Okay, this might not apply to tragedies like war and natural disaster destruction, but for the most part she was right. What reduces one person to hysterics might bore another. Comics utilize their own unique perspective in their work. But in order to sell it to the audience, it must be believable. Perspective lies in the moment. What you see or feel comes with a mix of your personal circumstances, life experiences, upbringing, belief system, and attitude.
I recently watched Gabriel Iglesias’ comedy show Aloha Fluffy. He usually makes me laugh until I cry. This guy gained recognition from a comedy talent show where the audience determined the winner by voting someone off each week. Gabriel did not win his season, but he won me over. I always voted for him. I may not have much in common with a Mexican man, but I identified with his perspective on life.
Gabriel found fun in everything. Especially things others might find hurtful. Mister I’m-Not-Fat-I’m-Fluffy made good money regaling audiences with his own life experiences. He made no bones about his love of junk food – tacos, doughnuts, and chocolate cake.
“People ask me all the time, Gabriel, why are you always making fun of yourself? Well, I don’t make fun of myself. I just tell you about other people making fun of me. That’s from my real life.”
Another guy that size might hide himself away and take every fat comment directed at him to heart. He might have lost a girlfriend or job because of it, so his perspective could swing the way of great misery. But Gabriel viewed his weight through his own lens, harnessed it like lightning and turned it into a cash cow.
Some comics highlight the positive in the experience, while others seek to tear down and ridicule. I think their perspective reveals their true character. I’ve heard comics claim, “I’ll say anything for a laugh.” and “It’s only an act.” But I think they are kidding themselves. Comics create their persona around their material, similar to musicians. Gabriel is Mr. Fluffy Guy – a fun loving character. Imagine if Frank Sinatra hadn’t liked love songs. Could he have performed them with the depth of emotion required for his audience to find him believable, and immortalize his persona?
When my story isn’t working, I have to ask if I’m seeing it through the right eyes. I shift gears or I change who is telling the story to regain momentum. Perspective is the cornerstone of identity, and the difference between being a good sport and getting arrested. Some see the light through the dark, moving forward instead of grinding to a halt. Others wallow in the mud of self-pity, then refuse to shower afterward.
If you character said to the box of doughnuts next to him, “Oh, when we get home, you’re gonna get it!” would you believe him? You’d believe Gabriel.
Sheila Englehart is the author of Warning Signs, published by Second Wind Publishing