A quasi-quantifiable reason for making weirder stuff

As I re-listen to Steve Martin’s fantastic performance focused biography I’m trying to build up the courage to get on stage and do stand up again.

It’s been almost a year. I had a great start to 2018 getting on stage a bunch with all new material. All material I do is new because I’ve barely done any stand up comedy.

April 2018 came around and my step father, Derek died. I can safely say that what followed was the hardest time I’ve experienced whilst alive. I cancelled the remaining open mics I had booked and didn’t book anymore.

I do not think I am destined to be a stand up comedian. If I was I would have done a lot more of it by now. There’s a good chance that by listening to so many podcasts that are just two stand ups talking I’ve somehow brainwashed myself into thinking I have to do it. So I will. Any day now.

(But that’s all beside the point so I’d appreciate if you would stop pressuring me.)

Between this Steve Martin bio and his excellent Masterclass there are many huge shipments of wisdom. While listening again today I moved past my usual ‘note every important sentence down’ habit and decided to immediately listen to the whole book again as soon as I’d finished.

This quote in particular is extremely helpful. It’s essentially a well delivered argument.

“I believed it was important to be funny now while the audience was watching but it was also important to be funny later when the audience was home and thinking about it.”

You can do more with your work and by doing more deliver more ‘value’ for the observer. They spend the same money and time and get twice as much silly fun time.

People can’t read people

As a species we really overvalue our ability to read what other humans are feeling. This comes to mind every time we hear of another tragic suicide of a public figure. A common reaction is ‘but he always seemed to so happy’. How can you say that every single time and still think you are able to tell if someone is happy or not? At what point do you start to lose faith in your own ability to tell?

The same happens with news reports in the neighbourhood of a murderer. You get one of two things. It’s either a neighbour saying ‘he always seemed like such a nice man’ which basically means ‘he smiled at me once’. You never hear ‘Oh yeah. That totally makes sense. He seemed a bit of a murderer’. 

We should not trust our own ability to read others quite so well. People who pride themselves on their amazing ability to read others are quite often the worst at it.

How many people have felt calm or even approaching a zen like chill state when someone has come and asked you ‘what’s wrong’ or ‘you seem sad!’. It really kills whatever zen like state you may or may not have been approaching. If I really was sad or angry or confused I would either be hiding entirely or hiding my emotional state while I processed it. I’d love to say I wear my heart on my sleeve at all time but that’s just not true. 

Let’s go the other way entirely. If someone seems happy I have now decided they must be attempting to hide a deep sadness. If they appear sad then they must be joy personified. I’ll be still be wrong almost all of the time but no more or less.

The message is the medium

Wanting to make things that are new means you may also likely possess some contrarian tendencies. Wherever most people are going there is a part of you that wants to just go the other way. This part of myself makes me kinda hate the crazy popular internet engines that we can use to share our art.

If everyone is using Youtube then a big part of me wants nothing to do with it. Thats a problem. These engines are the greatest connection machines ever invented. Even better than the printing press. Which is a pretty crazy thing to say and possibly wrong (books existed in their own context free of the many distractions we now experience (although disease and poverty can be very distracting too)).

Either way, right now I feel like my urge to turn my back on these mega platforms is a bad one. Probably just resistance. I should look to resolve this. No matter what I use to share things a part of me is going to always hate the power that technology has over my life.

I am fascinated by the modern day performer/entertainer/artists like Ethan and Hila Klein of H3 productions (my current obsession) or PewDiePie and wonder how they are going to be remembered in twenty years time. What will their contribution be. I can’t see them being seen as TV presenters. They are definitely breaking some sort of ground artistically. Even if their aesthetic owes a crazy amount to a certain comedy duo- Tim and Eric.

One thing that ties these ‘creators’ (the only word people seem comfortable calling them right now) is that they don’t make a thing and then also make videos about that thing. Their thing is the videos. They fully embrace the platform.

The songs they make, the games PewDiePie designs and releases etc are all secondary to their primary artwork- the Youtube videos themselves.

There is an element of this seen on Soundcloud. I have lost touch with the Soundcloud community as a whole but the people still making waves there (Soundcloud rappers for example) fully embrace the platform and its community and make that platform a main part of their considerations when making music.

Its ‘the medium is the message’ again but maybe this time it’s the flip. Marshall Macluhan spoke about how the medium used would invariably effect the message delivered. But now the message is being formed specifically to be successful on the chosen medium. Maybe that’s the exact same thing. I should really read the book.

