Seated around a camp fire on a camping trip not of my choosing, with people I was struggling to be with. We’ve all had those trips. Then I get asked what I do…and at the time I was a university lecturer…
Opinionated but frequently angry white man: You academics don’t contribute anything but a load of elite bullshit.
Me: Yeah! How are you finding the aerodynamic design of that canvas camping chair with a beer holder in it and clever lightweight construction? I suppose the academic wankers of design and engineering like a comfortable chair and a beer too?
But seriously, I was forever happily known as the smart ass in that group. Fortunately it was just for the weekend. But I really could not sit there and listen to the tall poppy bashing any further. *note, I wouldn’t have been that direct to a student, not ever.
If the Aussie-ism is “no one likes a smart ass“, my response is “that’s fine with me, I don’t like an ignorant ass“.
I think I got into comedy because I was sick of the phenomenon of Australian anti-intelligentsia. There’s been so much written about the Australian brain drain phenomenon I won’t bore you with it, except to say that some of our cleverest squirrel away quietly or leave the country. If you don’t think that’s a loss, then you better give up all your tech (just one example), right frigging now.
I once had my comedy described as a “much funnier TED talk”. I’ll take that as a compliment. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other genres of comedy, it’s just this is what sits well for me to perform.
People ask me if comedy is a “hobby” and I just say, “I don’t believe in hobbies”.
I realise that for some money is the measure of success and neither comedy or anthropology are associated with large fortunes. For me, the measure of success isn’t financial wealth, it’s the feeling of satisfaction I get from what I do. And to date that has managed to pay the bills too.
The fact is I meet comedians comment they view it as a “hobby” and that they would do it as a career if possible. But we all know how poorly the arts are funded and comedy isn’t even seen as art by some pundits. There are so many unfair negative associations with comedy, that again, I am not willing to turn over with a blunt plough in a blog post.
I remember telling an aunt about a Melbourne Fringe show I was excited about, with very nerdy comedy content. I then discussed a book I was writing and it winning a publishing mentorship. The conversation and her responses went like this:
On comedy: Well we have to get these things out of our systems I suppose.
Book: Oh that is worth talking about.
The irony was my comedy has done much better than my book, which has been rejected more times than Trump’s foreign policy.
So much floods the self help market with pithy commentary like, “if you work doing what you love, you’ll never do a days work“. Yet, when you actually pursue that, you get the above response.
All ‘hobbies’ have skills. My hobby has always been knowledge and learning about why people suck, in short.
If you’ve been to a comedy show of mine, you’ll see me talk about young autistic me terrorising people with talk of fascists and the perception of evil in the schoolyard from about eight years old. And trust me, when young autistic people indicate to me today that their interests are useless (as more than one young person has commented) I just want to cry. For example, if they make detailed lists, like I do, you’ll make a great scientist or accountant or journalist or whatever you channel that into.
So naturally a career in anthropology got me excited and I’ve taken it far and will continue to do so. It’s not been short of disability related struggles, but I reckon it’s better than listening to my high school guidance counsellor who asked what form of social retardation I had been diagnosed with (was then undiagnosed), right before I dropped out of high school at 15.
Thanks dude, I’ll put you in the acknowledgements of my future PhD thesis as negative inspiration. My proposed PhD topic relates to exploring Australian political satire and if it is (or to what extent it is) a vehicle for social change. Nice combination of comedy and anthropology careers, conducted like consecutive career sentences of my own making.
If you are thinking about monetising your *hobby* and rebranding it a career (or just calling it a career because you are working towards it being so), I’d ask you “what took you so long?”
So am I a comedian or an anthropologist? I’m a variety artist anthropologist. #sorrynotsorry