Originally the stage, the theater was the place for entertainment or drama.
For everything that is an 'as if situation'. That's how I learned it at the theater school.
Like you ‘pretend to be a tiger’ for a child. Or on a stage by means of a set you let the audience 'believe that they are in a living room, a forest or an office'.
In the writer's world this is called fiction. On stage everything that happens isn't real. Just like in a film. It's just a film.
After Theo Maassen, a famous dutch comedian, made a joke about politicians or Muslims, journalists asked him if he meant it. And that's of course an absurdly weird question! No, of course not. He was performing. He was just pretending. He didn't mean it. It was a joke.
But oh jee, what should have happened when he had said that he meant it.
Because some things are taboo.
Art is a lie that makes us understand the truth.
So on stage you can say anything as long as you don't mean it.
The stage as a sanctuary. And at one point it couldn't be coarse enough. The so-called hard jokes. You could say anything, because it wasn’t true, right?
Meanwhile, in the 'real' world we have fake news, deep fakes and conspiracy theories.
We don't know what's true anymore.
One idiot can throw more disinformation into the world than 50 fact checkers can disprove.
In the real world we don't know what's true anymore and on stage we are supposed to not really mean it.
But a joke always contains a core of truth.
We laugh because it hurts a little. Because of shame, awkwardness, expectations or breaking a taboo.
Theo Maassen thinks that the dutch politician Geert Wilders is a false man.
And he makes a statement: 'I am against personal protection of false people.'
And I think Theo Maassen wanted to say to the journalists that he meant it, but it was probably wiser to say that he didn't mean it.
Because when he meant it, it wasn't a joke, it was a statement.
But ... on stage … you only can make a statement … if you don’t mean it ...
So, Theo Maassen is whistled back here.
‘Back to the theater you.’
‘Only say things you don't mean.’
‘You're the fool, remember?’
But it seems to me that Theo wants to play with the truth.
'I try to disturb, to disorientate and you have to take me with a grain of salt'.
He wants to make us think and he has been doing that incredibly handsome and tough for years now.
As a comedian ánd as a human being he makes us think. Because as a performer you never go too far and you always have to feel the freedom (read: guts) to be able to say anything. Because this is about democracy.
‘Say it anyway.’
I think, and together with me Dave Chappelle, that you can say anything you want, both on stage and outside, as long as you stay friendly. ‘Say it anyway.’
The question is: What is friendly? Not hostile, not shocking or not offensive.
Friendly means democratic, with respect, without getting involved with each other. Without going to war.
Friendly means the way it is said and not the content. Because everything can be said, but you don't have to fart in someone's face, according to Theo.
But farts must and may be left.
Actually Theo should have said: Boys, some things I mean on stage and others I don't and it's up to the audience to find out when and what and think about it.
Fear of real life
Butttt ... I think nowadays more truth is being spoken on stage than in real life.
At least that's what I see in my cabaret classes and online humor courses. Participants dare to be more vulnerable and honest than in real life.
The most painful stories are shared on stage, but in real life we are anxiously silent, superficial, politically correct and socially desirable.
And that says it all about our fear of real life.
Being honest in real life is made very difficult for us.
And so the stage is our only way out, under the guise of theater.
The stage has become the place of truth.
It's the world upside down.
Theo go for it!
(Before I posted this I took the plunge and asked Theo if he wanted to read this. And he wanted to! So happy! This is what he said about it: 'Good piece, throw it into the world'. Theo Maassen).
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Malinca Verwiel is opgeleid als theaterdocent en kleinkunstdocent en heeft vele beginnende cabaretiers aan een bloeiende carrière geholpen, o.a.Claudia de Breij. Ze is speaker coach voor pitches en Ted talks. Daarnaast heeft ze High Impact Leadership gestudeerd en beschouwt iedereen die op een podium gaat staan als een leider.