Humour is a persona. No surprise there. Modern times are full of comics who were miserable people, to the point of killing themselves. Humour becomes an outlet for these sad, sometimes socially awkward people to express themselves, in often painfully funny ways. It’s funny because who from time to time hasn’t felt the discomfort of being alive?
Writing humour is possibly the most cowardly way of dealing with one’s social awkwardness. You tell a few jokes, bare your insecure soul and then release it to the world, never having to deal with the reality of the reader laughing at your work or (that thing you’re trying to avoid) not.
I’ve had occasion when someone has read my work silently to themselves in front of me. It’s uncomfortable. Worse, though, is when someone is with me listening to one of my radio pieces; I have to leave the room. I have to physically remove myself from their reaction/non-reaction.
I don’t do stand-up comedy. I do hide-out comedy.
As I’ve said before, radio gives me the freedom to do things I can’t do in print, including voices, dialogues, even singing. This week, I sing. Not just goofing around singing. I sing for real.
Using GarageBand and its auto-chords and loops, I created some basic melodies and wrote some lyrics for my fake album Ross Murray Sings Songs of Low Self-Esteem. You see? I’ve hedged my bets. I’ve created music that is supposed to be bad, or at least, in the scenario of the bit, I suggest is bad — no one’s going to like it because I have low self-esteem, get it? So if it really does make the listener wince, that’s part of the bit. Or at least I can tell myself that.
It’s a dodge, a cop-out, self-defence for the self-delusional: I can’t sing! But that’s the point. But I hope people like it! Even though the pretext is they won’t. It goes round and round in circles.
Comedy is risk, and risk means vulnerability. But on radio, no one can see you cringe.
Enjoy. I’ll be over there behind the curtains.
This piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway,” February 2, 2016.