The Skill It Takes

Contrary to Amanda, I love standup comedy. I admire the skill it takes for a comedian to actually reach their audience and being able to deliver. There is so much expected from a comedian because in order for the show to progress, the jokes and lines have to gauge positive reactions. Some comedians are better than others, that’s for sure, but it also takes courage to stand up there, literally under the spotlight.

I’ve seen many comedians, ranging from the likes of Yannis Pappas and Trevor Noah. The Black Cat in LES, the Comedy Cellar, The Stand, and Gotham Comedy Club are popular comedy clubs in NYC which I’ve visited before and have seen an array of stand-up comedians, as well as improv. It makes for a great night out. But, you have to know what type of comedy the comedians deliver. Trevor Noah is known to make lots of political jokes and pokes fun at American-isms, while other comedians simply roast their family, friends, and of course celebrities.

Tig Notaro is known for her deadpan comedy. Before her cancer diagnosis, she was more observational, whereas after, she reflected more on her personal life and childhood. In her documentary, she states that comedy is “always a risk” because you never know if something you say may trigger someone in the audience, especially when you’re up and coming and people aren’t familiar with you. Yet, taking that risk is something that stand up comedians are willing to take because it is something that they love to do.

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Memory In Its Finest Form

After reading Maia’s  “Whose Story?: The Ethics of Writing Memoir”, I couldn’t help but agree with her. The events that took place in her life were ultimately her story to tell. If it were me though, I would keep in mind and consider how it might affect the characters/ people I am including in my story. Maia strongly supports that because she is relying on her own memories, that she is the sole proprietor of her writing and is free to write whatever she wants as long as she is relying on her own memories.

When listening to Ariel Francisco and Jason Tougaw’s video on writing about other people, I noticed that Ariel also relied on his father’s memory to write his poetry. I find this interesting because sometimes people don’t want to be involved in someone else’s autobiographical writing, whereas others are more than willing to help.

Mary Karr’s “The Liar’s Club” begins with a great hook. She starts with “As soon as you start to leave things out—to shape a tale—you’re maneuvering the actual.” This to me seems important to recognize for any writer out there. By omitting certain parts, you aren’t exactly lying per se, but you’re not stating things as they are. By “maneuvering the actual”, you aren’t really writing an autobiography anymore, are you? Even if it’s not intentional, and you start to fabricate details here and there, then it can start becoming a work of fiction.

The final paragraph from Jason Tougaw’s “Memory and Memoir” is also striking, yet familiar to me and something that I have done myself with my own writing.

Memory is not so different from imagination, if you think about it. They commingle with just about every act of remembering or imagining. Every memoir is a remaking the past. Rather than avoid or work around that simple fact, I decided to play around with it.

Tougaw decides to combine memory with imagination, rather than try to separate them. That could be more of a hassle and even worsen the writing, so he doesn’t hesitate to play around with both. Instead of justifying one element, why not use both to create a perhaps stronger piece of writing?

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Ethical Dilemmas in Rehab

Rehab is a song sung by the late Amy Winehouse, which focuses on her alcohol and drug addictions. Amy Winehouse on numerous occasions poured her heart out in interviews, delving into the horrors she was living because of her addictions. On top of that, she was married to Blake Fielder-Civil who introduced her to the world of drugs. This was ultimately her catastrophe. To battle her depression, she leaned on alcohol and drugs to get her through her day to day.

Her song Rehab is said to be quite controversial. It is said that Amy Winehouse’s father pressured her into going to rehab because he felt that she wasn’t taking her addiction seriously nor was her partner Blake a right fit for her. Hence the lyrics, “They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said no, no, no.” She did end up going though, but the facility closed down because it was running without proper licenses.

Amy Winehouse talks about her personal life a lot in her songs. She is known for her rawness and pure language that stemmed from within. According to Powers, “This dig into the self, and the collateral damage it may cause, defined what singer-songwriters did as long ago as the late 1960s. Writing about the chart-topping bards of the Laurel Canyon scene in 1976’s Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, Janet Maslin questioned the emerging style’s “reactionary expressions of frustration, confusion, irony, quiet little confidences, and personal declarations of independence. (Genius)” Artists like Winehouse find solace in writing their songs about their lives because they know that their listeners will somehow relate to the lyrics, one way or another. They will also appreciate the rawness of the lyrics. Winehouse didn’t hold back in Rehab and became a model singer for many artists to follow.

