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Humor in the DNA

We all know people who are naturally witty. They see the funny in any situation, even the sad ones. My brother was one of these people. I could never make eye contact with him in certain situations. I could tell his brain was churning some sort of an inappropriate and hilarious thought despite the gravity of the moment.

We also know people who try hard to be funny. They force color into a situation even if the palette is off and they leave us shaking our head and rolling our eyes. Still, I commend their effort.

This weekend we saw a master in action and came away convinced that being funny comes from DNA being wired in peculiar ways.

The Hollywood Bowl was packed to the hilt for the last show of Trevor Noah’s latest US tour. To say that the man is brilliant is a gross understatement. He was late getting to the the Bowl due to the perpetual traffic gridlock on Highland, which makes turning into the Bowl a nightmare. Noah started his monologue with his tardiness and had us in splits. He was relatable because this has happened to each one of us in the audience. He was funny with his physicality, his pauses were timed perfectly and the fact that he did not have a solution was a reflection of life.

He moved on to the airline industry and how other industries never get away with what the airlines do. Safety is their go-to reason for troubling the masses, even when it makes no sense at all. We nodded our heads in unison and lamented that there is no hope for us if Noah has to suffer through this madness as well.

Next he talked at length about race, racial intolerance, cultural misses and politics. For two hours, he was a Tasmanian Devil on the stage, a verbal tour de force and funny beyond what you can imagine. His brilliance is he doesn’t try to be funny. He just is.

Noah described his brain as being inhabited by a little guy with a stash of funny files from which he keeps offering material. I am sure my brother would agree a guy lived in his head too.

Comedians can be great actors but not the other way around. Comedians have to be exceptionally bright and string thoughts in creative ways. They have to be tuned into the news of the day and pop culture, to music and mayhem, to the young and the old. They have to push the boundaries of our delicate state, offend without being offensive and force us to confront things we take for granted. The physical aspect is equally intriguing. Comparatively, actors have it easy.

Standup comics don’t just make us laugh. They chronicle our existence, force us to confront our biases and potentially move the needle on our behavior. Noah does this as if doesn’t know that’s what he is doing.

If you get a chance to see him or the other greats, don't miss it. I certainly lack a significant supply of humor in my DNA, but for two hours I lived vicariously in Trevor Noah’s presence and came back refreshed.



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