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October 15, 2018 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Final Review

Initially I wanted to start off writing about humor. Turns out that’s a lot harder than it looks because there’s really too much to say about it in 1000 words.

Also, I’m not an expert in comedy. To be honest, I’m not really much of an expert in anything.
I first graduated in 2013 with a BA majoring in International Relations and Political Science. I’d dropped out of lLaw after 3 years (one more year than the expected norm of two). I then proceeded to work for the Earthquake Commission for almost five years. You can fill in the necessary gaps of a life that has been lived like that as you please. My point is that I haven’t always sought my own opportunities. In my first year at what was then (and I am unsure if it still called this at the time of writing this) Victoria University of Wellington, I missed my opportunity to write for a student magazine. I had always liked writing at high school but was too afraid to put anything out there once I was at University. Now I’m older, I don’t care as much, even if I’m shit at it. I like doing it, and everybody needs to be able to do at least one thing that they like doing. Whatever your passion is, it isn’t always stumbled upon; you sometimes have to seek it out. This is a lesson that pays better dividends the earlier you learn it.
So, I have reviewed three comedy shows (two live and one Netflix special), for Salient this year. I tried to be honest about the shows that I reviewed. I think that I was, but as it turns out, it’s difficult to review the things you like. You need to think about what it is that you enjoyed about them, why you think you enjoyed them, and you then need to convince yourself that the reasons for this enjoyment are compelling enough to share with others (a difficult step for many of us). Finally you put pen to paper (the impossible step for almost all of of us).
I felt this sense of impossibility more than ever when originally trying to write this piece. The gaps in my knowledge of all things comedy become very apparent to me, and trying to write about “humor” in any way that I could actually stomach seemed totally beyond me. Encircled by dirty mugs filled with teabags in varying states of decay, my despair had reached its nightly high. I’d reached a point writing this thing about farting in a boy’s face when I was at school and just thought; this is “utter, actual shit”. Not “actually utter shit”, no, “utter, actual shit”. As in the thoughts that were beginning in my head, then flying down the digestive tract of my nervous system, to be pinched from the tips of my fingers into the keyboard, were really, really bad.
I tried to change tack. “The oldest known joke told (un)surprisingly is a Sumerian joke, dating between 1900-1600 BC.” Nope. I started to write about “Aotearoa’s special relationship with comedy”, how laconic and deadpan we all are when we’re overseas, and how Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi have “enshrined New Zealand comedy as a hotly demanded creative export”. It was at this point that I realised A) a lot of great comedy and stand-ups have come out in New Zealand before, during and (I’m optimistic) after Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi and, as a follow on from A), B) I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about. I didn’t have the artistic pedigree of someone who’s lived and breathed comedy throughout their adult life, to be able to think beyond the “Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi” box. I think if I want to be a reliable reviewer then that may be problematic.
However, it’s more problematic if I just give up. I do like comedy and I do want to get better at writing. This may not necessarily make my reviews compelling or interesting, but I’m writing for myself as much as I am for any audience. If you ever thought about writing or doing anything creative where a leap of faith is required, for me at least, learning you have the ability to jump is infinitely more valuable than where you end up landing.
Insofar as comedy is concerned, the only real credential I could offer is what I find funny. If you agree with me, then maybe I’m on the right track with reviewing things.
When I was in my first week in my Year 9 English class, a boy bent over and farted in to another boys face in such a profoundly penetrative way, that I was sure there was going to be a fight. The boy who was farted on quietly put down his work, stared into the eyes of the farter, and as if talking about the weather, calmly asked, “Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know. . . Sorry?” the first boy replied.

They both laughed.
I remember that story so vividly, primarily because it was my face that got farted into, and in a lot of ways my sense of humor hasn’t changed much.


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