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Arrrghasm: Comedy And Politics

July 1, 2015

I posted today at how embarrassed I am to be a progressive sometimes–especially when it comes to the whole, “I’m offended,” cultural thread that runs through my leftward brethren, to be sure I’m not saying that rightward leaning folks are any better. But since comedians generally trend more leftward I’ve been seeing this line of reasoning come up a lot, “I’m offended because that joke was racist/sexist/genderist/ableist/ageist/fuckist,” and what have you and then proudly proclaim that their being offended by a joke makes that joke somehow wrong and that the comedian should apologize or make restitution or go kiss a few babies or something. Generally, whatever a politician has to do a comedian must do to make amends.

I’m not of the opinion that a comedian should apologize for any joke unless your ‘joke’ is in the Michael Richards’ line of thought where you continually spout ‘nigger’ until…something…magical rainbows come out? I have no idea what he hoped to accomplish with that, but as it stands, then you apologize. Otherwise…no. Never apologize. And it’s not because I think apologizing makes someone somewhat weak. No, my objection to apologizing for comedy is 1) it validates someone’s sense of self-righteous indignation which makes them feel like queen for a day and gives everyone else permission to use being offended as a cudgel against everything they’re against.  And 2) Like anything in the art world, comedy is subjective and as such just because a joke fails with one audience doesn’t mean that it won’t succeed with another. I also don’t believe in censorship whether it’s by a government or its citizenry.

With that in mind: I can agree strongly with comedians that refuse to play to college audiences because they’re the most humorless fucks you’ll ever come across these days. Oh, that’s not to say everyone doesn’t have a sense of humor, but in general the hive mind is: if it offends my sensibilities then it must be bad and therefore eliminated from view! They’re basically the new form of Puritans even though the Puritans weren’t even the Puritans. If you know your history that will make more sense. At any rate, yes, never perform at college campuses unless you want people offended at everything you say. Especially if that comedy deals with observational humor because that sort of comedy takes a level of self-awareness I doubt that audience would be capable of.

I’m also tired of this strain of thought that goes, “There’s an unspoken rule in comedy that you always punch up and not downward,” I find that to be bullshit in the highest regard. Now, I’m no professional comedian and I do plan on trying my hand at an open mic night eventually, I can tell you that comedy doesn’t give a shit what sort of status level you have or what has happened to you in your life. Comedy deals with exaggerations and it deals with pointing out the absurd. The shadows in life that we see but we don’t want to see: our ugly truths laid bare for everyone to see and to laugh at them.

That’s it. Sometimes a dick joke is just a dick joke and sometimes you’re just a dick telling a joke. But regardless of the topic you can make anything funny if you make it absurd enough. George Carlin is proof of that with his ‘Picture Elmer Fudd raping Porky Pig,” bit. But these language Puritans that insist that all comedy not offend their pet cause really disgust me and every time I see one of these pearl clutching nitwits write an article about how ‘comedy shouldn’t be that way,’ I feel like smacking them upside their head with a rolled up newspaper like a badly behaved puppy. Because comedy ‘shouldn’t be’ any particular way. It can inform, it can point out our absurd foibles, it can get a message across, and it can just be so stupid it makes us laugh. It’s a release valve, but one thing comedy is not and has never been is one size fits all.

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