The Morning Forum of Los Altos continued its season last month with a lively presentation, “Comedy Is Translation,” by Chris Bliss.
Bliss, a juggler and standup comedian, has performed on “The Tonight Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
A college dropout, Bliss told the Oct. 2 Morning Forum audience he wanted to become a world-famous juggler. He came to national recognition when he was booked in 1984 as an opening act for Michael Jackson’s Victory Tour.
According to Bliss, communicating effectively involves conscious connectivity to the truth of whatever perspective you are presenting, finding the right questions, playing the music rather than the notes and recognizing that failure is really information.
Comedy as a bridge
He said comedy works well as a bridge to new perspectives because of its unique ability to circumvent an established viewpoint. Bliss said “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart was so effective because Stewart’s material was always rooted in a commitment to the facts and was a great information delivery system. It was funny, but as a result, Stewart’s viewers were better informed than viewers of network and cable news shows, Bliss added.
Comedy relies on misdirection to deliver its message. A perfect punch line packs a concentrated dose of substance and symbol, causes you to laugh and releases endorphins, Bliss said, noting that laughter turns our walls into windows, revealing a fresh and unexpected point of view.
Economy of language is another factor in good comedy, he said.
A final powerful attribute of comedy as communication is that it is viral. The viral appeal of a great punch line that’s been carefully crafted with honesty and integrity about something everyone’s talking about can have a real-world impact in changing the conversation, Bliss said.
Bliss offered advice to those who would focus on making the world a better place: Take a little time every day away from the world’s problems to lighten up, think funny, and you might just find the question everyone has been looking for.
The Morning Forum of Los Altos meets twice a month September through June at Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave. For membership details and more information, visit morningforum.org.