Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness. Whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. No account of the universe in its totality can be final that leaves these disregarded. How to regard them is the question – for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness.
Don’t fall in love with what you’ve constructed. You need to make sure the audience is the most important person in the room.
Anyone watching the Flying Circus for the first time in 2014 and expecting non-stop hilarity will be rather confused and perhaps a little disappointed. Sketches fail on a regular basis, sometimes quite spectacularly; extraordinarily long periods can pass without anything funny happening (the studio audience tittering nervously from time to time, to compound the embarrassment). Once considered dizzyingly fast, bits of Python now seem painfully slow.
But that doesn’t matter much. Python isn’t meant to be a procession of quickfire gags – rather, it calls to mind the words of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid: “My job, as I see it, has never been to lay a tit’s egg, but to erupt like a volcano, emitting not only flame but a load of rubbish.” The aim is to create a flow of unnerving and bewildering ideas, an unstable atmosphere which may produce hysterical laughter, or merely dumbfound. Those longeurs are part of the deal. Python is not about wisecracks and pithy one-liners – it’s all about the swirl.
There is, or was, another side to Monty Python. Back in the day, that celebrated silliness was only part of the picture; this was adversarial humour, part of the counterculture (in effect, if not necessarily by intention). Very rarely was Python political, but it was a protest all right – a protest against bullshit and bullying, sloppy thinking and humbug, a gleeful assault on philistinism and pseudery. What’s more, it was weird. Not “wacky”, not “delightfully loopy” – really, really weird. At its best, Python could be a disturbing experience, disquieting, disordered, disruptive… something close to Dada. It was not just absurd, but absurdist: cosmic satire, a mockery of meaning.
And yet, like all popular avant-garde art, its appeal was beautifully basic. This was comedy stripped to its root: two incompatible ideas colliding, noisily and painfully. Comedy returned to its primary purpose: to inform the powerful, the headstrong and the vainglorious that everything is bullshit – life is a joke, your finery is meaningless and worms will be feasting on you sooner than you think. Partly out of devilment, partly in the hope that once we’ve got that straight, we can all move on from there. That was the funniest thing of all: deep down, under the warm embrace of bad taste and the cold contempt, Monty Python cared.
What these auteurs truly have in common, though, is that they have systematically boiled away many of the pleasures previously associated with comedy — first among these, jokes themselves — and replaced them with a different kind of lure: the appeal of spending two hours hanging out with a loose and jocular gang of goofy bros. (Also: ritual humiliation. Humiliation is a big part of it, too.)
I played someone more stupid than me in a game before he died. It took hard work and I enjoyed it.
Damodar worked on a silk farm and escaped to become an adventurer. He had intelligence of seven and wisdom of six. I like to think of my intelligence as twelve or thirteen, but apparently everyone does this so it’s more likely I have an INT of ten, or, possibly eleven.
Every time Damodar had a problem I had to think about how to solve it. I could never solve his problems like I solve my own. If I did things he couldn’t do then the character wouldn’t work.
We have lots of ways to think about someone less capable than ourselves. People like to talk and argue about this a lot. Very few of those ways involve you creating those people from random numbers and parts of yourself and then taking responsibility for both their survival and the integrity of their personality. Except possibly becoming a parent.
I knew when bad things happened and Damodar didn’t. I knew when people lied to him and he did not. I did not find it frustrating, but powerful and energising, my mind worked constantly. I had to protect him with the only tools I had. The ones inside his character.
He asked a LOT of direct questions, because he didn’t know much. (I never do this in real life, I remain silent.) People usually answered because he seemed obviously stupid and innocent. He happily accepted the social superiority of his co-adventurers. (You won’t see me do this.) That made them happy and made him popular. I interpreted his low WIS as courage so he became impetuous.
I found him nicer than me. And a better human than most of my characters. And probably a better person than me. Perhaps that only happened because of the action, inside my mind, of protecting him.
Damodar died defending his friends.
In Dogs In The Vinyard I play a highly intelligent, fundamentalist teenage girl. With Basemeth most of the creative tension comes from her 19th century pseudo-christian morality and my 21st century vague liberalism. Again we must solve problems together. She thinks faster and deeper than I can. I have more time to think of her responses so she acts in the upper range of my own capabilities. But we have different perspectives on the world.
Like the same scene viewed from different points, we share only certain ground. When events moves out of this ground one of us will become upset. Since we live in the same person, this ruins things for both of us. But if I let her collapse into a sock-puppet for my own values then she dies. So we must work together on remaining creatively different.
Every character I play feels like a powerful living exchange between me and this created thing. A waterfall looping like a lemniscate through dual poles. I never know which parts of me will surface and crystallize. Like meeting a new person every time.
The more one limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite. These people as unworldy as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material, to construct in miniature a strange and utterly individual image of the world.
Play your best cards… and THEN GET NEW CARDS.
I try to tell my grief and it all becomes comic.
About the whole "the internet killed the underground” thing: no, it didn’t. What killed the underground was popularity. Whenever something becomes popular, people surge in and use it for their own purposes. As was written on the Nuclear War Now! Productions forum: “Trues use their social lives to empower the music. Falses use the music to empower their social lives.” It’s that simple. When something becomes popular because it’s rebellious, the herd shows up to take part and use that “authenticity” like currency for their own needs. That adulterates what is and it becomes obliterated (although good people like Alan Moses and Andres Padilla keep the tradition alive! Heroes, if you ask me). The only solution is to rediscover the spirit of the past and apply it in any direction possible. You cannot imitate it from the outside-in; it must be from the inside-out. If this reeks of occultism to you, it should. This is esotericism, and it is the guiding philosophy of humankind anywhere that popularity has not already obliterated truth.“