Two reasons why this special stands out:
- Rory treats this special like a science project where he's continuously dissecting why something he tried on stage may or may not have worked.
- They intercut the story of Bob Wood, the theatre owner who through his grit and vision illegally built a theatre in a property he did not own and successfully ran it for 6 years until the building had to be condemned.
I found myself relating to both of these men for widely different reasons.
I appreciate his experimental approach. He raises significant points about the creation process that I would recommend studying if you're interested in learning more about the minutia of standup.
- He talks about being a journalist in the moment. Asking more pointed questions to create better opportunities to be funny.
- He runs through the exercise of bringing up questions from the day as a starting point to creating something from nothing. There's an argument to be made here that good comedy has all the questions and bad comedy has all the answers. Either way, it's a useful exercise to getting to the What and How of making people laugh.
- He makes a strong point for leaning towards sex jokes because he's starting from scratch and there's something fertile in the beginner's mind that leans towards sexual topics. Anyone who has been to an open mic has seen this default in action but it probably speaks louder to the important role sex plays in our day to day lives when it comes to human connection.
I've said this before but comedy is a social science. It's constantly experimenting with what motivates us, how we observe and inquire about others, how we fine tune the creative process, what connects us and what divides us. Not all comedians see themselves as social scientists but all comedy is social science. Rory Scovel is one of the best social scientists in comedy, up there with the likes of Nathan Fielder and Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
This resonated with me because of my own outlook on standup and my own obsession with experimentation. Coming up I'll be doing 8 hours straight of improvised comedy to help raise funds for local families in my neighbourhood who lost their homes to a house fire and lately I've been starting every single day with a personal creation challenge where I challenge myself to suck at something I enjoy.
I don't always post these creations publicly but this post just happens to be today's challenge.
The man is clearly passionate about the comedy business and has all the grit in the world to back it up. Took over a dying building and turned it into something good for his community. He was the owner, the janitor, the sound technician... he did it all. Though he wasn't able to prevent the building itself from meeting a dreary end, you have to admire anyone with the courage to create something from nothing.
On a craft-level, there's so much to learn from Rory, but on a life-level, Bob said something that will most likely stick with me for the rest of his life. He spoke about why he named his daughter Grace Grace from a Bible verse in Zachariah. He talks about laying the capstone (last stone you place on top of a building) on the foundation and calling it "grace grace" — a reminder to embrace small beginnings. That even if you can't see it in front of you, you can still see what it's going to become. From a dude who got as far as the eighth grade and then just kept trucking on in life — I admire the perspective he brings to the table, because most people only want to see what's in front of them and don't stack their efforts towards possibilities as much as they gear their efforts towards managing what they already have.
For the past 18 months — I've been looking at something that isn't there.
If you've read my blog posts before, you know, that I started The Other Comedy Company one minute after being fired from a tech darling. Since then, I have gone onto create Canada's first comedy festival on a goat farm and created a corporate training program that took me 10 months to build. These were the initial building blocks of bootstrapping a startup. What I was able to accomplish with nothing but wind in my bank account.
The vision for the business is far bigger and far longer than what I could accomplish in the past 18 months and I've had to lean back and realize this may take me 5, 10, 20 years to accomplish. The sacrifices I've made up until this point have admittedly buried me because I tried to sprint out a marathon. I have no issue admitting this out loud because failure is par for the course and I'm not going to pretend I ever knew what I was doing. That was the point. I didn't know what I was doing. I only ever knew where I wanted to go. That hasn't changed.
- I am still working towards researching and developing ways that comedy can impact education on a social and emotional learning level to build more resilient communities.
- I am still working towards creating products, experiences and programs that help elevate Canadian comedians to global audiences with the added challenge of our federal policies actively holding back Canadian talent.
- I am still working towards telling the story of what I'm trying to accomplish with The Other Comedy Company which may be in the form of video content, an e-book, or both.
I need to have some grace grace with myself and embrace these small beginnings. There's going to be a period of time where I'll be back to the drawing board and taking time to reset, pivot and move forward. I can't keep going the way I'm going but I'm also not giving up on my vision for the future of comedy in Canada or the role comedy can play in the way we educate each other.
It's just going to take some time.
It's going to take some grace grace.