Are We Born Funny?

Monday, September 7th, 2015
I loved this episode so much, it hurt! (photo credit: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee/Crackle)

I loved this episode so much, it hurt! (photo credit: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee/Crackle)

While we’re talking about comedy… I have a few posts I started drafting when I was thinking about comedy for so much of the day.

Comedians are all different (obviously) because they’re people, and people are different.

However, do you feel that a lot of them sort of come off with a lot of the same energy?

For instance, I’ve been watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee a lot (love that show). And it’s sounded like some people on the show have said they believe that you’re born with something – that’s how you’re funny. It can’t be learned, you have to be born with it. Some people specify that funny can be honed, but it can’t be learned…

And I’m unsure if I really believe that… I mean, I just don’t know.

I do kind of believe in natural ability. But I also kind of subscribe to the 10,000 hour rule from that Malcolm Gladwell book (“Outliers”)…

…But even if we can agree that people could get really good at anything with dedication, maybe some people don’t have it in them to get to the top level of certain things, no matter how hard they try?

I think that idea was actually put forth in the book. Didn’t he say something like you have natural ability on a scale of 1-5 and you have your work ethic on a scale of 1-5.

So someone with a natural ability of only 2 can become an 7 with a 5 work ethic – outdoing someone who’s a 6. with a 5 in natural ability and a 1 in work ethic…

But, if you only have a natural ability of 1, then you simply can’t beat a 5 who works at a 5 (making her a 10).

Also a spectacular episode! (photo credit: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee/Crackle)

Also a spectacular episode! (photo credit: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee/Crackle)

Anyway… this whole idea that you have to be “born funny,” it just seems not right to me. How do you know if you have enough of a glimmer of a gift to pursue it? Or do you just pursue it if you love it, and hope for the best?

I’ve heard improv teachers talk on podcasts (and I’ve taken improv classes).

The general feeling the teachers seem to express is that everyone can be good – that practically anyone, if she takes enough improv classes and performs enough, can get good at improv. It’s a learnable skill.

(Someone once told me that Tina Fey was described as “unwatchable” when she first started improv. I don’t know if that’s true, or just lore that’s started…)

It mainly seems to be stand-ups I’ve heard say the born funny thing…

I guess ultimately it doesn’t super matter what anyone thinks. If you love something, you can go after it. And it’ll happen or it won’t. At least you tried.

But yeah, I’m just wondering if I have a “comedian’s brain,” and if that’s even a real thing.

Again, I know every person is different. And while they are all different in their own special ways (they have their own stuff they like to talk about, and their own rhythm of jokes and all that), most comedians still have certain things in common.

And I’m just not sure that I have the same incredible attention to the details of life, or the same kind of sarcastic wit I often hear…

And I’m not completely sure that I want to…

(Even though a lot of comedy skills are quite impressive, they may not be for me… And I’ll talk about that tomorrow.)

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?