 2019 Get on your knees) with baroque procedures that include EMDR, Kardashians and sound baths. on me Poog, these genius creative minds not only let me know how they craft an award-winning joke; They showed me how they also struggle with the challenge of having a body and a brain at the same time. They may hate themselves sometimes but they always love each other, and their cruelty has helped me love my naked a bit more, too.

They may hate themselves sometimes but they always love each other, and their cruelty has helped me love my naked a bit more, too.

My favorite is Mike Berpiglia It works out, a show born into the stillness of a pandemic as a way for the comedian and his guests to film their unfinished parts on air. I found it a year later, having lost my mobility and gained my third thought. on me It works outThe jokes are sometimes terrible (like many of the early outlines) but the comedians tell them anyway in the hope that another comedian will help them find a way to be funny. Berpiglia is relentlessly gentle with his guests, but they are not always the same for him. They tell him when the punch line is flat or when he should think at a different angle on the whole subject. And Berpiglia thanks them, because that’s the job: to try and fail and do better by helping people who know exactly what you mean even when you don’t have any meaning. I listened to It’s working outside An hour after the publication of the first work of fiction.

Berpiglia recently had his wife on the podcast, a woman with two published poetry books, and she recently “came out” as a poet by the name of J. Hope Stein. The episode annoyed me at first, and made me itch. Berpiglia is clearly a gaga for his girl and the couple have a lovely relationship with science – true love can upset the public, but that wasn’t my problem. Stein, a top-secret artist (she said she literally hid her poems all over the house) wasn’t as free as his other guests. She spoke as if chewing her own words before releasing them, more anxious and nervous than any guest I’ve heard on a podcast I’ve had in the past. I wanted to scream at her to spit on her! Try anything! Be funny! be brave!

Poor J. Hope Stein; I blamed her for the biblical reflection of myself that she couldn’t help but project to. She looked like me when asked to describe my style. I paused, as I do, before expressing potentially offensive opinions. “I’m in a dark and lonely tunnel most of the time,” Stein said, explaining the circumstances that shape her work. It doesn’t do it wrong – what I want to convey is that no one does – but it didn’t offer me the comfort acting that is now such an important part of my creative process. I live in that tunnel too and need a comedy blast from time to time to find my way back to fresh air.

Before getting into comedy, Viktor Borg was a classically trained musician, and a famous composer who was playing a concert when his native Denmark was occupied by Nazi forces. I’m sure Borg was devastatingly familiar with the dark tunnel of one’s thoughts. However, he knew that beside failures and fears, the funny also grows. “Humour,” he said, “is something that thrives between human aspirations and limits.” Being funny out loud with others is a brave expression of uncertainty in a world that favors clean success stories.

Now I am fortunate enough to have a few generous artist friends, a budding writing group and a cash partner to call me. But I won’t be giving up on my podcast anytime soon. If silly mouthfuls are good enough for the great Victor Borg, I’ll keep arranging comedy for this new no-nonsense, but it knows what you want to be when he gets older.


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