“Stand-up Tragedy”: When Coping Mechanisms Become Calls to Action

I’m not a particularly gifted comedian, but comedy plays a big role in the life I’ve made with my Mate. We like to say Jon Stewart pretty much raised our children. I know he got us through the Dubya Bush years, especially after the invasion of Iraq. When the Daily Show theme music came on, we’d yell, “Hey boys, Funny People!” and the boys would come running.

Since the election of 2016, I’ve leaned hard on Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah to remind myself that I’m not the only one who feels like my country’s turning back 100 years. But since the death of George Floyd, like the comedians themselves, I’m finding more solace in bitterness.

Isn’t that a contradiction? No–not when the bitterness is shared, and focused.

This morning’s New York Times article about Richard Pryor, by Jason Zinoman, put it best. After moving on to discuss Pryor’s legacy among Black comics, including SNL’s Michael Che and The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr., Zinoman focuses on Dave Chappelle, and coins the perfect phrase:

Over the past few decades, Chappelle has repeatedly made comedy from the pain of police brutality, but what stood out about his recent set was how his typically grave tone didn’t pivot to a joke, how often he let his unfiltered outrage sit there…Chappelle went long stretches without jokes, producing a kind of stand-up tragedy. When he asked what the police officer whose knee was on the neck of George Floyd could be thinking, he spoke with a righteous anger that comedy could not address. There are limits to what a joke can do.

Stand-up tragedy. YES. That is what feeds my soul these days: someone standing up, literally, and calling out what happened and what it means. Here is Trevor Noah, his first workday after the death of Rayshard Brooks:

Trevor isn’t telling me what to do. But when this professional funny person, this man whose impish dimple has brought me so much joy over the past five years, looks me in the eye and speaks his bitter truth, I feel called up. Which is how I want to feel right now.

It’s even more (bizarrely) comforting to hear comedians call other people out–people not like me, whom I wouldn’t have the right to criticize. Here’s Hasan Minhaj, from his show Patriot Act, calling out his fellow immigrants from Asia and the Middle East:

There are some speakers, like Killer Mike and Kimberly Jones, whose words are pure bitterness and zero comedy–no less brilliant and even more gripping–and I’ll probably focus on them another time.

Right now I want to give a huge shout-out to those “Funny People” whose wit and wisdom is fueling me these days–and hopefully you too. Please share others!

Mariachi Flor de Toloache: Watch For That “Colbert Bump”

My friend Beth is one proud mama. Her daughter’s band, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, is set to play The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this coming Friday, September 25.

In case your vision of mariachi is limited to portly gentlemen in tight-fitting suits, take a look at Flor de Toloache, the only all-women mariachi in New York City:

(Courtesy latino.foxnews.com)

(Courtesy latino.foxnews.com)

OK, the tight-fitting suits part was correct.

Flush with the glory of their recent Mexico tour–the only all-female US mariachi group ever to do so–Flor de Toloache has thrown themselves into their new project, playing both warmup AND backup for The Arcs, the new band formed by Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.

What’s funny is, Mr. Auerbach had no idea he was about to change his whole band’s sound when he asked his manager to hire a mariachi band. Beth says no one told him the band was all-women–not to mention all-gorgeous. Even funnier, he hired them to play. Only after realizing he dug their instrumentals did he happen to ask, “You guys don’t happen to sing, do you?”

Do they!

So now The Arcs are scheduled to play for Mr. Colbert and his shiny new Late Show next Friday, and guess who will be featured? I’m not really a Late Show person (though I do love Stephen). I’m not really a mariachi person either. But these women are DYNAMITE, so not only will I be watching them and cheering them on, I hope a whole bunch of you guys tune in too!

Then tell me what you think, eh? Ai-ai-ai-ai-ai!!!!