Last night, I attended the premiere of internet TV series, Whatever This is. The creators of this series previously made The Outs, which fairly enjoyed. The event was well-attended and that floor was packed with so many plaid, skinny, mostly-white, creative-industry-looking people that I actually raised an eyebrow the moment I stepped in. I’m not calling them hipsters, because I’m sure they probably are not; I’m making a fashion and demographic observation (honest!).
The show played, and… I felt a searing sense of loneliness and distancing from everyone else in the room. In my opinion, the episode was not particularly funny to me. I don’t laugh very easily at things, and even the original outs only had me smile a couple times, but never left me adequately-humoured. However, the room erupted into laughter at what I thought were some of the most banal moments. I wondered if I have had botox done to my face at point in the screening, because my face felt stiff from not emoting in response to the show.
Don’t get me wrong, the show had good writing, and seemed to have set itself up for a good story ahead, but I just did not find it particularly funny as the audience seem to have indicated from their response.
It seems as if the American public were pre-programmed to laugh and applause at stipulated moments in television. A funny point is not funny by being funny inherently, but becomes funny because the audience participates in recognising it as funny. “This is funny because I am laughing,” so as to speak, and not “I am laughing because this is funny.”
I feel like the audience expected the show to be funny, hence the laughter and the clapping. What if the director intended the show to be sombre, but directed it exactly the same, with the same one liners that painfully reveal our dreary existence, financial woes and personal insecurities that had led the audience gleeful? Would the director feel anguished, or would he approve?
But I digress. I stood, unmoving, unsmiling, watching the show, feeling painfully removed from everyone else’s mirth. And it’s not only this show — I’ve been to stand-up comedies and felt exactly the same thing. Comic says something really ordinary, but at moments where it seems primed to harvest laughter, and the audience delivers.
I had definitely spent such shows paying attention to the audience more than I did the show. I wouldn’t know which parts of the show was funny otherwise.
Eventually the screening of the first episode of Whatever This Is ended, and everyone clapped and cheered, especially hard so at certain lines in the credits (were half the audience cast and crew members?). I clapped because everyone else did, but I’m not sure if I’ve made the premiere a success because I clapped or that I was clapping because the premiere was a success.