June 15, 2015

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:

The Progressive Death of Comedy (Anthony Sacramone, June 15, 2015, Intercollegiate Review)

Christopher Lasch diagnosed this condition as early as 1979, when he wrote:

Notwithstanding his occasional illusions of omnipotence, the narcissist depends on others to validate his self-esteem. He cannot live without an admiring audience. His apparent freedom from family ties and institutional constraints does not free him to stand alone or to glory in his individuality. . . .

For the narcissist, the world is a mirror, whereas the rugged individualist saw it as an empty wilderness to be shaped to his own design.

Everything comes down to power: who has it, who defines it, who wants it. In the '60s, "political" comics shared a wink and a nod with fans as to who was due a beat-down, a comeuppance, a reversal of fortune. The power was Johnson or Nixon, the big chemical companies that manufactured napalm, the military-industrial complex, the KKK and its think-alikes--even the networks themselves. When the Smothers Brothers (whose writers included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner) started doing sly political humor, stinging critiques of the Vietnam War, guns, and even censorship, CBS canceled the Emmy-winning variety show.

But now the one perceived as having the power--even as much as the one-percenters, the banks, the NSA--is the celebrity comic himself. He must audition for the right to deliver a pointed opinion as if it were just one more entitlement. Big names like Seinfeld, Rock, and Maher--rich, famous--have to prove they're worthy of their privilege before their observations on the economy, civil rights, domestic spying, dating, marriage, you name it, are given a fair hearing.

The comic is barely performer anymore; he is more the audience. It's his or her job to applaud the people in the seats for being exactly who they are, the evolutionary high-water mark of sensitivity to other people's powerlessness, which is just a projection of their own inner insecurities and dissatisfactions.

What's lost in all this talk is what's funny.

Posted by at June 15, 2015 6:43 PM
  

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