As I sit here, stuffing my foodhole two-handed with a smoked fish and cream cheese sandwich on a whole wheat everything bagel--or, as I like to call this sandwich, "The Filthy Jew"--I'm thinking about how things strike me as less funny now that I've taken an interest in politics. And when I say "taken an interest in politics" I mean it in the way most do, but will not admit. As I read various news sources, trying desperately to study the current world affairs in which I am so embarrassingly behind, I nonetheless insist on force-feeding my fontanelle-soft political opinions down the mind-throats of anyone within earshot. And when I say "my political opinions," I mean the opinions of the latest liberal (or suddenly jaded-conservative) columnist I've read, making sure to focus on at least one solid and surprising fact. (Or at least conflate that fact with another.) After all, I am nothing without my (other people's) strong opinions and I insert them into casual communication as often and as awkwardly as possible, like a Mirriam-Webster Word of the Day. My naivete in political matters is so dense it can be ascertained by a blind and deaf person, using only haptic clues.
Even though I feel better about being more informed these days, I also worry about the comedic consequences. I think as one begins to look at the world analytically instead of observationally, certain changes take place. For instance, you start referring to yourself as "one." Also, you tend to treat things as more serious, more dire, and less like something you can just laugh at or shrug off. Your opinion gets upgraded to a message. For comedians, this transformation can often have one of three different but equally detrimental effects on their act:
- Ugly Condescension ("What's the matter, sheeple? Are these jokes just a little too REAL for you? YOU'RE ALL LIVING IN THE WAL-MART PARKING LOT OF A FAST FOOD FANTASY WORLD!!!")
- Toothless Political Satire ("Whenever I hear Dick Cheney it's like hearing Darth Vader's voice. It's like, 'Karl Rove...I am your father. I'll be baaaaaack.' Am I right? THE GUY IS EVIL AND ALSO GEORGE BUSH IS NOT VERY SMART AND PROBABLY READ THE 9/11 REPORT WITH A RICHIE RICH COMIC BOOK HIDDEN INSIDE. MAYBE THEY SHOULD HAVE LOOKED FOR THOSE W-M-D's IN RUMSFELD'S A-S-S. BINGO!")
- Ragtime ("Give my regards to Beltway, remember me in Deficit Spending Square!")
A few comics have been able to keep their cool and remain deeply political, using satire (Jon Stewart), keen observation (Chris Rock), or just by carefully avoiding performing their act in front of anyone who might disagree with their point of view. (David Cross) Alternately, a political comedian can go even further, by carefully constructing a platform for his or her comedy that immediately informs audiences of exactly what they're going to get. This can be communicated in a number of ways. For example:
- Call your televised comedy special, "Bush'd!", "The First Lady of Comedy", "Ant: Paint the White House Pink!", "Stand-Up Commie", "Comedy for Hope", or "Mind of Mencia"
- Ask High Times magazine and Tom's of Maine to sponsor your comedy tour
- For the cover of your comedy album, choose one of the following photos: you, naked with an American flag draped around you; you, lighting up a huge joint that's rolled in paper printed with the American flag; you, waking up in bed next to an Ann Coulter impersonator, sharing a post-coital cigarette (American flag sheets? Think about it!); you, as a giant,squatting over the hole in the Pentagon building with your pants around your ankles to take a poo, while reading the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine (For optimum effect, the cover of Mother Jones magazine should feature a photograph of you, holding an American flag dildo. Although you will be tempted to be photographed with the American flag dildo in your mouth and/or butt, resist this temptation because Wal-Mart will get mad and make you release a second version of the album with a plain and boring cover. Although...think of hours of highly-charged political comedy you'll be able to mine from that fascist act! Up to you, really.)
- In the liner notes of your comedy album, thank The Chicago Eight and "conservative weasels like Bill O'Retard and Rush Lame-bore," for filling you with the outrage that energizes you in your "continued comedic struggle against the forces of humorlessness." Alternately, in the liner notes of your comedy album, thank "liberal hippies" and "political correctness nazis" for filling you with the outrage that energizes you in your continued comedic struggle to reflect the national subconscious by telling jokes about how gay sex is gross and how Jews love pennies.
But yeah, I'll probably just end up writing a ragtime song. That's the part that really burns me up.