Last night I went to a taping of comedian Paul Provenza’s new Showtime show The Green Room. For my part, I let myself be folded into the fabric of this comedy family that has been so beautiful to me this last year. I am so grateful. And even though there were moments I felt like stepping back into the shadows, I stayed present and in the light, and in the front row.
A little about what I saw last night.
Paul has created a big, safe space for comedians to hang out and do what they do best – daringly mouth off with great wit. At different times, depending on the guest configuration, it was thought provoking, heart warming and flat out offensive – which is a good thing – and always hilarious. My dad used to say that a comics job was to find the line and cross it. And Provenza does that and invites others to do the same while always in service of tearing down the sacred cows and making us question it all. It is a huge honor to be there and be part of this new family of mine – thanks Paul. Thanks dad.
But all that aside, the thing that was most amazing about last night was watching co-creation in action.
The first show had Jonathan Winters, Robert Klein and Rick Overton. There clearly was an atmosphere of reverence for Jonathan, but because Paul creates such an open space, Jonathan also got to show his most subversive side and speak his truth about his life and the business in a way that you just can never do on the Tonight Show or Letterman. We all knew we were in the presence of comic royalty. Klein and Overton felt it, and although there brilliance shone in the moments when they took the spotlight, you could tell they knew this was about giving back something to Jonathan. Paul set the atmosphere brilliantly.
The second show had Paul Mooney and Bobby Slayton and Jim Jefferies (all very provocative comics) and Rain Pryor. Again Paul set the stage perfectly, he threw the topics up in the air – being black, jewish, racism – all big bones for these four – and wow – the air crackled with wit, and on the edge of your seat anticipation. It was like being on a street corner and watching the jabs, insults and great put downs fly between a tight knit gang. At times it was a bit more “dick-waving” than I can handle, it’s just not my personal style, but it was fucking fun to watch! They were all playing with BIG fire, and yet they knew it was play. This is a difficult and great feat. The alchemy was HOT. Paul is a wizard.
Playing with BIG fire – that is the lesson here in dealing with my fears today. I was raised to be the peacemaker in my family, to put out fires. So, I assume that I can’t handle the heat, that I will get burned automatically, and so I tend to not go near the fire, and certainly not stoke it.
But in any alchemical transformation, you need fire. You need to turn it up! So I am seeing that with consciousness, humor and in service of tearing down my personal and the collective’s sacred cows (the bullshit stories we keep in our heads to keep us from moving toward what we ALL need to do as individuals and a world), I need to be more willing togo into the fears (fires). It is a powerful path to transformation.
What will I conquer today/tonight in my own commitment to this FEAR thing? I do not know. I will return for two more tapings tonight. Maybe I will let myself jump into the fire, cross a line, play on the street corner. Who knows. Anything is possible. Burn, baby, burn.