Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

04 Jul 2010, 17:25 p.m.

On The Mic

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Sumana performing standup several years agoToday, when I was really glad to have made someone else laugh, I thought about how important that is to me. I think my values might go something like:

  1. integrity
  2. compassion
  3. independence
  4. making people laugh
  5. impressing other people
  6. work ethic
and then other stuff like patriotism, actual intelligence, tidiness, beauty, efficiency, health, justice, transparency, courage, and so on.

In fact, it is so ingrained in me to jest that sometimes I put service providers (waiters, doctors, dentists) in a tough spot when I joke with them; if they don't think a customer's joke is funny, and don't laugh, the customer might pout and be a jerk about it, so they feel pressured to laugh. So I should be more considerate about that. Was it the boss from The Office who called himself primarily an entertainer? Yeah, I shouldn't do that.

Sumana performing standup several years agoI started the workshop "You, Yes You, Can Do Standup Comedy" (notes, slides, more notes) with some reasons to learn and perform stand-up.

One is pragmatic: learning some stand-up improves one's public speaking abilities across the board.

Another is philosophical. You are human and nothing human should be alien to you! Specialization is for insects! Dilettantism as ideology!

alt="SumanaAnd another is rather more disturbing. Stand-up comedy is the most manipulative art I know. If I'm doing it right, you're enthralled. There's no conversation, just your helpless response feeding my hunger for power and control. It's tarted-up tickling. Don't you feel spent and high when it's over, when a really good comic has had her way with you?

So that's the last reason to learn stand-up. It's a safe refuge for the power-mad, so that we can keep ourselves from turning into control freaks and prima donnas in the rest of our lives.

I'll happily teach private lessons.


Thomas Thurman
04 Jul 2010, 19:15 p.m.

(Hurrah! You hadn't blogged in a week and I was wondering whether everything was all right.)

I'm too terrified even to do open-mic poetry; I can't imagine ever doing anything involving improvisation.

04 Jul 2010, 21:49 p.m.

Making people laugh is very important to me as well. I love making people happy.

04 Jul 2010, 23:32 p.m.

"Dilettantism as ideology" is the best one-sentence summation of what I hope to achieve in my life. Thank you!