By Cathy Eck
I love comedy, but I’m not fond of jokes, silliness, or trickery. I didn’t understand my perspective of comedy until I found Steve Kaplan. So when I got an email saying that I could repeat his intensive at a very reduced rate, I jumped on it.
I must explain that if the Dali Lama was at the Starbuck’s across the street, I wouldn’t even twitch my leg. But for Steve, I happily drove to LA. I know my truth, but I didn’t know how my truth fit into the world of comedy. I knew this was the next step in my quest for mental freedom, and I felt inspired to accept the role of student for a weekend.
Steve has done for comedy what I’ve done with beliefs. Steve has watched endless comedy movies, studied the art of comedy throughout history, and most important, Steve has let go of everything that he thought he knew about comedy so that he could see with fresh eyes and hear with fresh ears.
Awhile back, I declared humor to be the seventh sense. I knew that was true because when I could laugh at my past, I was free of it. Laughter was like a super power.
According to Steve, humor and truth walk hand-in-hand. Comedy is honest. Comedy says what is natural, not what is expected or politically correct.
Last night, Bill Maher was on Jay Leno’s show. Jay acknowledged Bill for being nominated for 32 Emmys, but never winning. Jay said (paraphrased): “Unlike most of us comedians who say that others like and want to hear, you say what others need to hear. I hope I’m around when you finally get what you deserve.” Bill is funny without making jokes; he says what is obvious and honest. We laugh. He has a job because so few people have the balls to say what is obvious. Most of us fear humiliation or punishment.
For much of my life, I was surrounded by people who believed that “The truth hurts.” My inner comedian said that the truth will set you free, but no one believed me. I put my inner comedian on the shelf in my mid-twenties. I’d just won the Toastmasters’ East Coast Comedy Competition. But I couldn’t compete further because my boss wouldn’t let me off work, and my husband didn’t even know I’d competed. They didn’t find me funny. I figured that I had a deformed view of comedy. I’d be better off not using it. But that felt like part of me died.
Comedy is truthful in Steve Kaplan’s perspective, but it isn’t unkind. I’d guess that Steve’s Jewish — most people in movies or Hollywood are. Yet, he starts off his seminar telling a Hitler joke. Then he says, “Why is a joke funny about a person who was responsible for killing 60,000,000 people?” Steve didn’t say, “Hitler killed 6,000,000 Jews.” He said, “Hitler killed 60,000,000 people.” Steve recognizes as important and worthy 54,000,000 more people than the average Joe. That’s why he can see into the depths of comedy — below the silly jokes. The truth on any subject unites people and makes everyone worthy.
Given my focus in life, Steve blew me away when he walked up to a student and told him that he’d been looking at his stuff over lunch, and it sucked. He went to a woman and said that he’d also looked at her writing, and it was amazing. He was lying to both of them, and he later admitted that. But the victims’ faces didn’t register lies even after he admitted lying. The guy looked like he was going to cry; and the woman looked like she might lift off at any moment.
His point was that we believe words even when they’re lies. However, comedy happens when we tell the truth. Comedy is the natural response for a particular situation and a particular character. It’s what flies out of our mouth without going through our false-self editing process.
We’ve all lost our funny because we’re all trained to edit everything we say. We look for what we should say, not what’s natural and true. We even try to get into other people’s minds, where we don’t belong, so we can say what they expect.
Steve played a clip of a Soap Opera, “All My Children.” A man and women were talking. He explained that drama is unnatural. People say what they need to say to look good, be strong, and be in control. There’s the life lesson — the cause of drama. Drama is the effect of people not saying what’s natural. They say what will make them look good, right, in control, positive, expert, or spiritual. The false self wants approval or control, not resolution of their problems, true love, or harmonic relationship. Trying to get those false needs met creates drama, which ironically ends up costing the person the very approval and control they desire.
Steve’s intensive validated what my True Self knew about comedy. Initiation works that way. You unveil the truth within you, and then you find others who validate your true perspective.
I wasn’t there to become Steve or memorize Steve’s words so I could quote them and sound knowledgeable. I wasn’t there to find myself. I wanted to be able to remember events of my past that I still held in mind in a dramatic way and allow them to transform into comedy. When we can laugh at something; it has no power over us anymore.
Seriousness (gravity) is the demise of the True Self; it puts us in the grave. Lightness (enlightenment) is comedy or seeing the funny in the false self. The false self (illusion) is just one big lie pretending to be true. It wants us to believe that the truth hurts, but it doesn’t. When we laugh at the false self by telling the truth, we expose it and destroy it’s power. It truly does set us free.