Monday, October 1, 2012

Week of 10/01/2012

I Wish I Could Be Funny
– by David Matthews 2

I really wish I could be funny.

Not “clown” funny or “slapstick” funny or even “Jackass” funny.  I’m not talking about the kind of funny that would require me to put on makeup or outlandish costumes or drop my pants or do anything that would require me to go to the Emergency Room.

I mean the kind of funny that would be both witty and insightful.

I wish I could be the kind of funny that cable television would pay big money to air on a regular basis.  The kind of funny that could take a look at the human condition and be able to disassemble it to expose all of the insanity and mental conditioning and yet have even the biggest critics look at it and admit that I was right.

I wish I could be funny enough to be able to deliver that one quip, that one remark, that one observation, or to be able to ask that one question that doesn’t have a retort.  The kind of question or comment that gets re-posted over and over again on Facebook and becomes the basis of You Tube videos and gets the honor of honors… it becomes a meme.

That is the kind of funny that I wish I could be.  The kind of funny that you can’t dismiss or ignore.

The late George Carlin was that kind of funny.  Sure he was, in every way, the classic liberal.  And he had no qualms playing up on the stereotype and using the lingo.  But he also wasn’t afraid to attack the so-called “pillars of society” and go after our supposed “sacred cows”.  He played up on our stereotypes and mocked our beliefs, and while we all had a good laugh at our own expense, he also made his point.  We would have to look back at what he said and then honestly tell ourselves “you know what?  He was right!”

Think about it!  The “Fox” people wouldn’t get anywhere going after Carlin.  What was the worse they could say about him?  “Oh, he’s just a long-haired tie-dyed liberal hippie from the 60’s.  He’s always stirring things up to get a cheap laugh.”  Ooh… scathing!

Sure there were some things that I didn’t agree with him about, such as his idea that somehow not voting absolves you of the responsibility of who gets elected.  But more often than not, his observations on society, on the abuses of power, on the hypocrisy of organized religion, they would all be pretty much spot-on.  And even if you didn’t like the message, there was little that you could refute about it.

I wish I could be that kind of funny.

Take a look at what passes as “funny” nowadays.  Talk radio personalities that operate as unofficial spokespeople for political parties.  They mock and rip into other people and spread lies and slander without a care in the world of the consequences.  Why should they care?  After all, they have big corporate money backing them up.  And then, when they are called out for their actions, they laugh and just say that they’re just “entertainers”.  It’s all “for show”, don’t you know?

Or there are the media satirists.  The comedians that spend their time giving the illusion of being part of the mainstream news and doing so good of a job of it that their audience and even media critics will actually think that they are the real thing.  When Jon Stewart showed up on a Headline News commentary show to be asked about his supposed “journalistic ethics”, they did not want to believe the truth, no matter how many times he reminded people that he was a comedian performing on a cable channel dedicated to comedy.  Even today, people would rather believe Stewart than any of the supposed “mainstream media” sources. 

That’s not meant to be funny.   That’s actually quite insulting to both journalists and to us.

Compare that to someone like George Carlin.  Nobody operated under the mistaken impression that Carlin was a pundit or a politician or a newscaster when he would tell the truth on stage.  Even when he pretended to be a news reporter, we knew it was just part of his stage act.  When he talked about worshiping both “the sun” and Joe Pesci as part of his rant on organized religion, nobody talked about starting up a “Church of Pesci”.

I wish I could be that kind of funny… because we really need it today more than ever before.

Let’s get brutally honest here… we are so hyper-critical and politically polarized that we attack people mercilessly if they are not flawlessly perfect in what they say.  People send lies to their friends and associates without a care in the world and then dismiss those that reveal the truth.

When a representative for a presidential candidate honestly says that their campaign would not be subject to fact-checking, and they’re actually applauded for it instead of being laughed out of politics, then we have a serious problem.  When our supposed “acceptable” choices for the highest office are either an incumbent whose failure is touted as a success, or a man that thinks that airlines should have windows that roll down, then we have a serious problem.

I’m going to let you guys in on a little hint: when my predecessor, H.L. Mencken, predicted almost a century ago that at some point the people would elect a moron to the highest office in the country, he wasn’t saying it as a good thing.

I wish I could be the kind of funny that we really need.

Human misery has become the latest form of TV entertainment.  We’ve gone beyond the “Jackass” funny.  We’re now following around the people who repossess cars and evict families from their homes.  We’re showcasing hoarders and people in jail.  We’re auctioning off other people’s “stuff” as a form of competition and treating it as though it can be a profitable business to pursue.

I wish I could be funny… because we need better alternatives to what is passing as “entertainment”.

The really sad part about what I do is that I’ve been doing online commentary for over sixteen years, and yet it seems like the material that I get complimented on the most is the stuff that is done for laughs.  When I try to be serious, it’s casually dismissed; unless I’m shouting my head off in frustration, and then people wonder why I’m so serious.

I wish I could be funny, though; because of late there have been far too many things that just aren’t funny.


YhuntressE said...

If you want to see what passes for Neo-Con humor, is suggest Red Eye. It's just childish insults and unfunny jokes most of the time.

Chuck Doswell said...


In my biased opinion, you already ARE that kind of "funny". You have the insight of George Carlin and H.L. Mencken. You deserve to be featured on cable TV and be paid a handsome wage for your comments.

Unfortunately, like William Munney's (Clint Eastwood) line before he shoots Sheriff Billy (Gene Hackman) in "The Unforgiven" - "Deserving's got nothing to do with it!" Or, as the Rolling Stones said "We don't always get what we want."

BrentSTL said...

I spoke of something similar a few weeks ago when I gave Opening Words at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. You're welcome to use this on the show if you'd like: