Finding Funny is a one-person show directed by Andrew Ferguson, and written and performed by Daniel Stofi, about a comedian backstage during a stand-up show. He’s about to go on, feeling frustrated with his current routine, and unsure of how to proceed. He tries to dig deep within his memory to figure out what inspired him to be a comedian in the first place. This is not just a show about a comedian though, this is a show about comedy.
While we see Stolfi struggle with his routine, we see the other comedians in the line-up perform. The show is an exploration of different kinds of comedy, what works and what doesn’t and why and what it even means to be a comedian. The result is a platter of comedy, ranging from the authentic to the inauthentic. The MC is hilarious precisely because he isn’t – an interesting commentary on how a joke that, when told earnestly, would fall flat, but in Stolfi’s metanarrative about comedy foregrounds its precise absurdity. The MC’s clumsiness means that we are laughing at him, rather than with him. Magic Maurice is reminiscent of Mr. Bean type physical comedy which is funny exactly because of Maurice’s spectacular ineptitude. A musical magician performs another Rowan Atkinson inspired physical musical piece, which was a lovely piece of mime and physical comedy that results (appropriately?) in a series of fart jokes.
There is essentially no set except for a microphone and a wooden flat which served as an entrance and exit behind which Stolfi transformed himself into each subsequent character. The lighting was also used to good effect, at times amplifying the absurdity of a routine and at others punctuating important scene shifts. Character shifts were always super clear, even though Stolfi didn’t consistently use one method to shift – a testament to his clear and powerful characterization. The show is a good length at 40 minutes, a good amount of time to explore a theme in depth, but without indulgently dragging anything out longer that our attention spans would have allowed.
Stolfi’s story culminates in him re-telling his very first joke: a joke that sends a sad little girl into a fit of giggles. The thing that distinguishes Stolfi’s character from the rest of the line up is that the heart of the comedy in this case was an authentic connection between comedian and audience. What mattered to him was not his ego, or tricking anyone with magic, but reaching her in that particular moment. And in this recounting Stolfi also manages to reach his current audience, resulting in a kind of comedic magic of its own.