I have always loved Thomas Hardy's novel Jude the Obscure. To me, it is a hopeless tragedy the mirrors the reality of life. When people use the phrase"Life is hard!" is my mind goes immediately to the pig butchering scene and I think, "You're goddamn right it is..." Jude experiences a series of unjust and fateful events - highlighted by only a few minor accomplishments that help the reader continue until our hero is dead. Hardy simply depicts a life - a difficult and very real life. This might sound depressing but it's not meant to be. Reality is just that and the hand we are dealt offers as much as we are willing to bluff.
This train of thought came up after my discussion with Alex Stypula in November. We sat down to discuss the comedy he creates and right off the bat he corrected me when discussing his outlook on life. "I prefer to look at it as realistic." While his outlook is realistic, his comedy leans more towards the extremely surreal. While most comics stick to current events and their tumultuous sex lives, Alex discusses explicit acts of violence including child abuse, beastiality, and sexual torture. I recorded one of his sets at the Beer Hive in November and while glancing around at the crowd, became nervous when I saw the woman in her mid-fifties/sixties at the table closest to the stage. She had come with her daughter and her daughter's male companion to enjoy a few beers and listen to some comedy. Then comes Alex with jokes about locking young children in a cage in the basement and fisting pet cats to death. Here's the thing... Alex is so intense and the things he describes so wild - that everyone, including this woman, her daughter, and her daughter's male companion start laughing uncontrollably like Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckle's funeral... without the crying in the end. He killed it that night.
At first I thought, and this is mentioned in the recorded conversation, that people were sort of primed to laugh by coming to a stand-up comedy night. While it's true that some comics warm the crowd, I don't think that's the case with Alex. He confronts us with things that are so strikingly sobering with the delivery of a man who, on the other side of the conversation doesn't see why you are so freaked out, it catches you off guard and laughter spills right out of your guts.
Now, when I think of Jude, I wish that Hardy could have written his character as a stand-up comic. That way, no matter how shitty his day-to-day was, he would have an arsenal of material for the stage.