What is a Comedian?

I didn’t illustrate anything in particular in this essay, but here’s a dinosaur I was working on for something else. That should do it.

The people are mollified.

As I was reading a recent spate of political rhetoric from Jim Gafffigan, who is making a point of calling out Trump Derangement Syndrome, as well as the rest of the present tyranny we’re experiencing, I noted that several of his followers said something along the lines of, “Comedians should stay out of politics.” This is an unwelcome confirmation of the average American’s lack of sophistication that my fragile psyche cannot quite digest anymore.

It’s when I see commentary such as this that I realize how difficult and complex the art of comedy really is. And while that is reassuring, to recognize that something I do actually requires nuance and skill, it is disheartening to realize just how few people laugh at the surface without grasping the depths. Not only do they lose the original point that the comedian/editorialist was attempting to make, they often spiral off into takeaways that trigger unintended consequences.

I occasionally reference Gary Trudeau’s axiom, that good comedy punches up, not down. But in circumstances where it is difficult to identify the up from the down, the aggressor from the aggressed, the humor gathered by those that observe the humorous event is shallow, and often harmful. This kind of comedy isn’t righteous, or educational. This is just punching.

When Comedy is just punching, it is tantamount to bullying. It is the schoolyard tease discovering a trait that they can exaggerate to provide superficial entertainment and gain equally superficial social capital. It’s cheap, it’s dirty, and, say what you will about mud wrestling with a pig, eventually the pig will tire of it. And when a pig finally breaks bad and attacks, God help the mud covered goons who thought they were funny a minute ago.

It is in everyone’s best interest, ultimately, that comedians should stick to comedy. Comedians doing their job correctly provide relief from dangerous echo chambers, they provide alternate viewpoints that are often overlooked, or obfuscated. The Jester keeps the Regent thinking, rather than allowing them to wallow unchecked in their own crapulence amidst the fawning of yes-men.

So here’s to clear, directional punching up. May we be enlightened, may the truth be illuminated, and may the jackasses that don’t get it be immediately identified, butchered, marinated, and fed to people who actually get the joke.

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