Monday, June 12, 2017

Comedy's Long, Slow March

A good joke comes as a revelation, exposing a truth that is suppressed by social convention or just missed out of negligence. The laugh is a convulsion of surprised delight when a well-timed reveal springs that truth on us like a jack-in-the-box. The degree to which that revelation is unexpected, meaningful and shows itself underappreciated--hiding in plain sight--is the degree to which the joke works. The joy for us is in our momentary liberation from stifling convention or obscuring ignorance.

The stand up comedian, if he's doing it right, is a chauvinist for his in-group of one--himself. His personal bias which, as the Left insists (and has willed into social reality) cannot exclude race, gender, ethnicity and on, is his basic tool, his soldier's rifle. In the friction between this supremacist of the self and all else--his intolerance--is the comedy and, theoretically at least, the truth. Tolerance has no place in his routine. Tolerance is the death of comedy.

The stand-up is paid to notice things. Presumably he's granted an exception to offend. But this right is meaningless if it isn't the right to offend the prevailing order, whether it be political, social or cultural.
I can't imagine the concept of a counterculture arising at all without comedy's tendency to become sanctioned transgression, filling the vacuum created where expression is repressed.

Needless to say, things have changed. Mainstream comedy--the only kind that will be available to you if the Left achieves its wildest fantasies and clamps down on the Internet--has become the open defender of the prevailing order, which it sees as just. At the same time, it hacks away at the old legacy orders, sexual morality, modesty, patriotism, et cetera as if they weren't in steep decline. It's as if the old formidable warlord is now the cultural left's captive, and they bring him out nightly, dress him up to look fierce, hand him a clay sword, and present him to their gullible children as the monster who rules over them.

In its absent-mindedness the counterculture offered alternatives to the conventional order that, depending on their political usefulness to power, coalesced to become today's conventional--if chaotic--order of competing identities and outrages.

Mainstream comedy lumbers on a pack of zombies, bled of their lifeblood, bias, animated only by our cynical materialism, greed and anomie. The money is in pushing the establishment line, and broadcast and cable television retain the technical and professional prowess, so the zombies keep coming, just like in the movies. So too comedic films and television have a hollow and joyless feel no matter how well made they are, lacking as they do the two essential elements: relevance and truth. A thousand perfectly structured jokes taking as their basis, say, the persistence of white racism, are just a handful of beads without a string passing as a necklace.

It would been the worst thing to say of comedy before that it was harmless, that it threatened no convention or power, that no one would be offended by it. Now the professional comedian, hemmed in by pc restrictions that somehow rob him of both the objectivity with which he might juxtapose and expose the absurdity of the "white racism" myth and the subjectivity, or bias, that, as intersecionality demonstrates, is inherently problematic.

Noticing is essential to comedy. Noticing is also the essence of intolerance.

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