What’s Good?

Posted Posted in acting, art, comedy, podcast, Uncategorized

Q: What’s Good?

Well, hey, to determine what’s good, we first have to define it, right?

Moral Good

Good can mean morally good: that is, what a society decides is moral. Right now, in this moment – on a Tuesday in March- it is good to sit inside by yourself, and bad to go outside in large groups.  Usually, the opposite is true. It’s good to help others and bad to hoard toilet paper.  

 We think that being a good person is to be of service to others, and to do what is moral, which we pretend is a constant and not something we made up.

500 years ago, it was good to follow church doctrine and bad to question it, as Martin Luther found out.  It was also good to give virgin brides away to strange monarchs, but which someone would probably ask about today. 

 1000 years ago, it was good to burn heretics at the stake, and it was good to be strong.  The whole world was amassing armies and conquering land. China invented paper printed money, which is what power is based on now.  

Looking Good

  A second meaning of good is the aesthetic meaning. This can either mean something that you personally enjoy, or something of superior quality.  The first meaning is subjective, and the second is a societal construct, but we confuse them with each other, and also with the moral meaning of good.  

  To say that something is aesthetically good is to say that based on my background, life experiences, and context, I value it.  My peers, who might have similar background and life experiences, may also value it, which makes me value it more.  

  In The Last Man On Earth and in the Good Place, characters value objects that nobody else appreciates. Phil’s hoard of art in his mansion, or Eleanor’s excitement over a bedpan made famous in a wrestling match: they now have to explain to the people around them what makes these things good, which means they’re not.

  The second meaning of aesthetically good is that something is well-made, as in: is the new Avengers movie any good?  Well, does it have a bunch of characters in shiny outfits and a scary CGI monster? Is Robert Downey Jr. snarky in it? Does Thor not understand something about Earth despite living here kind of a long time and we all laugh at him, even though he’s handsome?  Do the Avengers splinter off and fight and get mad at each other but then they come together and fight the CGI monster and they’re friends in the end? Is there a rock song in it that was expensive to get, but which is played a little too loudly during a very exciting scene? Well, then, that’s what we expect, and it’s good.  

 When you say an Avengers movie is bad- what were your expectations? Did you hope that a character would arrive at a universal truth about human suffering, and that the actor portraying that character would get an important award?  That’s not the yardstick we measure Avengers movies by.

 In performance, to be good is to conform to the current fashion- a hundred years ago, a good singer would sing in a high, reedy voice, and now we like a wide tone and someone who does a lot of vocal switches, which we used to call yodeling.  Good acting in Shakespeare’s time was planting your feet at shoulder width and yelling your lines as loudly as you could.  

  Sometimes we get confused about the two meanings of “good” in art. This is the thought that because you did not personally enjoy something, it’s not good- but in the surfer relativism of The Big Lebowski, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.   Your thoughts on a thing does not really affect its value. If people ever really understand that, Twitter will wither and die.

What’s Good In Fine Art?

 Most art needs context of some sort to be judged- Jackson Pollock paintings are considered good because they were the first really well-known abstract paintings, and because he died only a few years after his best work was made. The value of the paintings his widow was selling to MOMA shot up because, as she pointed out,  there wouldn’t be any more, and that sale created the market for modern art in America, and his peers got rich. If we showed the paintings to an alien or a Maori tribesman, they probably would not consider them good, because they don’t look like anything in particular, but sort of look like lots of things, and why are you putting colors on a fabric square anyway?

     The last episode of the Good Place finds every character trying to achieve their definition of good: Tahani believes that being able to do everything beautifully is good.  Chidi thinks understanding everything is good. Eleanor determines that being good is helping others. 
Jason achieves his definition of good the earliest, as he gets the perfect score in Madden playing as the Jaguars, but reaches yet another level of perfection years later, through achieving inner peace and oneness with nature.

What’s Good?

  I’m a middle-class white woman raised in the South with both religion and MTV, so things I think are good are:

The musty smell of clothing in vintage shops, and the smell of old bookshops.

The moment in a song where the drums lock into syncopation with the guitar, and it sounds like a little machine ticking along.

Black clothing and things that are shiny, because my visual aesthetic was made by 80’s postpunk music videos and has never developed after that.

Cookies n’ cream milkshakes.

