When we’re kids, we have far fewer choices. Being a kid means that you have to spend your time filling workbook sheet after workbook sheet with polynomial solutions. It means you have to listen to someone talk at length about the economy of Finland. Sometimes it means canned peas. It means you have to endure things that you didn’t choose.
When we grow up, hopefully, we get a lot more choices about what we want and don’t want to endure. And yet, when it’s time to sit in an audience and watch a show, sometimes we end up feeling like we’re twelve and it’s Fish-Hatcheries-In-Helsinki all over again.
Sometimes, not liking a show can make us mad, with all the madness of years of a child’s lack of power. We wish we were the kind of douchebag to unwrap a candy or let a cellphone ring. We want something to happen! We don’t want to watch the show anymore! We scan the room for life, everyone seems glazed over, wanting to be somewhere else——we become filled with righteous indignation. Especially if we, too, are artists. We take it personally.
I have taken some shit personally in my life. I spent the early aughts in New York City being furious at the improv comedy scene there. Seriously, I was so mad. Who was I mad at? No one, of course. Nobody did anything to me. But I bristled against most of the art that I saw. And then I went off and got pregnant with that anger and birthed an art baby that’s pretty interesting to me, and in general, I like the artistic path I’m on. And actually, I credit my anger, or at least, I give it its due as a shaping force for my child-artist soul as it tried and still tries to figure out what it wants.
But I wish someone had told me then that I could calm the fuck down and let some of that anger go. Or that it was okay, that it would all lead somewhere.
Anger, as they say, can be healthy. If you are not a Angry-all-the-time person, that is. It is healthy to have feelings, to allow yourself to have feelings, even when they aren’t cute and cuddly feelings. And it’s good to be passionate about things! Look at you, having strong opinions! That means you’re alive! That means you’re invested! That means you’re not passively receiving your experiences like a defeated automaton, not you! You’re engaged with life! Go on!
The downsides of artistic anger, however, are many. Your anger is so personal that it really feels like the artists responsible did something to you. You see them at a party and avoid them. You act like they stood you up for coffee. Douchebag! your heart cries silently, to your own childhood, to the world, to no one.
It wasn't fun, but watching improv comedy for years that made me mad made me better. It put me on a path of clarifying what’s important to me on stage, and getting better at delivering it when it’s my turn to get up there. The artists who anger us, for whatever reason, do not deserve our personal animosity; they’ve done nothing to us directly. They’ve opened a dialogue between us and ourselves about who we are and what we like. And this is a blessed thing.
These days, when I’m watching something that doesn’t tickle my taste, I “play at home,” to quote a friend. I consider the possibilities for revision, reconstruction, improvement, enlightenment. I can practice my art from right there in my seat.
Of course, it’s still your time, and your time is valuable. You’re right: some people shouldn’t be charging us money to watch them do their art. I know. But geez: some people charge us money so they can build weapons of mass destruction. You paid twelve bucks to watch garbage that isn’t hurting anyone? You lucky puppy.
We have to have so much gratitude for artists of all types!
Thank you and may Satan bless you, everyone, for sucking and not sucking, all!