The blog-tastic team at Brilliant Corners (if I actually had the time to read blogs these days, this one would be a regular stop for me) recently published a nice rumination on the subject of humor and schtick in jazz. Kudos to you, Steve Provizer, for using that evil word! (The evil word is "schtick," not "jazz.")
The subject is Mostly Other People Do the Killing:
In the video, deadpan all the while, [drummer] Shea sticks an odd-shaped piece of paper on his nose and proceeds to straddle the drums, hump them, bump them, milk them, tangle with them, move them, disassemble them, pratfall over them and use them as a staging area for a finger puppet show. At one point, it looks like Laurel and Hardy moving a piano, but with the bass drum standing in for Ollie. The audience seems too intimidated by the 'seriousness' of the context to respond as I did-laugh out loud. It's just not done. Mr. Wooster.
After all this, Shea moves the band into a fiery "Night In Tunisia." His is a gutsy, funny and focused performance. I know, performance art, yadda-yadda, but this is essentially shtick and a little shtick never hurt anyone.
This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, not only because I posted something about it at the very outset of my own damned blog, and not only because it's a critical aspect of my own aesthetic, but also because the IJG has gotten into trouble -- right here in River City! -- at the hands of this very same phenomenon. Damn you, schtick!
But this is an old story by now and there's no point in going into it any further.
Incidentally, I once wrote something about MOPDTK here.