Petting a dog who has just dried off from a bath and is very soft, and he’s still unhappy that he got the bath, but being petted afterwards makes it worth the bath, sort of.  

 They’re not universal, except maybe the dog one, but to me, they’re good.

Tea and Sexism

Posted Posted in comedy, feminism, women

I’ve always been an anglophile, have always thought British people were a little smarter and more sophisticated than we are. I assume women comics are treated pretty well there, although I had only done one UK spot, in 2013. My first show in the UK this trip was stacked with funny, capable women, and it was great. On my second show, I noted that I was set up back to back with the other woman on the bill, and I made a joke (which is not a joke) about how that wouldn’t happen in LA, because once we talk about our cats and our periods, what’s left?

Backstage Chitchat

The person I was talking to said oh really, and mistaking that for interest I said yeah, Maria Bamford just sponsored a college study reviewing gender and ethnicity in club bookings, finding that women accounted for just 16% of the work. The person I was talking to said, do you think there’s more than 16% of comics that are women? I turned to him and said, yes.

There are some great shows like Women Crush Wednesdays (back Jan 8!), L.A. WOMAN All Female Revue, and The Mermaid Comedy Hour that are incredibly strong and well-attended, but bookers still get asked- will you have enough funny women to fill the spots? And yeah, they do. The person said in a huff, I don’t agree with women showcases. I don’t think they should exist. I think it should just be: comedy! And then he got up and did his set about how he’s from this place and he’s like this, and his girlfriend is from this other place and she’s like that.

Lessons Learned

I learned a lot. I learned who I shouldn’t talk to, I learned that there are plenty of hacks in London, and I learned that it’s important to support talented women. Anyway, I’m honored to be back on L.A. WOMAN All Female Revue on Sunday at 7 at the Virgil, it’s gonna be a hoot- women will dance, sing, and tell jokes, and we’re gonna show these idiots what’s what! Come on out and join us.

The Eternal Mystery

Posted Posted in comedy

I got a pair of wireless headphones. We were happy for a while, or, at least, I was. I paired them to my phone and learned their name.

I lost them within a week. They were gone before I recycled the box they came in. I had been worried that the chassis that held the charging port wasn’t very sturdy. I didn’t have to worry anymore.

It was so sudden. “They’ll be back,” I thought. “As soon as I buy replacement wireless headphones, they’ll come back to mock me.” I didn’t want to be like in the movie where the woman who has been missing assumed dead meets her husband’s new wife. “I moved on,” he tearfully explains. “What else was I supposed to do?”

I was in denial. The days waned on and on without them, and finally I thought, well, if they turn up again, I’ll have two. I got another pair.

I’ve had the new pair twice as long as the first.

They never turned up. They had stepped off the planet and released themselves into space, forever, trailing their weird little rubber stoppers behind them.

Picture This!

Posted Posted in artsy fartsy, comedy

It’s my first time on Sam Varela and Brandie Posey’s amazing PICTURE THIS stand up comedy show, I have been paired with the amazing artist Craig Bartlett, who worked at Will Vinton and was behind Penny, from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, as well as Hey Arnold! This is gonna be a once in a lifetime comedy show!

Popular Comedy Tropes

Posted Posted in comedy, los angeles

Comedy moves quickly, but these bits will get you on all the cool shows and festivals, because everyone’s doin’ em!

Extremely Detailed Solipsism
Pretending To Be Mad About Small Things
ShockJock (90’s Nostalgia)
Fat Guys, Shirts Off
If I Yell It, It’s A Punchline
I Pooped In Public, A Closer
White People Interpreting Rap Lyrics
Homeless People Are Weird
That Time I Ate Too Much Pot
Hillbilly Philosopher (Nihilism in a Trucker Cap)

Pandora Poetry

Posted Posted in comedy, Virginia Jones, women

When you submit your comedy album to Pandora, like I did with my comedy album, Gothic American, they sort your tracks into little pre-written buckets for their algorithm- and the description of the tracks from my album, Gothic American, make a nice little poem about my comedy:

Female Experiences

An Amused Delivery

A Deadpan Delivery

A Sarcastic Delivery

A Self-Deprecating Delivery

Surprising Misdirects

Jokes About The Entertainment Industry

Humorously Dim-Witted Logic

A Wide Variety of Subject Matter

Liberal Political Leanings

Subject Explorations

Anecdotes