Today I met with the second section of my Directing class and they listened in silence as I explained my humour challenge. They nodded sadly in agreement. I set them free to create their original pieces, and I visited each group, eager to soak in their energy and viewpoints. On a quest to discover WHAT IS FUNNY, I found myself laughing along with my students as they told their stories theatrically.
Look at this. Is this serious or is it funny? Yes.
Look at this group staging the entrapment of an animal. They were trying to make something serious, I think, but succeeded in creating something funny. We can now discuss ‘tone’ in our directing class, because it is clear that the tone adopted by the actors can tip a moment from one extreme to another. In a nation where STAND UP COMEDY RULES students are easily drawn to a humourous tone.
One of my students, Faith, taught me a new Kiswahili word in class today. It is Nairobi slang and not official Kiswahili. The word is ‘wazi’ and it means cool. It is said with no energy. It is said quietly, effortlessly: ‘wazi’. She taught me this after I caught her imitating me in an American dialect saying ‘Awesome’ and ‘Brilliant’ the way I do when I like something. She told me to say ‘wazi to be more Kenyan.
I went and watched another group working and decided to try my new word when I liked what I saw. I went up to Tinnah and said ‘’wizi’, getting the word wrong. She turned to me with a face of puzzlement and said ‘thieves?’ An epic failure as I tried to be cool. Now that cracked me up, because I was sure I was right. I am far from ‘wazi’.
In response to my first previous post WHAT’S SO FUNNY a former student from the 1980’s, Lyle Ostrow, sent me this note: “I remember sitting in your high school theater class about 27 years ago (seriously!) and you told us there were certain words that could make just about anyone laugh. Your example was “nostril” – you got right up in a student’s face and just said “nostril” and they started laughing. Not necessarily relevant to your current situation, but the title of your journal entry triggered the memory. This can’t possibly be a real memory, can it? ”
I have no memory of frightening a student into laughter by saying ‘nostril’ in his face. I probably did. Lyle’s memory is vivid and real and very true. It’s amazing what I thought I knew when I was young.
When I see my class on Friday I will sneak the word ‘nostril’ into my lesson to test this 27 year old theory. Stay tuned.
Wazi. Not wizi. Nostril.