When Great Art Makes You LOL / Hyperallergic / collab with Alex Huntsberger

Greetings, Internet! Here’s a delightful essay that I’ve co-authored with my dear friend, Alex Huntsberger, who is a theater critic based in Chicago. Check it!

Laughing Buddha via Flickr

Laughing Buddha via Flickr



If you heard peals of laughter ringing out through the quiet, reverent halls of an art museum, what would your reaction be? Would you “tut-tut” in their general direction, maybe shoot them a glare or offer them a pointed “shhh”? If so, can we be totally sure that you, and not they, are in the right?

For contemporary artists who love to insert a little bit of humor in their work, the situation above begs the question: Can art be funny?

Yes, of course — but it doesn’t have to be, whereas comedy has to be funny or else it fails. The basic structure of a joke is simple: set-up, punchline, laugh, repeat. No laughs is proof that the joke doesn’t work. But art? It can be whatever it wants to be, as long as it’s full of thoughts, emotions, humanity, concepts, etc.

Melissa Rocha is a stand-up comedian who also hosts The TV Show Show, a themed comedy variety show. (Full disclosure: Alicia Eler participated in the Seinfeld edition.) Rocha left her performance art career behind when she realized she was funny, and wanted to work on crafting jokes. We caught up by phone about her transition, and why it happened. “The part of comedy that most artists and people have a hard time with is the failure of it,” she said. “It is so brutal…the trial and error is a lot harder to get a grip on. In the art world, you can just explain it.”


When Great Art Makes You LOL