We’re taking a break from my series on civil discourse.
Since every Action List I’m receiving emphasizes how critical self-care is, I decided I needed to focus on my favorite self-care rituals this week.
Off I hopped into a steaming bubble bath. That’s always first.
Then I joined another choir (I’m a soprano in one, an alto in another, and a tenor in the third, in case you were wondering the outcome of last summer’s epiphany). Some day, I’ll write more about the power of music to heal. For today though, I’m writing about the power of laughter.
You cannot laugh and be afraid at the same time, says Stephen Colbert
Here’s what I also know. It’s not a matter of getting “in the mood to laugh.” It’s a matter of letting the laughter catch you unawares. It’s a gift, laughter is. And it’s one I’d like to share.
Ready? Let’s go.
the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating
the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous
According to Merriam-Webster, humor is about finding the absurd, the ludicrous, and holding it up to the light.
I’m focusing, of course, on political satire — a long used literary device — when we speak of humor. For you see, I want desperately to believe that political satire, along with singing, will be our life saver. After all, bubble baths aren’t for everyone. But everyone can sing. And everyone can laugh.
Laughter, for me, is also about finding that sense of community that emerges when I laugh together with another. “You’re not alone” is a powerful call. It’s the bonding part of laughter that I enjoy so much. The same can be said, of course, for singing.
I grew up on political satire. Remember the Smothers Brothers? Tom Lehrer? Mort Sahl? Lenny Bruce? Dick Gregory? George Carlin (well, I was grown by the time I discovered George).
Who have replaced them? I began my search.
I turned to the late night television comedy shows. YouTube videos to the fore.
Samantha Bee (Full Frontal), Stephen Colbert (CBS’s Late Night), Bill Maher (HBO’s Real Time With …), Seth Meyers (NBC’s Late Night With …), Trevor Noah (Comedy Central’s Daily Show), who took over from the ever popular Jon Stewart, and John Oliver (HBO’s Last Week Tonight With…),
along with the folks at Saturday Night Live, are the top comedians of our day — The Smothers Brothers without the music, the Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce without the language, and the George Carlin without the pony tail.
But, as I watched these assorted clips, I found that studying humor comes with a certain barrier to enjoying it. And, I learned a few serious things.
Comedians make sense of the world through sharing, and often skewering, common perceptions of it.
Bassem Youssef, called the Jon Stewart of Egypt for his work during the Arab Spring, who now lives in the US, cautions us — in this brief interview in Business Insider — against satirizing Trump, as does Aparna Nancherla, in this article in the Village Voice,
The most cliché Trump jokes — his orange skin, emphatic hand gestures, and tween-like reflexes on social media — have been hashed and rehashed, hashtagged and retweeted. … But these sorts of jokes about him fail to even begin countering the disastrous impact he’ll have upon the world. Because the problem isn’t that he’s unmockable; it’s that he’s too dangerous to simply mock. …
Maysoon Zayid, the Palestinian woman whose TED talk “I Got 99 problems … Palsy Is Just One,” tells us that comedians are becoming the new journalists.
Trump is terrifying but also comedy gold. He’s a bully who can dish it out but can’t take it. It is our … job to speak the truth when others fear doing so. … We need to fight the power while staying funny.
Baron Vaughn, whom I knew only from the Netflix show, Grace and Frankie (he plays Bud), says
There’s a new level of awareness about how the government works, mixed with a deep division in this country, sautéed with hatred and a sprinkle of xenophobia, then finely caramelized in racism. It’s a good thing to expose all the flaws in our institutions. It’s the only way to see what needs to be fixed. However, that doesn’t mean anyone will like it.
Here’s a final quote, an excerpt from the article in the Daily Beast, Can Comedy Survive President Trump? that speaks to this level of seriousness.
The night before the election, Samantha Bee aired the second part of her series from Moscow, which highlighted the parallels between Trump and Putin, who has all but eliminated satire from Russia. “The only worse thing for a dictator than being criticized, is being laughed at,” one pro-democracy Russian journalist told her.
“But that could never happen here,” Bee said, optimistically, before revealing Trump’s calls for SNL to be canceled after he took issue with Baldwin’s harsh portrayal of him.
I’m suddenly struck by the courage it takes to be a comedian these days. And I’m also aware that I haven’t laughed yet.
I’m off to sing for awhile.
Now I’m back ready to introduce you to three budding comedians who post their work on the Internet for folks like me to discover (with help from a number of my Facebook Friends. Thank You!)
Remember, you can subscribe to their YouTube channels if you are so inclined, and get a new musical chuckle in your Inbox each week (times three)
First, The Bald Piano Guy, with “I Gotta Cut Art.” This had me smiling for the first time.
I continued my chuckles with Lauren Mayer, who, with this fun YouTube, needs no further introduction.
Her many songs include Cry Me A River (err, make that Crimea River).
Randy Rainbow is an R-rated comedian (or should be). Here’s Microwaves are Watching You.
All are entertaining, to be sure, if you lean to the political LEFT.
But where are the right-leaning comedians?
I could only find two: Dennis Miller and P. J. O’Rourke. And even O’Rourke supported Clinton in the election (as “the devil we know”). I include them in a stab at equal time, and I do wish there were more. But, I wish even more that they were funnier. Ah, but then there was Archie Bunker.
What is it about humor that draws from (or is supported by) the Left? I don’t know. That will wait for a future post.[learn_more caption=”How can I end this post on American humor without including links (at least) to a few of my all-time favorites. They never made me laugh out loud, but they did once make me feel less alone. “]
Phil Ochs, The Draft Dodger Rag
The Smothers Brothers with George Segal, The Draft Dodger Rag[/learn_more]
THIS JUST IN: State Rep Jessica Farrar has introduced HB 4260 in Texas that will … well, you’ll just have to read this for yourself. I can’t possibly do a better job than the Texas Tribune has done in covering it. Everyone wants to laugh, it would seem.
How about you? Did I include your favorite? Who’ve I left out? Let’s get as complete a compilation as possible, for that empty afternoon we have time to laugh. In the meantime, I’m going off to sing.
LEAP FROG (the FROG part) — my series on
civil discourse — will return next week
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