AN EVENING WITH COMEDIANS
Innovation Destination Hartford was pleased to attend the latest Connecticut Forum event, “Laugher, Anyone,” which took place Saturday, November 18 at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.
“Our audience told us they wanted to laugh this season, and we were pleased to deliver,” said Doris Sugarman, executive director of The Connecticut Forum. “Last season when we surveyed our Forum audience about possible topics and themes for this season, and the topic of ‘laughter’ received by far the most votes.”
The evening of laugher, culture, and civic engagement featured panelists Fred Armisen, Marc Maron, and Tig Notaro, who provided the audience with insight into the innovative side of comedy and the ways in which comedians are entrepreneurial.
WNPR radio host Colin McEnroe, who is a columnist and blogger for The Hartford Courant, moderated the panel with thought-provoking questions and topics about comedy as a profession, getting past the moment of fear, and how to know what is truly funny.
Students from the Connecticut YOUTH Forum had an opportunity to talk with the panelists before the Forum began. After intermission, a welcome back speech was delivered by Connecticut YOUTH Forum member Kyle Peters, a student at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, who emphasized that, “Humor is one of the strongest weapons humankind possesses.”
COMEDIANS AS ENTREPRENEURS
All three panelists began on unconventional paths that led to success careers in comedy.
Regarding comedy as comedy as a profession, Tig Notaro shared a memory about practicing her stand up routine alone in her apartment. At the time, she noted that making a career out of comedy “seemed not a possibility.”
The first time she performed in front of a live audience she recalls, “I had not accounted for laughter.” She was startled.
The Grammy-nominated comedian, actor, and writer has found success—in more ways than one. She noted, “I want to do a great job with everything I do,” emphasizing that comedians express themselves through their art.”
Fred Armisen’s in roads into comedy started differently. He began by doing characters, which he says, “Helped to be not fearful.”
Fred regaled the audience with impressions of many local towns in Connecticut, including Bridgeport and Middletown.
The well-known performer is best known for his involvement in with Saturday Night Live and Portlandia. What got him over the fear of performing? “I enjoyed it,” says Fred.
“The remarkable thing about comedy—and in many ways, it’s the same as being an author or a storyteller—is that people will pay you money for stuff you invent in your head,” notes local author, educator, and entrepreneur Matthew Dicks, Co-Founder of the Greater Hartford-based storytelling organization Speak Up.
“Comedians don’t produce a product or even provide a service in the traditional sense. They simply espouse amusing ideas, and this is how they make their living. The people on the stage at The Forum on Saturday have managed to create entire careers for themselves—and become famous while doing so—by turning funny thoughts into words,” he adds. “How amazing it is to be able to convert words into dollars? As an author and storyteller, I have found there is no better way to earn a living. Comedians do the same, but they get people to laugh, too.”
Not everyone can make a career out of being funny—because not everyone is funny. But, according to Marc Maron, comedian and host of the popular podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, “It’s alright if you’re not funny as long as you have a good sense of humor.”
HOW IS COMEDY INNOVATIVE?
Performing memorable impressions and characters is a form of creativity—and can be viewed as innovative. But, according to Fred, some things should not be recreated. Case in point: “Every time they try and reinvent something it’s horrible—like talk shows with no desk.”
Marc Maron notes that there is a social responsibility involved with being a comedian, adding, “Journalism and stand up are operating on all levels right now.”
Another form of innovation? Perhaps.
When questioned about making comedy out of “sensitive topics” Marc notes you have to be prepared for blow back.
He adds that if you tell a comic they can’t touch a topic, they will likely feel challenged.
Tig approaches the question about being off topic differently. “Asking whether or not you can joke about something is not a fair question,” she argues since you don’t know the comic’s angle.
Connecticut Forum attendee Kurt Zimmerman of Glastonbury enjoyed the experience, which was his first. “It’s great to spend an evening in Hartford with a packed house and a community supporting this type of local event,” he says.
About The Connecticut Forum
The Connecticut Forum is a nonprofit organization serving Connecticut and beyond with live, unscripted conversations among renowned experts and celebrities, and community outreach programs including the Connecticut YOUTH Forum. The organization’s mission is to encourage the free and active exchange of ideas in innovative forums that inform, challenge, entertain, inspire, and build bridges among all people and organizations in the Greater Hartford community.
Read recaps from prior Connecticut Forum events attended by Innovation Destination Hartford:
- The Connecticut Forum: The Next Best Thing
- The Connecticut Forum: Disruptive Innovation
- Learn about The Connecticut Youth Forum
Interested in learning more about arts and culture in Greater Hartford?