Preaching Isn't Comical

March 28, 2018

Joseph Pujol, who went by the stage Le Pétomane, was a fartiste. That wasn't a typo. Pujol was able to control his abdominal muscles and, thus, appear to fart at will. He would then insert tubes up his bum and play instruments to popular tunes. And he comes to my mind whenever I watch current comedians, particularly those of the standup type, although, unlike Pujol, I don't see the latter as original entertainers but as pompous douchebags full of hot air. 

 

It has been a long time since a mainstream comedian has made me laugh. I am not counting Doug Stanhope here, of course. Lately, with the latter exception, all they do is to preach a series of commonplace talking points, mostly circling around some sort of checklist of acceptable opinions of the leftist type. Not long ago I saw these peddlers of clichés on the cover of some bottom feeding rag and I couldn't stop thinking that it was impossible to discern them from each other, at least politically. Also, I couldn't remember the last time any of them even tried to come up with a remotely decent joke.

 

In the opening salvo of this blog, back in the day, I went about my favorite solution to the paradox of tragedy. In comedy, it is said that the paradox consists in its duality, i.e. the property of repelling and attracting at the same time. Subjects that in any other circumstance would be deep for us, the audience, are placed outside the realm of our worries and, thus, we can laugh. That is why self-deprecating humor is incompatible with taking oneself too seriously. How can comedy, then, engage the audience and, at the same time, disengage it emotionally? Yet, simultaneously, as much can be seen from a person through his make-believe efforts than his impulses. As Camus wrote: un homme se définit aussi bien par ses comédies que par ses élans sincères. The herculean task of making comedy reveals greatly the substance of the performer and the immediate disposition of the audience, for the event is a balancing act of continuous detachment and care.

 

When I see the late night crowd or the standup comedians I see no "balancing act" anymore. They get on their soapbox and pontificate to an audience that expects to listen to their own thoughts spouted by a celebrity. While the likes of Carlin or Hicks did have a message, it was delivered through an act of detachment and sudden bursts of wit that brought back the point home in a snap. One *did* laugh, whether the point was made or not. Today, it's all tiresome one-upmanship in front of a mirror what one sees in the political routines of the so-called "funny men". Plus, the topics and how they approach them are the same, over and over again. There isn't the element of surprise anymore.

 

When observational comedy stepped up to the plate, it was a refreshing maneuver that brought a snowball of "closeness" with the public. There it was, a common fella opening up pandora's boxes on common things and activities. Perhaps, as the comedians of today have been enshrined into highly paid everyday political philosophers, they *do* spend their daily lives throwing their toys out of the pram while living unlike the common man. They are, for all effects and purposes, politicians. They bitch about the minimum salary while they fetch 6 digits for a 5 minute appearance for a music video, preach about gun control while they live behind fences and surround themselves with heavily armed security details, and try to make the audience believe their love life is a mess when, in reality, knickers are thrown at them at lavish celebrity parties. There is no observational comedy anymore, at least not from the mouths of the fat cats.

 

And people are getting tired of that. As ratings go down, these spoiled sacred cows double down on their political agendas, widening the gap in an already polarized society for the sake of adding more zeros to their bank accounts. They have no material anymore. So they do the only thing they are left with: telling their niche market what they want to hear in order to feel good about themselves, in an orgy of reciprocal masturbation where everybody rides the high horse.

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