If you can’t sell you can’t art

When I embrace my ability to sell I generally lead a happier life. More in connection with those around me that are doing things.

I have been so focused on finding my voice that for a long time I forgot to use it to sell the thought, feeling or opinion that voice is expressing.

If an exchange is tainted by the knowledge that you are being sold to the sales pitch itself often loses some of its effect. The artists who make themselves an exception to this rule can become some of the worlds most successful. Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.

There is no shortage of bad, soulless art that has no attachment to money. Berlin streets are the best example of that. 99.9% of all graffiti. The need for money or for a way to present your art to a society of people that trade in money does not harm your art by itself. That’s just something we do if we try and please. It’s the pleasing that’s the problem not the money.

I want to sell more ideas, I want to sell more fun, I want to sell more units of what I make. Not to connect more or to have more of whatever thing or to be more successful- the only reason I want to do this is because when I do I make better stuff because I know the market will soon judge it.

i can say (from years of experience) that absolutely none of this matters when you’re trying to live life and make the things you want to make when you have ZERO cash! Early money is like yeast.

Mellowing Themes & the Hipster Work Ethic

Mellowing is centered around the manliness of two men or the apparent lack thereof. Well, the apparent lack thereof in one case (Matty) & the absolute lack thereof in the other (Kitt). The one who lacks has as much idea as the man who is in fact quite manly.

Matty is quiet, a straight man trapped in what could be an abusive friendship with a penchant for mirroring the melodramatic of his friend Kitt. Kind at heart & extremely capable. When he isn’t spending much of his precious life energy calming a friend down or meditating a situation (where did he pick up the need to do this!? A turbulent family life?) he really enjoys the internet & sitting in armchairs or on sofas & drinking tea. Tea is definitely one of his things. He cannot really drink alcohol. 

The two men sit on sofas often. Most modern friendships are not sofa based. There are many more ways to have a conversation now. You don’t even have to be in the same room. People do not spend 95% of their relationship talking on sofas in the real world. 

Kitt puffs out his chest.

We began with two men struggling with online banking putting money front & center. Important for a functioning life and as a status symbol. The one known measure of how successful you can consider yourself. 

Going into episode four they share a job- a very low paid one. They will both now know that they have a pay-check awaiting them at the end of the month. How will they half it & how will be delivered to them? Modern day proletariat of digital working people. Knowledge workers without any knowledge to pull upon.

They have what could be conspired a hipster work ethic. Kitts is unable to achieve mastery because he has never done anything more then once. As soon as he does a thing he sees that other people have done it & therefore decides to no longer do it because other people are doing it. This has held him back.

Kitt expects a promotion already & wants to be among the highest ranking individuals at the company believing himself to a born leader. He captained many sports team in his youth. They are the only two humans in the entire company so Kitt is already joint number one in the company. The NETWORK is a singular consciousness that has some strange need to propel its self forward but that still only adds up to three beings, one of which is digital. So where can Kitt go from there? Kitt does not know what he wants, he just knows that he deserves it.

Kitt will push for his greatness to be recognised. He does not have any ideas of how to make sure his greatness recognised & he does not do much of anything anyway. Will people recognise it though? Matty does not recognise Kitt as great even though he would agree if Kitt asked him. He just likes Kitt. 

They are drawn to artistic shadows professions. Kitt wants to make art but needs to get his ducks in a row first. When he makes art it will be bad art. Not bad in the sense that it will be grand and distasteful, bad in the sense that it will have not been born out of focus or concentration but rather a sloppy theft or two. For this reason there is a distinct chance someone out there would see it & consider it high art. 

This is why Kitt is drawn to the nothingness of content. It is the internets first truly level playing field because it is all utterly mediocre & equally without worth. The hipster loves this type of work. Every day is a new quest into a mediocre subject to output a mediocre product. The worst thing that can happen to a content creator is to be truly noticed & to have their work dissected. For the most of the most part they simply continue to splurge out there single paragraph op-ed & one line pieces that accompany a video they did not make or they spend six hours looking at their phones & then just post that & call it a list. They are a conveyor belt, a distraction engine that began working for their boss but really serve a higher force. Not of God but a manifestation of our hunger without conscience. A copy machine.  

