The best thing about art is its subjectivity. A painting one person loves might be despised by their best friend. The same goes for comedy. Each type of stand-up resonates with different kinds of people. But unfortunately both art and stand up comedy have snobby sides, too. Comedians have their own strict rules that govern the kinds of jokes that are told just like art critics tell people what kinds of paintings of sculptures they’re allowed to like.
These two worlds meet and pretensions are stripped away on this recent episode of You Made It Weird. YMIW is a podcast hosted by the incredibly likable stand-up comic Pete Holmes. He seems like a genuinely nice, honest, guy as well as a self-deprecating goofball. Plus his stand-up album Impregnated With Wonder will have anyone listening in public laugh like some kind of psycho. Here he is on Conan:
Last week, Holmes took a break from interviewing stand-up contemporaries and allowed his audience to get to know a couple cartoonists from The New Yorker, Matt Diffee and Alex Gregory.
I don’t know the first thing about cartoons past Zits and The Far Side but the three guys make the complex world understandable and in layman terms. They detail the amount of skill it takes to be a cartoonist and discuss how the art of cartooning has changed over the years. Diffee and Gregory really stress the need for relevance and how some older cartoonists still drew men in trench coats and fedoras years after that fashion fell out of style.
The biggest highlight for me was when the trio brought up how cartoons should be showcased in museums as they reveal just as much about the human condition as any great painting. I thought, “YES!” The stigma that’s attached to cartoons is nothing but smugness. They take an artistic talent, a sense of humor, and a knowledge of what is going through people’s heads. We’re all put in awkward positions in life, why not hang up a piece of work that is able to poke fun at them? I hadn’t seen any of the cartoons they discuss but their descriptions are easy to picture.
Holmes is a great host and totally unconcerned with any kind of artificial credibility. The modesty goes further than that, though, and what could’ve been a very insular conversation is instead welcoming. Gregory and Diffee (as well as Holmes) aren’t shy about chronicling how many times they were rejected by The New Yorker before being published.
The episode is over an hour but’s jammed with so many jokes and so much insight that there’s no room for comedic or artistic condescension.
If you missed it above, here’s another link. The episode is also on iTunes.