Here’s a truth many already know but may not be apparent to all. Great humour actually comes from personal pain.
Listen to any classic joke or any exceptional comedian and you’ll sense stories about the human condition, if not hear or see them too. That’s what makes these acts and their actors unforgettable. The best comedians are themselves aching.
Take the scene where Lucille Ball in “I Love Lucy” struggles to keep up with a manic chocolate factory conveyor belt or Robin Williams struggles as the anti-establishment radio announcer in “Good Morning Vietnam”.
Or even that most pointless joke of all:
Why did the chicken cross the road?
They’re actually all stories about anxiety. The latter affecting those who try to answer it as well.
What got me thinking about this was something that popped up on my Twitter feed a couple of days ago. It trended at number one for hours and involved a YouTube video concerning two people I’d never heard of, who’d just broken up. The topic read: “David and Liza” and of writing here, that video has been viewed 24 million times.
This was the work of David Dobrik and Liza Koshy, 21 and 22 years old respectively, both YouTube vLog (video blogging) millionaires who’d initially come to fame posting seconds-long videos on the now defunct social media platform, Vine.
Well, they’d been dating for just over two years but Liza had decided to call it quits, explaining in tears:
One of us [Liza] is going through some stuff … Some rough stuff … You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.
See the full video at YouTube here: https://youtu.be/J2HytHu5VBI
Always the journalist, I had to find out what this Twitter buzz was about. After a Google search and a couple of fun days looking at both Liza’s and David’s works on their separate YouTube feeds, I reckoned I had a grip on the issue—and why its social impact was so vast.
And as far as this public response went, it was unequivocally supportive. Millennial teens, Twentysomethings and a good share of GenXers posted thoughts along the lines: “Love is dead”, “How can real love ever be found now?” and “What’s going on with the world if these two have split?”
If any greater proof was needed that everyone has their thing—and craving love was a biggie—this was it.
But for me, I truly hit gold when I went a bit deeper. For in reviewing Liza’s independent YouTube art, I stumbled into comedic genius.
Liza, as it turns out, is not merely perfectly telegenic. At such a young age she’s also a master of physical comedy (Lucille Ball-esque), exquisite timing (Robin Williams-esque) and wit (herself). (Esque.)
And one video in particular brought this home for me. I was called: “Facing My Anxiety”, that Liza had published nine months prior.
Through magnificent method-acting (she takes on eight characters), impressive segues and tight split-screen edits, Liza explains her experience with anxiety to viewers as her “Thoughts” stand next to her while she meets a guy for the first time.
To me, as someone who uses mindfulness to explore his own anxiety, her storytelling and comedic timing were honest, accurate and sublime. And of the 6,896,749 views last I looked, only 9,100 have thumbed it down.
That’s because Liza’s comedy speaks directly to Generation Now. It shows us that if one of the Internet’s most successful practitioners can admit her thing and use humour self-deprecatingly to do it, how much more okay is it for everyone else to express their own?
Thus flies the story of comedy as a vehicle born from pain. It’s one of life’s surprises that reminds us whether as leaders, friends, family or strangers there’s always something to look out for in others and ourselves. And whether at school, university, the workplace or home comedy has always been with us to help reflect.
By the way, if network TV takes the time to check out Liza’s vibe, this brilliant woman has a massive future on mainstream screens to come. I wish David continued success with his awards too.
© 2018 Adam Parker.
View Liza’s full “Anxiety” video at YouTube here (be sure to check out her written preamble): https://youtu.be/XvPWUkHjWG0
Main picture credit: Author’s montage. “Liza on Demand”, a short film premiers on YouTube Red mid-June.