Pupinia Stewart comedy Alpha Predator
I decided I wanted to do comedy for a living when I was about 12. Let’s be clear on what that job is…it is too make people laugh.
It is a tough job. It is your job to produce a response that is at best “murky’ as to what causes it. It is as nonsensical trying to explain why something made you laugh as it is to try to explain why you love someone. Words don’t quite do it. It is a job that is very hard to give quantifiable standards to. Even in dissecting rhythm and timing and structures of jokes, and deliveries…it always seems to come down to some element that you can’t define.
Gary Larson has said it as well as anyone. “our brain is suddenly jolted into accepting something that is unacceptable”
I have done a lot of great work. A lot of groundbreaking things I am proud of. And along with the element that can’t be defined…it took a lot of learned skill. and study, and practice. Some aspects of the job come easy and some don’t depending on who you are. And any joke can be made better or worse depending on how well you craft it and how well you deliver it.
By chance this week I found Pupinia Steward on Youtube. I say the following with all the knowledge and credibility I have…this woman is brilliant.
Probably 90% of the people who see her stuff don’t get it, or don’t understand it is comedy. It brings to mind Phil Hendrie or Emo Phillips or Andy Kaufman where it is nearly impossible to tell at first glance what is going on…and once you do, you are in awe.
These videos I’ll show you …they don’t SEEM like there is much to them. You laugh and think there isn’t much to what she is doing…there is. The great ones make it look easy.
Let’s start with a simple one.
A Simple “I’m stupid” gag. But…she is not stupid, so she had to capture every subtle nuance of a f*cking simpleton- posture, tendency to be distracted, , pregnant pauses at just the right time to make it seem as though she doesn’t know where she is going with her thoughts. None of that is easy to do…yet she does it so well the bulk of the internet thinks it’s real. part of you probably thinks it’s real even having read all this.
She even gave a head fake with the off handed comment of her initial motivation.
Let’s move on to another one, one that’s a bit smarter…by that I mean one with a more solid “joke”.
Remember who I am. When I say it’s a funny abortion joke…it IS a funny abortion joke. This joke is brilliant. The set up is SO long and let’s itself lean on her other work so well that up until the very last minute you think it’s about her being snotty and stupid to some guy…but at the end is the juxtaposition of a lame comeback and a horrific incident, and the delivery mechanism is our acceptance that she is this easily confused. Juxtaposition jokes are the highest level of joke. They take the most thought and ability to see what others don’t.
Here is a similar set up.
Similar set up, similar delivery mechanism…but this time she is not confused, or stupid, this time it is a profound thought produced by someone we have so accepted as stupid and confused that it’s clarity knocks us right over.
She isn’t hitting home runs off of softballs being thrown down the middle of the plate every single time. A lot of her stuff is damn difficult to pull off and expert level juxtaposition.
So there is that…that amount of skill by itself would be impressive.
But she also has an expert level of discipline. The pregnant pause is one of the most important tools in the comedy tool box. And it is the tool that takes the most amount of skill to use correctly.
She’ s 19…she has just started. She isn’t anywhere near as good as she will be if she keeps going.
She already has an amazing, level of discipline with he delivery. Note the pregnant pause before she starts in singing. The gag is …standard stuff. It’s another “I’m an idiot” joke…but she is SO far out of left field with what she cobbles together as what is being confused that it is clear to me much thought went into it AND that pregnant pause..perfectly done. AND…and this is important…the lack of ANY pause when she starts over in the beginning. It helps to set up a pregnant pause, to give it contrast, people often forget that. She didn’t. Her rambling right through take one and take two made the pregnant pause before the song that much better.
Speaking of discipline…
See this video (below)…this is a pretty simple gag, but she commits to it like a mutha fucka. 15 MINUTES of Mozart on the Kazoo…this is the kinda sh8t you just can’t teach…patience, discipline and letting the joke grow into something. Not every joke slaps you in the face right out of the box…in fact most of the best ones don’t. Often with the funniest gags you have to let them be really dry and seemingly aimless, and then it is really just honed instincts on how to get the laugh.
This is a type of joke / set up that is very tough to pull off. It is something sorta mildly funny…then gets dragged out…and dragged out to the point that it is no longer funny at all…then it drags on so much longer that it becomes so funny you can’t stop laughing. It’s a set up that isn’t used much because it is hard, it takes a ton of commitment, and sharp SHARP instincts. 15 f*cking minutes…this woman is an comedy Alpha Predator and she’s only like 19.
Now, maybe a lot of what I pointed out just comes naturally to her or maybe she had to methodically plan it out. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B. It doesn’t really matter for our sake. What matters is that she is good, and I can see progress in her videos, she is getting better.
I’m glad I found her, I’m glad she’s out there..it gives me hope for the future of comedy. Because up until last week…it didn’t look good. It was a bunch of 20 somethings that were pale imitations of the Gen X comedians that came before them. Pupinia is evidence that there are still new ways of doing things to be found, new kinds of jokes to be told, new delivery mechanisms to be explored and new ways of using the old ones, those of us working now might all get passed up. And that’s all good. It makes you work harder.
Maybe after all this a few of you still don’t see what I see. Maybe you didn’t laugh as hard as I did and think I’m reading to much into some youtube videos. I can tell you this, when I was 13 years old I was onstage in front of several hundred people performing stand up comedy and I bombed. I bombed with the same kind of jokes I made a lot of money on years later. I would never recommend this job to anyone, but I hope Pupinia takes it on anyway, for all our sake. and I hope she knows how good she is….I suspect she does.
When Douglas is not here, he and his work can be found at