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Tao, Redneck Hippies, and How to Write a Joke

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If you had asked me a couple months ago if I lived my life by the Tao I would have asked what you were talking about. Tao is not a religion; it’s a philosophy of life focusing on the importance of being present in the moment and allowing yourself happiness. As a comedian, I generally land on the cynical side of things but the teachings of Tao can help us all — comedian or not — get out of a negative mindset. Reading the books, The Tao of Comedy: Embrace the Pause by Bobbie Oliver and The Tao of Willie: A Guide to Happiness in Your Heart by Willie Nelson will give you advice on how to live by Tao.

Everyone knows Willie Nelson, but we don’t all know Bobbie Oliver. Bobbie is a stand up comedian, writer, producer and comedy coach in Los Angeles. Interestingly, you would expect The Tao of Comedy to have more jokes than The Tao of Willie. That is not the case.

Like this Willie joke, which I think Bobbie would appreciate:

“Question for you: what were the redneck’s last words?

‘Hey! Watch this!’”

Jokes are a big part of Willie Nelson’s life but an even bigger part of Bobbie Oliver’s. I found it surprising how much, apart from being believers in Tao, they have in common. Most simply, they both can be considered redneck hippies from humble southern beginnings. Bobbie is from Covington, Georgia where the series Dukes of Hazzard was filmed and Willie was in the Hollywood remake. Bobbie is also the name of Willie Nelson’s sister. Coincidence? From the Tao perspective, there are no coincidences.

With his Native American background, Willie believes in the healing art of music and the balance of life. He talks about music in a similar way to how Bobbie talks about comedy. They stress the importance of being positive, pursuing a career that makes you happy and getting over your fears. Bobbie mentions that comedians don’t do comedy because they want to; they do it because they have to. Her book tells you how to write, perform and network all using Tao.

If you live in accordance to Tao, you live in harmony with the world around you. Willie says, “Trying to be someone else is the hardest road there is.” Bobbie also touched on this subject saying, “When you embrace who you are 100 percent and speak from a place of truth, you find your authentic self.” She continues, “When you try to be someone or something you are not, you will fail.” Comedy comes from truth and you have to live your own.

Bobbie writes in a way that you hear her comedic voice. She stresses conquering fear by faking confidence. In other words, fake it until you make it. Most all comedians have self-esteem issues; Bobbie states that comedians are “the perfect combination of low self-esteem and cocky shithead.” Tao is all about balance.

Bobbie’s book is different from any other stand-up-centric text because it guides the reader to turn comedy into a spiritual practice. If you freak out and forget what to say, embrace the pause and take a breath. Taking time for deep breathing is important in the practice of Tao. Willie says, “If the choice you make is to breathe deeply, you can unlock the genie of your own personal power.” Bobbie recommends using a breathing exercise as a mini meditation before performing stand up. If you focus on inhaling and exhaling it will calm your mind.

Willie uses jokes about life, golf, music and family to help understand Tao, while Bobbie tells us how to use Tao in understanding and creating jokes. Reading these two books helped apply Tao to both my comedy career and everyday life.

“Want to know what to write about? Live life. Pay attention. Listen. You don’t choose the joke — the joke chooses you,” She says. “but you have to be able to hear it when it comes.”

Relax and embrace the pause.

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Reader comments so far...

AndreaB's picture

AndreaB | Truckee, CA
Please check out Bobbies websites - and ! You can watch her new special on YouTube!

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March 14, 2019