I never understood the artistry of joke telling/writing until I met Paul Mooney via one of his many standups.
Before being introduced to Paul, I would just laugh. Laugh at the jokes, the punchline, the physical parts, the props, etc. Never really thought about what it took to actually make me laugh. Never thought about what went into making the food. I just ate it.
But when you discover a Paul Mooney, you can’t help but appreciate the art form. Because you wonder, “This nigga is just sitting down, telling jokes. Why am I laughing so hard?” It’s like he wasn’t normal because he was being, well, normal.
And you can’t help but appreciate the intelligence it takes (once you discover the art form of fooling you into thinking it’s not an art form) while attempting to come across not that intelligent, you know? Just shooting the shit. Comedy, usually, is an art form that is perceived to be free flowing. But over the years — from me trying to write jokes for others or just thinking about shit that would be funny to others — I discovered it requires rigor, discipline and practice. It’s so formulaic, even though us, the audience, aren’t suppose to know that.
Yeah, he made me appreciate that unknown.
And I took that with me in my writing style. Thinking about the funny angle when I write, even when it’s something serious I’m writing about. Trying to be more of a conversationalist when write. Idk. I’m not much of a writer, I know that. I ain’t that good. But for what it’s worth, I give Paul Mooney a lot of credit for me at least not being that bad.
During his standups, Paul would make you believe he was having a conversation with you. “Yeah, and what’s her name? The one who can sing? Who? Mariah? Yeah, that’s her,” then would go on to make your jaws numb from laughing about a Mariah Carey joke. He had that joke. He knew exactly where he was going before he asked the audience the obvious question, but the audience, including myself, felt like he was just talking directly to us. Having a conversation. A funny conversation with your cool ass uncle, on a hot ass day in the shade after he’s had one too many, while trying to break his personal best of uttering “nigga” because he proclaims it makes his teeth white. Btw, that’s my go-to response whenever someone tells me I should stop saying nigga.
Paul Mooney was my guy. And he was a “my guy” to a lot of us, including our all time favorite comedians. He was a Titan to a Giant, a Deity to a Titan. If Jeezy is the self proclaimed “favorite trappers, favorite trapper,” well, Paul is your favorite comedian’s, favorite comedian. That type of genius doesn’t come around too often. Maybe once every Haley’s Comet or some shit. Just glad I was lucky enough to be aware of that genius while he was still here.
Leslie McLemore writes about a lot of different shit for Black With No Chaser. He is also the Takeaway Kang, the greatest baby father to the dopest babymomma, and the father of two beautiful girls, one of which gets on every nerve he has. The other one is sweet…sometimes. So, you know, balance. Sort of.
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