Here's what's wrong with that sentence--people who know me, even remotely, know that I:
- Don't stand for three minutes for anything, let alone three hours
- Hate the rain, and do my best to avoid it at all costs.
Yet there I was, with about 10,000 other faithful, watching what was one of the top five live rock music shows I've ever seen (and this coming from a guy who's been attending concerts, and lots of 'em, for over 35 years).
Mixed in with my enjoyment of this musical experience was this nagging professional conundrum:
How in the world can I get people to stand in the rain for comedy?
Since my return to Just For Laughs, one of the major challenges I put upon myself was to "hippify" the world of live comedic performance, a field that while entertaining and ultimately satifying, hasn't changed much over the 11 years I left it for the experience at Airborne Mobile (frankly, it hasn't changed much since I started at Just For Laughs in 1985...but that's adding salt to the wound).
Trust me, I've been thinking about this a lot. Too much, perhaps. But here are my major conclusions:
--Music works in the soul, the gut.
--Comedy works in the head. It's a cerebral process that requires attention and a basic understanding of language, history, pop culture and/or current events to connect the references and "get" the jokes. Even the most basic knock-knock joke, x-rated dick joke or slapstick pratfall is an intellectual experience.
--Music is an emotional ride that conjures up memories of love affairs, personal milestones and special events. Songs often define one's life-changing moments.
--Comedy, even at its most esoteric, is rational. Unlike songs, no wife has ever turned to her husband to say: "Oh honey, he's telling our joke!"
--Music is easy to digest. You don't even have to pay attention. That's why tens of thousands of fans at Montreal's annual Jazzfest can get off on a Brian Setzer concert, hundreds of feet away, with their backs to the stage, while talking to their friends.
--Comedy requires focus. Miss a set-up and the punchline makes no sense. It's more intimate and requires a closer relationship between performer and audience.
Great. So now I understand it. Now what the hell can I do (other than maybe offer Green Day's incomparable frontman Billie Joe Armstrong to host a JFL Gala) to create the same type of gut-level, rock 'n' roll bond so that if it rains during our outdoor event next summer, I can still count on a happy, content, and dare I say, delighted crowd? How do I lessen the need for the head and increase the straight-to-the-heart?
It's indeed a work in progress, but perhaps the best clue can be found in the two words Al Kratina of the Montreal Gazette used to ultimately describe the Green Day show in his review the next day:
HAPPINESS and EXCITEMENT
And now...the mission to create both.
Bring your umbrella.