“The mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively is made of stories, not genes.” Yuval Noah Harari in “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”

“Sketch and improv gave me a tribe.” Amy Poehler

I’d been cast in “Caveman” starring Ringo Starr. The movie takes place “One Zillion B.C. – October 9th.” Four months in Mexico as a caveman with a gang of comedy actors AND a Beatle! “Don’t shave anything!” I’d been told. Carl Lumbly and I were playing Bork and Kalta, “Black Hunter and White Hunter.” Our roles: always stay together to make sure “’that everyone eats, and no one gets eaten.”

We arrived in Durango two weeks before Bork and Kalta’s first scene. Though the movie’s tone was wacky, we knew we had serious work to do: Bork and Kalta had to connect as one mind to keep our tribe alive. For us, underlying the script’s slapstick fun and raucous dinosaur shit jokes, was a need to be finely tuned, to interact instinctively and intuitively.

Everyday, Carl and I, costumed in (fake) animal furs and carrying clubs, would go to the desolate prehistoric location to roam the rocky landscape. We’d hunt together, then separate and wander off alone. After a few hours, we’d meet up. With grunts, gestures, and the script’s 18-word caveman language – “ool” was food, “zug-zug” sex, “macha” monster, etc. – we’d tell STORIES of our adventures.

Our ability to communicate got deeper. Scratching in the dirt, drawing on stones, we’d share stories about encounters with rocks, trees, and the elements. Bork and Kalta experienced that cooperation equals survival. Eat. Don’t get eaten. Be only in the NOW! LISTEN!

One day, a very BIG LEAF blew by. We looked at the leaf, at each other, back at the leaf, and off we went, solo. A couple hours later we returned. As we swapped stories, THE SAME BIG LEAF, carried by the wind, also returned, settling right in front of us! There was a moment of sheer connection as we both turned to the leaf and shouted in one voice, “Bobo!” (friend)! Surprised at the prehistoric telepathy, we laughed deep, caveman laughs! Later Carl and I talked about how Bork and Kalta had just discovered comedy.

We called it THE FIRST JOKE. We weren’t going for the joke. It came out of the moment. One Zillion B.C., as it is today, we shared our imaginations and our stories. That shared laugh let us know that we were doing our job. The tribe would survive.