We’re Taking Things Too Seriously

Peterborough Examiner guest columnist Kevin Elson presented a reasoned discussion on comedy last week.

Comedy is meant to make you think as well as laugh

His impetus is the treatment Dave Chappelle received in respect to his Comedy Special on Netflix. Unless you treat politicians as comedians, comedy is in short supply. I was intrigued.

His key points

Comedy should make you think. That doesn’t happen unless you have something pushed on you that is not consistent with your worldview. At the very least a way to look at a familiar thing from another point of view. There are a great many people who seem unable to to accept either. Scott Adams has postulated that 38% of all people have no sense of humour at all. In fairness, I doubt they were going to watch Dave Chappelle.

Comedy is based in offense. If you want to avoid offense, “You kind of have to check your moral standards, your idea of what is right and wrong, at the door when you go to watch a comedy special.” Maybe offense is important to the thinking part. Every joke offends somebody. It could be that the offense is what drives change. People don’t change their thinking without a reason.

Comedy used to offend without flashback. He refers to George Carlin who I saw in 1967 and found him to be creative. Creative in ways people had not explored before. Elson mentioned Richard Pryor too. Another of the people addressing ideas people did not talk about over dinner. The forerunner of either was Lenny Bruce who offended nearly everyone in the 1950s. He got considerable flashback but it lead to the spirit of the 1960s.

Maybe people should have better conversations about what comedians dwell upon, but then the jokes would not be so funny and woke might not have become a thing.

It’s different now.Perhaps it is just a sign of the times, that the way we deal with controversial content now has evolved. If someone becomes offended by anything they seek to cancel it.” Every psychiatrist or counsellor will tell you that suppressing ideas you find hard to deal with guarantees they will reappear bigger and stronger some day in the future. We should see comedians as people who are helping us clarify what is wrong. They don’t offer many solutions, but even if they had some, comedy would be a poor way to implement. Cancelling seems certain to offend eventually.

It’s on us.The best comedians are those who make people laugh about themselves and about the state of our society. They offer us a reflection of our world as commentators on our human condition. Delivery is everything and punchlines only serve to lighten the mood of the often-serious underlying conversations being had. If you don’t agree with something, if you can’t handle different perspectives or uncomfortable conversations, change the channel, and keep your mind closed.

Ignoring comedy might be comfortable for an individual, but the problem will remain and grow. We need to assess the validity of their thoughts. The best have more to offer than a laugh at someone’s expense.

Where comedians fit

Comedians are like a dog or smoke detector. They warn us when something is out of order. We ignore the warning at our peril. We don’t ask them to implement solutions., we are content with the warning. Most of what is happening just now is a case of people implementing solutions to no clearly definedĀ  problem. They see the outline of the problem, but nothing deeper. All plans that begin with tactics without a clear and connected strategic purpose fail. Often catastrophically.

On the cynical side, it is people trying to achieve power for themselves. I am not sure what the advantage of having power in a dystopian society might be, but I am a bit naive. Don’t overlook the possibility of people using the woke movement to gain power for themselves.

The woke crowd think they are carrying out some big and useful change. They are starting with implementation before assessing the society-wide vision, the resources, and the timeline. No strategic plan survives those failings. If they thought about it, and decided they were trying to improve society, they would welcome comedians, even if they disagreed with them.

An indicator

How many comedians refuse to perform on university campuses today. At least a third of them.

If you had a movement trying to change society as we know it, would you not welcome people who could make the points too? Apparently that is not their view. I suppose their view is conditioned by their own deep concern they will be found out. That what they are doing will be fodder for jokes, even ridicule.

Isn’t that the point of comedy. To point out what is not working.

It is a case of the dog who did not bark. If comedians must be banned because they might laugh at us, should we not be asking what is it we are doing poorly? Introspection is not a highly developed skill among the woke.

Banning them or cancelling them is evidence of another malady. Thomas Paine long ago has explained it. “To argue with someone who has renounced the use of reason is like giving medicine to the dead

Something to think about.

From Family Circus. Are children catching on. Are you offended?


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

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2 Comments on “We’re Taking Things Too Seriously

  1. Since when did humor and social revelance have to live on the same street.

    Compare the classic humorists–Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplain, Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Jackie Gleeson, Bob Hope, even the early Bill Cosby or Mr. Bean. They all found humor in everyday events, human nature, and self deprecation.

    IMHO today’s comedians are way too desperate for applause at any cost, and like dunderheaded chefs, they too often resort to cooking their own leftovers and eating their own young, with material that’s not all that funny.

    You can’t become a comedian by taking a 10 week class at a community college. That will only serve to polish someone who already appreciates humor. No one has yet discovered a way to do a successful funny bone transplant.

    That being said, there is always room in our free enterprise system for entertainers who cater to the humor-impaired. So there is always something for everyone, but it’s doubtful that much of it would be universally called humor.

  2. yep. I’m not a fan of Chappelle but you know what I do about it ? I don’t tune into his new specials or make a point of watching if he’s scheduled on a talk show. Same goes for most other comedians, now and again I see one I don’t recognize who’s hilarious but most make me think “ya, you can swear a lot and make the same basic points others have been for twenty years, so what.” BUT I don’t feel others shouldn’t have the right to see/hear them. If we all got to cancel things we don’t care for there’d be nothing left to watch, read or listen to before long.

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