Material Witness: How My Art Imitates My Life
By Julian Michael
October 11, 2015 – There are some comedians who tell stories. Their brains are vivid enough (probably thanks to ADHD or other hallucinogens) to invent wild alternate realities that take audiences on magic carpet rides. No disrespect to them or what they do, but I am most certainly not one of those comedians.
Truth is, when someone asks me to tell them a joke I struggle. I tell very few “jokes” in my act. My material is an ever-so-slightly overblown expression of who I really am – a sarcastic, self-aware token minority with a God-complex and severe social anxiety.
I used to worry about how I might be perceived on stage. What if my mother doesn’t like my act? What if I’m too gay/not gay enough? What if I’m too white for black rooms (there’s an entire post unto itself…)? And honestly after years of giving too much of a fuck, something clicked in my head. Just let people see behind the mask.
So here’s what’s on the other side, kids: despite everything my mother or the years of Catholic school tried to teach me, I am not a good person and I have no desire to be.
I do good things when it’s convenient, when they are beneficial, or when they will make me feel better about myself. I do bad things when I can get away with them, when they are beneficial, or when they will make me feel better about myself.
I wouldn’t say that I am a particularly shitty human being – although there’s a long list of disgruntled past hookups and parents of school children that would probably disagree. It’s not that I’m stricken with some “fear of G-d” syndrome in which I can only perceive myself as hell-bound until I pray the evil away. I do not suffer from a martyr complex and I can say with limited hubris that my sense of ethics and basic human decency is strong. Go me.
What I am is a realist. I call things exactly as I see them because when I swallow my tongue or my commentary I can’t help but feel constipated. And quite frankly, I already have irritable bowel syndrome, so I don’t need the added pressure.
Sure, I’ll change a name in one of my bits to protect someone’s identity. (Although you’d be surprised how many people I know who would revel in me exposing their craziness to daylight on stage. It’s fascinating, really). But I will not spare my true feelings – it’s all I can do to try to keep them politely hidden off stage.
If you come to one of my shows and I say something that offends you, especially if it hits too close to home, you’re welcome. Now you know not to approach me in the streets expecting a different attitude (or, God forbid, an apology). I hope instead, though, that my set makes you think and makes you laugh. It’s important for me to step over the line because that is the only place where real truth starts being told. And the more that we laugh together though our pain and discomfort, the faster we understand that basically everything we hold dear is ridiculous – and swallowing my “best medicine” is a much better alternative to wallowing in harsh reality.
To find out where you can see Julian perform, join his mailing list, or send him money check out his website: www.doubleminorityreport.com.