More Dan Cummins

by Tim Liptrot ’12
Recently, the distinguished standup comedian Dan Cummins visited Avon Old Farms. He arrived nearly an hour late, swore profusely, discussed drugs, sex, and misogyny, and brought us the most entertaining weekend activity I have ever enjoyed. I sincerely doubt we will ever have another professional comedian visit us, having heard his creative use of language and spoken with our headmaster on the subject. Cummins’ use of all of George Carlin’s famous seven words, coupled with his remarkably taboo subject matter, make the return of stand-up comedy unlikely to say the least. However, I would contest that not only is Avon capable of handling more stand-up, but that we need it more than most other communities. 

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To begin, here is a complete list of my qualifications to write to you about stand-up comedy: I watch a lot of Comedy Central specials, I have personally seen two professional sets, one from Jim Gaffigan and the other Dan Cummins, I like George Carlin, I like to steal their professional jokes, and I’m interesting enough a writer that you are still reading. That’s it.Now then, stand-up is a form of entertainment which is, by its very nature, crude and vulgar in part or whole. Stand-up must, at the very least, deal with drugs, sexuality, masturbation, racism, xenophobia, depression, death, hatred, schadenfruede, gambling, agism, lying, narcissism, monogamy, polygamy, social stratification, politics, or some other suitably shameful aspect of civilization. I am of the opinion that if you were to make comedy that at no point offended the audience or broached a subject the audience is somehow uncomfortable with, you have not created stand-up. You may have created an interesting or humorous set of stories, but it does not form a part of the American tradition of stand-up comedy, for three reasons. Firstly, if that was stand-up, I would have very little to say in this article. Secondly, I have never seen a half decent stand-up who did not deal with offensive material. Thirdly, and most importantly, a good stand-up provides a very important service to his audience predicated on controversy. He takes the parts of the human condition which we bury inside of us, the parts we don’t like, which we forget are common to each of us, and he shows that they are shared. He can take all the things which we share in secret: our irrational hatreds, our bizarre habits, our sexuality, our secret desire to do wrong, and turns them into things which unite us. Watching a good stand-up lets a man realize he is not the only person who enjoys judging the people of Walmart or giggles when a hipster falls off his fixed-gear bicycle. This quality gives stand-up an incredible power to unite people, and leads to one of the most direct and heartfelt forms of catharsis.You see, Avon needs that release, that sense that I really am sane, far more than most communities. It can hardly be denied that here we lead an unusual lifestyle. I mean, we live in a school crossed with a monastery crossed with a castle crossed with a barracks. We sometimes, especially new students, lapse into the idea that we are somehow different from the rest of world. We start to think that we are weirder than most, that other people do not have our hubris, do not masturbate as often, do not lie pathologically, and do not pursue irrationally self-destructive behaviors. I can think of few art forms better equipped to combat that sense of alienation than stand-up. Just don’t hold your breath.
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