Sunday, May 9, 2010

Slapstick vs. Stand-Up: An Unlikely Insight To The Indonesian State Of Mind

OK, this might be a wholly unimportant post regarding the state of the nation, but it's been something I've been wanting to put in writing for a while but never had time.

Reflecting upon @aulia's [perhaps rhetorical] question and @pandji's one time ambition to be one, the question posed asked merely: why doesn't stand up comedy "work" in Indonesia? Why are most publicly-consumed comedies derived from slapstick?

As once presented by @ismanhs in his presentation at Barcamp Indonesia 2010, a good joke has a premise, a victim and the punchline (CMIIW). And basically, slapstick comedy, or the derivative of it where somebody or a celebrity is the victim of a practical joke, the premise, the victim and the punchline are all provided for the audience. The deliverer and the recipient of the joke are in the same place, work from the same script, and thus stay within a single, controlled environment.

Whereas in stand-up comedy, there is only one person up there! Since there always has to be a victim of the joke, there are only so many self-depreciating jokes a comedian can deliver before he/she needs another victim. The victim might be in the audience, or might be a hypothetical stereotype, or might be a public figure (read: celebrity or politician).

Now Indonesians will laugh heartedly at any joke, as long as the joke's not on them. Even if the joke is not really on them, if they were part of one of the hypothetical stereotypes involved above, they'd get offended. If it were remotely touching on ethnic or religious differences, someone will get offended. And if it were, even somewhat indirectly, making fun of a celebrity or politician, and even if the joke was something always talked about privately virtually everywhere; once the joke is delivered publicly, they'd get offended.

Indonesians take offense easily - high-school brawls start and continue for an easy part of the school year just because some kid looked at another a bit funny. Cops, who are supposed to hold the peace, retaliate when provoked. Sometimes it's like everybody's looking for a problem.

I learned the hard way that I shouldn't take offense easily - all my friends did to ease my short temper was actually piss me off all the time, ha ha ha... and of course, the older I grew, the higher my self-confidence level became, and it became easier to not be provoked by simple offense. Don't get mad, get even, as they say.

So Indonesia needs to learn how to take a joke! Why so seerriioouusss???

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