Yeah, but WHY is it funny? That Beautiful Laugh – Review

I don’t know why this is funny but I find it hI-larious. (This fact will be important later.)

Ok, so there are a couple of things y’all need to know about me for this post…full disclosure and all…

1) First and foremost – I’m a scifi nerd. No, like seriously, in case you couldn’t tell from the picture to the left – I LOVE sci fi – movies, books, tv, you name it, I’m a fan.

2) Secondly, and related to the above – I LOVE me some Joss Whedon. I realized that because I’m a director and producer, I don’t get star struck. I mean I work with actors all the time and I’ve met my share of famous people and I just don’t get tongue-tied around them…but there are two people I think I’d turn into a babbling idiot in front of (if I’m ever lucky enough to meet either of them) and they are Steven Spielberg and Joss Whedon.

3) Thirdly – I don’t like clowns. Like I REALLY don’t like clowns.

Which brings me to…

That Beautiful Laugh

So now you know the circumstance under which I agreed to attend That Beautiful Laugh by Orlando Pabotoy. Featuring Julia Ogilvie, Alan Tudyk, and Carlton Ward this “exploration of laughter featuring clowning, live music, and joy [is a] high-energy, rhythmically-driven comedy piece” playing at La MaMa until March 25th. Tickets available here:¬† Basically, I went to see it because Alan Tudyk is in it. For those of you who don’t know, Alan Tudyk played Wash in the short-lived Joss Whedon television show Firefly and its follow up movie, Serenity. So, when I saw he was going to be in it, the connection to numbers 1 and 2 on my list above outweighed number 3, and, after having seen the show, I’m really glad it did.

I had no idea what to expect when I went in to the show. In fact, I purposely didn’t investigate a whole lot about the show because I didn’t want to go into it with any preconceived notions (other than “the guy who played Wash is in it and he’s gonna be a clown.”) I knew I would be writing a review of the show so I tried to walk in with an open mind. As the lights went down and the show began, people started to laugh. Musicians Eugene Ma and Harrison Beck get the show started and Alan Tudyk appears. His character, Flan, sets up the premise of the show – that people have forgotten a particular kind of laugh (that of the title). Flan then facilitates the entrance of the other two characters – I’ll not spoil the fun by explaining exactly how – but suffice it to say, he is joined on stage by Julia Ogilvie’s Darla Waffles Something and Carlton Ward’s Ian.

When I saw the show the audience immediately began to laugh – right from the beginning – and, to be completely honest, I wasn’t sure why they were laughing. For those other sci-fi geeks out there, I felt like Data, on the Enterprise, trying to understand humor. I mean, I found it mildly amusing but people were, like, guffawing. Great belly laughs all around me. So, what? What were they laughing at? What was so funny? I felt completely left out. I didn’t get it at all. I spent the first 10 minutes of the show, watching the clowning (not your Ringling Bros.’ Circus Clowns by the way) and kind of smiling but just not getting it…and trust me, I was trying really hard to “get it.” And then…something amazing happened. Right around the 10 minute mark, something on stage just struck me funny – like, “I looked at the chicken” (see above) funny. I mean, it completely bypassed my brain and I let out a serious laugh and I STOPPED TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT! I just let it wash (heh, that’s funny because his Firefly character is named Wash) over me. I embraced it and stopped dissecting the nature of humor and suddenly, I was five years old again and I was just enjoying myself.

And, as if that wasn’t enough? There was magic: I remember, when I was little my dad used to do “magic tricks.” One was this one where he’d pretend through the positions of his fingers, that he could detach his thumb. He’d sing this little circus music song and do this whole “routine” where he would detach his thumb and put it back on. When I was five I thought it was the funniest and most amazing thing on the planet. When I watch him do the same routine now for my niece and nephews, I know what he’s doing and I know how it works. It’s not wondrous in that way it was when I was a kid, but when I was five? Man! That was some aMAZing S**T! When I finally got out of my analytical head watching That Beautiful Laugh, I was reminded of those magic tricks (In fact, Flan does a very similar “trick” a few different times in the show). But watching the play, as an adult, I found that I just started laughing and didn’t stop until I had left the theater. And it wasn’t just the laughter, that magic – that wonder that a five year old can see – that was also present throughout the show.¬†Within the play there is a shadow puppet show. It’s ingenious, elaborate, beautiful, magical…and damn funny – “it’s a kit-tay!” And then there was the ending. The ending was just beautiful – magical and full of wonder. I’m too much of a spoiler nut to tell you how the show ends, I’d rather you see it for yourself, but I will say that if you walk out of that theater without having reacted to the magic and wonder of that ending, then you might just be dead inside. So, the only question I was left with is:

Yeah, but WHY is it funny? I never did figure that out but in the end I discovered that as long as I was laughing, I just didn’t care.