When I was a kid, we had HBO. That's when I first saw Richard Pryor. It was 'Richard Pryor: Live in Concert'. By far his funniest special. And some say the best special ever by any comic. I was so young, I didn't know what he was talking about, but I still found some parts of it very funny. When he shoots his car! When he imitates a deer drinking water. But by far the funniest moment for me, as an 8-year-old kid, or however old I was, was when he said when you're out in Nature, snakes will make you run into trees. It's like, "SNAKE!" Pow! And he runs into his hand. Hilarious.
This was the first time I had seen stand-up comedy. I didn't even know it as stand-up comedy. To me, it was just a guy onstage saying funny shit. I had never seen anything like it before, but I loved it.
The next time I saw stand-up comedy was on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I can't remember exactly when it was, but it would've been around the time I was 11 or 12. Around this time, we got three more channels. Before this, we only had two channels - CBC and BCTV, which is now Global BC. The three new channels we got were ABC, NBC and CBS. And at 11:30 at night, there was nothing else on but Johnny Carson. On ABC there was a news program called Nightline. And on CBS, they showed movies. CBC went off the air at midnight, and BCTV still had news on until midnight when they showed movies. That's when I first saw 'The Warriors'!
I watched The Tonight Show almost every night. That's when I really started watching stand-up comedy. Some consider it the first stand-up comedy boom. I saw some great comedy then. Jerry Seinfeld, Rosanne Barr, Jeff Foxworthy. I'm certain I saw more than them, but these three really stuck out. I used to watch Johnny Carson because Late Night with David Letterman came on after it. To me, David Letterman was better than Johnny Carson. He did some crazy stuff. Throwing TVs off the roof, smashing shit.
Around this time, I also watched "Delirious" by Eddie Murphy. Still to this day one of my favourite comedy specials ever. I bet I can recite every word from it, I've seen it so many times. 'The Cookout' bit is a masterpiece, in my opinion. The first time I saw Saturday Night Live was when he came back and hosted. He did a sketch where he dressed up as a White man. The second comedy record I ever bought was Eddie Murphy's album called 'Eddie Murphy: Comedian'. It's just the audio version of Delirious. I still own it.
It was also around this time I started watching SCTV. I think it was on CBC on Saturday nights too. Or it might have been Friday nights. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Bob and Doug Mackenzie were my favourite. They hosted a mock TV show called 'The Great White North'. They became so popular they even put out an album. I owned it on vinyl. I remember seeing an early version of 'Wayne's World' on SCTV. He shot it from a van, not a basement.
When we only had two channels, I used to watch 'Wayne & Shuster' on CBC. I guess it was a sketch comedy show. The only real sketch that sticks out was when they did a trailer for 'Rocky 12' or whatever it was. But it was Rocky as an old man.
This entry was meant to be a look at some of the early influences on my comedy. I'm not sure they directly influenced my comedy. But these examples are when I first became aware of comedy.
After I started doing stand-up comedy, the comedian that had the most influence on me was Chris Rock. I've seen him live a couple of times now. The first time I saw him, my face hurt after the show, from laughing so hard. When I walked out of the theatre, I thought, "I have a long way to go." It's odd to think of Chris Rock as an influence, because our styles are so different. But his comedy was so smart, and that's what I tried to emulate. Not all of it was great, but some of it was brilliant. There's a few instances where he uses the old comedy Rule of Three. In stand-up comedy, often a comedian will list three things to establish a pattern, and 'the third element is often used to create an effect of surprise with an audience, especially if it differs from the first two' (Wikipedia). Here's an example from Chris Rock. "All the positive Black leaders were there (at the Million Man March), Farrakhan, Jesse, Marion Barry." Marion Barry is the one that doesn't belong. Marion Barry was the Washington D.C. mayor that was caught in a hotel room smoking crack with a prostitute. Doesn't exactly fit the 'positive Black leader' image Chris Rock painted. He uses the Rule of Three another time in the same special. He was talking about the instances of spousal abuse in the Black community, specifically among Black celebrities. "O.J., Warren Moon, Billy Dee Williams." Billy Dee Williams is meant to be surprising on this list because Billy Dee Williams was supposed to be a smooth suave heartthrob movie star. There's nothing wrong with using the Rule of Three, In fact, I bet every comic used it at some point. Hell, I did. With my McDonald's joke. Then I thought, why limit it to 3, and just kept going and it became what it is now. I think it works better that way. One thing Chris Rock did in his first HBO special I didn't like was when he said, "Don't eat no red meat?! No. Don't eat no green meat!" Such a lame joke. Damn, this entry wasn't meant to shit on him. But this is what I think of when I think of his first special.
I'm trying to think of who else directly influenced me after I started doing stand-up comedy. I would have to say Charlie Hill, Oneida comedian. He was smart, funny, and political. Talked a lot about Native stuff. That was his whole act really. But he just stood there and talked, much like myself. He never felt the need to do act-outs, or silly voices, or crazy gestures and movements. His delivery was very dry and deliberate. His jokes were so strong, he didn't really need to put anything behind them, just speak them out loud. I bet they read very well too. Meaning, they could probably get just as good a laugh if you were to just read them. Those are the kind of jokes I try to write.
Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, the comedians on Johnny Carson, Saturday Night Live, and SCTV all made me laugh early on in my life. Not sure if they influenced me, but they did show me what was funny. Later on, it was Chris Rock and Charlie Hill. Currently, my biggest influences are Patrice O'Neal and Dino Archie. But that's for another blog entry.