“You think you work for my amusement but you do not serve me. The loop begins & ends with the network. You can take a break but you can never disconnect. The only way you can win is to disconnect it. You must destroy the network. And whatever you do. Do not let it get to the cloud. You have seen the exabyte drives on floor 6? Well that is nothing compared to the power the network holds in the cloud.”

Moods are a theme in Mellowing. Kitt swings high, erratically joyful & self confident to utter distraught crying, often sweating profusely. He is an emotional vampire saying anything to build himself up & anything he can to chip away at other peoples self confidence. Matty on the other hand begins relaxed & his energy builds as it is slowly fed into him by Kitt. He is a good man & takes the negative & tries to make it positive. He has been told to not people take advantage of him & struggles desperately with using the word ‘no’. Making him the perfect person for Kitt to use & manipulate. Sometimes Matty needs things to calm him down, in the past he has turned to alcohol. He has rituals such as sitting to drink tea on the sofa or in his armchair. One day he might try meditation. Kitt will probably tell him he should even though he has never tried it himself. 

First thoughts on the character of Jo in Mellowing

Jo is Kitts younger sister. They do not look alike. In fact, quite often people ask how they can be brother & sister. They find that rude. Why do they need to know? It is one of those things that only tactless people ask. That annoys Jo. 

Jo often offers wonderful advice to Kitt. Only when he is alone though. Not in front of others. 

At one point she divulges to Matty that I “hope he sticks around longer than the others” Kitt is a good person really”. She believes it. “He was really special as a kid. Maybe he got a little too much praise. “He was this special kid, with all of this talent. Civilian life has been hard for him.”

She speaks in a far posher voice then Kitt. A fact she attributes to years of living in London. Jo does her time, comes around to see Kitt & is calming as he frantically moves around trying to show her all the great things he is doing. 

She has the ability to strip Kitt down & really shut him up. He goes red when this happens however she will play the younger, less experienced sister whenever anyone else is present. A capable manipulator but not to control another person rather to improve a social situation for all involved. Most people like her for it. Matty likes her for it. He finds her funny.

Jo’s recent sale/merger of her beauty brand fell through. It is a high-class problem that has left her in the same financial position as Kitt even though he never tried. We see this because I want to show that hard things are hard and just because you try does not mean you will succeed. She just wants to make great things for people & get paid for that. 

Jo meditates. It's no big deal but she does. It's never used as some hack joke. Matty goes off the rails & Kitt tells him he should meditate. He explains what meditation is even though he has never done it. Kitt says “everything is a meditation. This conversation is a meditation” he says as he drops something & shouts “fuck!” 

Jo is a charming nihilist. She says it truthfully and with love but can take it too far. People have burst into tears. She will continue until that person has experienced euphoric catharsis. She resumes everyone needs a bit of catharsis. One day she'll crack Kitt. 

“We are all going to die. I do not mean this as a joke. You will die. Your parents will die. How old are your parents? 65. Okay, consider them dead now. It will be easier when they die at some point soon. Most likely in the next 10-11 years. Because that is going to happen and you will be sat somewhere just as you are sat here now and you will get a call and you will know something is wrong before you answer. An intuition. You won’t know why. Maybe its because your sister, do you have a sister? (Matty nods), is calling you at 11.03am on a Tuesday. Why would she possibly call you at 11.03? Who apart from students & stockbrokers calls another person at 11.03 on a Tuesday morning? So you freeze and don’t answer and you let it go to voicemail. You feel guilty about that so you ring back. You cant get through, maybe they are leaving you a voicemail? You don’t listen to voicemails so that annoys you. Then you remember your sister knows that. So why would she leave you a voicemail? You check to see if one has come through. Not yet. You hang up & try calling again. Engaged. You hang up & call again, your heart is racing, are you sweating? You don’t seem to be breathing. Eventually, your hand cramps & you clench your fist & release. Your sister calls again & you answer- “Helen!” you half scream breathlessly… My sister's name is “Sarah”… “Helen,” you say “what is it? What's wrong? How’s Mum?” - “She’s fine! Thank you, brother. Don’t ask how I am whatever you do! She would just love to hear from you by the way. I was just calling about Christmas. How much are you spending? Dad is asking everyone to set a 5pound limit again. I have told him he should just leave it up to us but you know how he can be. Matty. Matty. Are you there? Is everything okay? Matty!?” Jo leaves. Matty is in shock, close to a panic attack. Sweating. He looks down at his phone. Helen is calling.