“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”
This quote from E.B. White has long resonated within the comedy world and points to the fact that explaining humor is considered taboo for comedians and audiences alike. Conventional wisdom suggests that if a joke is funny, you shouldn’t have to explain it.
With “Behind the Laughs: Comedy & Conversation,” comedians Grant Sheffield, Lauren Faber, Reid Pegram, Brett Williams and Zo Myers will do what few in their profession publicly do — analyze their own work.
This event, taking place Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Varsity Theater, came from a desire to put together a show that was unconventional.
“I never want to do a show someone else has done before,” said Bry Burguesa, the event’s organizer and founder of BLUSH Factory Comedy.
Burguesa, who is a comic himself, found inspiration in the casual post-show conversations he and his fellow comics often had with audience members. After gaining valuable insights from these conversations, he asked, “What if we opened that kind of thing up to everyone?”
While the small-scale conversation Burguesa described is common at most comedy shows, many comics have not experienced the type of formal discussion that the event will provide.
“With stand-up, you do get a lot of immediate feedback in a way, either laughs or not laughs,” said Faber, a Durham-based comedian who won the title of Carolina’s Funniest Comic. "But you don’t very often get people to share their thoughts and insights into the thing you do all the time.”
Burguesa said he hopes that the discussion will go beyond simply the analysis of jokes. He says that he wants the audiences to get to know the comics on a personal level, finding out about their creative processes and inspirations. He also hopes that the conversation will go both ways, with comics learning from their audiences, as well.
In order to create a wide-ranging discussion, Burguesa created a lineup that draws from seemingly disparate styles of comedy. The bill includes comics ranging from Williams, a “musical comedian,” to Sheffield, whose website describes his style ranging from “relatable topics to pure absurdity.”
“I really wanted there to be five distinct personalities and five distinct types of humor, and I think each one of these comedians has something that makes them special,” Burguesa said.
Regardless of their stylistic differences, all of the comics share an excitement for the event.
“The comics here are so competent,” said Sheffield. “I think it's going to be a really fun thing to do for the crowd and for the comics.”
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