The lyric mentioned tells a true story. Amy’s former management saw that she was on a path of self-destruction due to her alcohol and drug addiction. But Amy was not going to take life advice from her management. She did ask for advice from the people she loved, especially her father. However, her father failed to see the devil that Amy was dancing with. So, she told off her management, thinking that it was yet another stunt to control her life and appearance for the music industry. Although people around her were trying to help her, she refused. She struggled with her demons immensely but no one seemed to truly understand her. This is how she fell into the world of hard drugs, presumably through Blake Fielder.

In the final verse of the song, Amy confesses that she doesn’t even want to drink. She doesn’t even love alcohol. It is just a means for her to escape from her reality. She needs alcohol and drugs to deal with everything that is going on in her life from depression, stress, lack of emotional connections, messed up relationships, and the rest. In the third verse, she sings “I just, ooh, I just need a friend”, indicating that she just wants someone to be there for her and someone she can simply talk to.

She sings again that she is not going to waste ten weeks (70 days) in rehab and fool everyone to think that she was helped. It seems that, deep down, Amy believed that she did not have an addiction problem. But rather, it was just an outcome of other problems that she was trying to suppress.

Going back to Powers, writing autobiographically in music can cause collateral damage. Amy’s music and Rehab in particular let the world see the demons Amy faced. Her genuine music even won her awards because the people fell in love with the way she was able speak about and deliver how she was feeling. But the damage it caused was also shown through her documentary titled Amy. It painted her father as uncaring and only cared about her fame rather than his daughter’s well-being. While her father clearly argued in a BBC interview that that is false and that he cared for many times while she was intoxicated, her song lyric “and if my daddy says I’m fine” goes against what her father states. Her father brushed off his own daughter’s physical well-being, let alone her mental health and depression.

Amy didn’t think twice about her lyrics, at least from what the public knows. She has stated that she wrote the lyrics within 5 minutes immediately got to recording and producing it with Marc Ronson, who she had worked with before Rehab as well. While her song may be controversial, the public has grown to love her music and her soul. Many people can relate to her music and she speaks for hundreds of thousands of people in her songs. It may be a controversial song, but it definitely speaks volumes.


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Well-versed, Well-written

Hanif Abdurraqib’s Go Ahead in the Rain is nothing short of evoking emotions from the readers, whilst having written from his own emotions. Although the title includes Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, this book is a phenomenal tribute, in the form of love letters, to the pioneering hiphop group. This intense and raw love letter to the group speaks volumes of how touched the author was as a teenager because of this group. To him, and for many others, this sole group united people and helped bring about other rappers, the likes of Ice Cube, OutKast, Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., and many others. This book is a love letter to this Tribe, but also a touching self-examination.

While we hear of competition in today’s music world such as Drake vs. Kanye West (Kanye ftw), there was drama and competitiveness in the 1990s as well. What struck me the most was that Phife Dawg and Q-Tip had so much “beef” between them. Phife trying to make “Butter” his own song entirely was a battle. Phife then came out with his solo album, which didn’t really sell and no one bothered to listen to it. As a Queens native myself, I loved A Tribe Called Quest as well, and still do to this day. And yet, I never delved into the breaking up of the group, nor the nitty-gritty of its drama between its members. On page 218, you’ll find Hanif Abdurraqib asking Q-Tip if he “knows what it’s like to be a little brother.” He then explains that “as a little brother you’re always proving yourself, even when you thin you’re not” (218). So, essentially Phife felt threatened, if you will, by Q-Tip. Rather than feeling equal and on the same page as his group members, Phife felt quite the opposite. And yet, Hanif later on states that he doesn’t blame Q-Tip for the fall-out of the group. They each had a part in its fall out.

Hanif Abdurraqib uses his book as a means of self-examining and connecting his personal life to this group. A Tribe Called Quest is both his muse and his lens into the past. Although he doesn’t directly state that he is reminiscent of his teenage years, the reader can determine that through his creative wording and format of his love letter. He makes keen observations and reflects on his childhood and when his parents would allow certain rap and hip hop in the house. Abdurraqib relates his own highschool “Tribe” to the hiphop group, cementing that he loved that A Tribe Called Quest because his “tribe” was also odd and wore hand me-downs and baggy jeans. After reading Abdurraqib’s love letter to his muse, I decided to listen to their music again, but this time through Hanif’s ears. Suddenly, the snares on “God Lives Through” have more kick and “Electric Relaxation” portray the unmistakably unique collaboration of Phife Dawg and Q-Tip.