Patton Oswalt wrote “a closed letter” to himself yesterday on the Internet, which means we all can read it, hopefully identify with at least part of it and take away lessons ourselves from it.
Oswalt’s letter is an essay in three parts, covering, as the title suggests, joke thieves, heckling and rape jokes — three topics that continue to make for lively and all-too-often destructive conversations about comedy. Oswalt would like to change that.
As he writes:
All I care about is the profession I work in. Stand-up comedy. I also care about the continued, false perception the bulk of the general public has about stand-up comedy. And what I care about, most of all, is the maddening false perceptions that other people in the creative arts have about stand-up:
Comedians don’t write their own jokes. They all steal. All great artists steal. You can’t copyright jokes. It doesn’t matter who writes a joke, just who tells it the best. Don’t musicians play other musicians’ songs? There are only so many subjects to make jokes about, anyway. I’ve seen, like, five different comedians do jokes about airplanes – isn’t that stealing, too?
Most people are not funny. Doesn’t mean they’re bad people, or dumb, or unperceptive or even uncreative. Just like most people can’t play violin, or play professional-level basketball, or perform brain surgery, or a million other vocational, technical, aesthetic or creative pursuits. Everyone is created unequal.
But for some reason, everyone wants to be funny. And feels like they have a right to be funny.
But being funny is like any other talent – some people are born with it, and then, through diligence and hard work and a lot of mistakes, they strengthen that talent.
But some people aren’t born with it. Just like some people (me, for example) aren’t born with the capacity to make music, or the height and reflexes for basketball, or the smarts to map the human mind and repair it. I’m cool knowing all of those limitations about myself.
Please do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. He cared about comedy enough to take the time to formulate his thoughts on it, and also willing enough to change his thoughts on some of it. Since you’re here at The Comic’s Comic already, you probably care enough, too. Right?