It has come to my attention, in a circular way, that my logic is sometimes of the screwball variety. The tangents that cropped up in this particular topic demonstrated what a roller coaster my train of thought can turn into. Not the fun kind of ride, either; it’s more like the rickety, unkempt ride, veering into caves you hadn’t noticed until it was too late to jump off and take your chances in the mud, which is–ohmygod–moving.
Anyway, I’ve blocked off most of those side tracks for the one thing worth following, I bet. Please climb aboard for this tiny journey of muted understanding and puzzlement! There will be swears and discomfort, so skip along if you’re feeling too tender for it.
Not long ago, we went to a comedy performance, and the guy did a bit about gay newscasters that managed to–quite surprisingly–achieve perfect comedy tone. He said, with sincere apology, it freaked him out to know such personal details about television personalities. Certainly we’ve had gay newscasters in the past, we, as the general audience, just didn’t know about it. This comedian imagined himself as a child watching Walter Cronkite, and then having old Walter, the most trusted tiny man in television, lean in and say, “Good Night, and also I love cock!!”
The bit was funny because his audience could slip into his imaginary distress with ease. It’s not that we needed to trust Walter not to be gay, per se, we just trusted him not to have personal surprises for us. He would no more declare his sexual preferences on air than to roll up his sleeves to reveal a tattoo of his own face.
The cultural train has pulled into a station that leaves the older passengers befuddled and checking their tickets. It happens all the time, everywhere. That is one of the most irritating things about life–the shiftiness over time. Mores move, and traditions that aren’t tended stop being traditions. In many cases it’s good riddance, too.
I think the comedians who claim you can’t do comedy without offense are indulging in some lazy whining. Complaining is easy. Comedy is hard.
Comedy should be difficult. Reading the room should require reading.
In my way of looking at it, jokes do not have to be us against them, and they certainly don’t have to be cruel. Ridicule is simply not required.
I used to chant at you kids, “It’s only a good joke if everyone is laughing,” and I stand by that, even when I slip up and laugh at you. I’m sorry.
Maybe it seems worthwhile to target some group to make a point, why it may even be educational to do so! What is your aim? What is your goal? You don’t know?
It’s your responsibility to know what you are doing and why.
I watched “Sticks and Stones” while I thought about this comedy problem. Chappelle knows what he’s doing and saying. While he is not perfect, he is very clearly trying to provoke his audience and is defending himself and his cohort. It was only partly successful.
A great many people tuned out as soon as they absorbed the heavy swearing, while other tender hearts would have turned away for other reasons, so he effectively filtered it down to the drunks and hardened fans who want to be told that they are the worst motherfuckers of them all.
To each her own!!
I have actually done very little stand-up comedy–okay, technically I have done zero stand-up comedy. I can almost imagine what it’s like from giving speeches and other appalling exercises. Even though it’s terrifying and difficult, you don’t have license to be cruel on your soapbox.
There are more choices between pandering and slandering.
It’s not hard to know if you’re intentions are good, just ask yourself. Then ask yourself if you are punching up or down. Then ask yourself why you are punching again, just to be sure.
Hey, you can be mad at me about Gay Walter if you really want. It’s America!! Unless it’s not!! I’m told that joke would never fly in the most exquisite circles of sensitivity, nor would my interpretation, which is problematic simply in the gentlest retelling.
Sigh. I’m old, but I didn’t get old on purpose or invent any of this to torture you. I promise.
Feel free to add a question below in the comments!!
Help buy mom a glass of wine
She needs it. You know she does.