Comedic Intelligence

Photo by Flickr user Howard StanburyI’m an avid Twitter user, and a lot of the people I follow are from the comedy community: improvisers I know, improvisers I don’t know but whose work I admire, famous comedic actors and writers, etc. And I am amazed, time and again, at how many people who are absolute geniuses on stage and screen, really lack the gift of expressing themselves comedically in writing. They write tweets that are supposed to be funny but read as awkward at best, illiterate at worst. They do not make me LOL.

These are people who, when you put them in front of a microphone, the funniness just spills forth… oozes out of them. But in writing… none of that spark comes through.

I’m a big believer in the idea of mulitiple intelligences — that “smart” can mean “smart at math,” “smart at music,” “smart at interpersonal communication”… etc. I guess there are multiple comedic intelligences, too.

I have the opposite problem of these perfomers-who-don’t-write-so-good — often, I feel I express myself so much better in writing than I do as a performer. As an improviser, I think my greatest strength is as an editor — knowing when to end a scene or take it somewhere new. These storytelling instincts are ingrained in me as a communicator, whereas my “funny” instincts still, after almost a decade of performing, often come out so much more in conversation than they do on stage. I’m rarely the “funny one” in an improv show; I’m the teammate valued for helping make the show better, more cohesive, better timed. Which serves its purpose, don’t get me wrong. But I feel like I have this “funny” inside me that still doesn’t quite know how to come out on stage, and when I read comedians’ Twitter feeds, I feel like I see them having the same problem, but in reverse.

It’s amazing, isn’t it, how we’re able to express ourselves so much more effectively, and authentically, in some contexts, than in others?

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