The Death of Comedy

Comedy has always allured me, in the same way an eight year old boy is attractive to a Catholic priest. For a brief moment, I considered getting into it. I may have lacked the being funny part, but I had what every great comedian had- a love of hearing one’s own voice. So you can imagine my shock when I discovered that I couldn’t quite make a living out of comedy despite performing regularly to my numerous audience of one (thank you mother, for your support).

I then took another path and decided to study to become a professional liar- I mean, lawyer. Despite the heavy workload, sleepless nights, confidence issues, and fits of depression, I fell in love with studying law, since apparently I’m into abusive relationships.

And I guess I did the right thing, because no one really wants to hear comedy anymore, or at least the good comedy. You either get some guy screaming randomly or propaganda dressed up as humor. I’ve heard that all roads lead to Rome but in the world of comedy nowadays, apparently all jokes lead to Trump. And it really doesn’t matter whether or not you support Trump. If you repeat a joke long enough it ceases to be funny (except for vegans. Vegans never cease to be funny which is why the good Lord in his kindness continues to make them.) And jokes nowadays… well, they don’t deal with truth anymore.

And you might raise your eyebrow at this point and wonder what reality and truth have to do with humor, and the answer is, everything. This is because the best jokes are truths wrapped in absurdity or gross exaggerations.  The most poignant and haunting humor is to be found in those jokes that look truth in the eye, despite the horror, and laugh.

Take for example my joke (well, if you can call it a joke) at the beginning of this little article, when I mentioned Catholic priests. I myself am a devout Catholic, and I know so many priests who are good and worthy men who emulate the teachings of Christ. There is no denying, however, that there is a sex abuse crisis in my Church involving priests and pedophilia. Now while there is a hint of truth wrapped around that joke, the joke is, obviously, an exaggeration as most Catholic priests are not pedophiles.

Now imagine if I had said, instead of Catholic priests “the way an eight year old boy is desirable to a Buddhist monk.” It certainly wouldn’t have the same appeal, not because all Buddhist monks are saints, but because Buddhism hasn’t been hit with the same scandal my Church has been hit with. The joke just wouldn’t have made any sense.

Now, I’m a Filipino, and I’ve heard some pretty racist jokes about Filipinos. There was this one joke, I forget how it went exactly, but the punchline was that Filipinos were domestic helpers. It’s a gross exaggeration, based on some truth- there are a lot of Filipinos working as domestic helpers in the Middle East. But instead of getting hurt or reporting the joke as a hate crime, I took it for what it was- a joke. Also, there is nothing wrong with being a domestic helper. It’s an honest profession- more honest than my own, which is why I also poked fun at my future profession earlier in this article, likening it to a professional liar. However, not all lawyers do lie- according to my grandfather, who was a lawyer, they just stretch the truth.

In all seriousness though, the best humor is often based on truths, and the truth can hurt. Often humor makes fun of painful truths because humor is the best way to deal with such topics. A wise man in the comments section of the internet once said “the funniest people are often the most depressed”. And it’s because they’ve learned to take their misery and, instead of moping around like some living incarnation of a My Chemical Romance song, they’ve chosen to stand up in defiance to it and mock it. Of course going to a psychiatrist would also be advisable, but anyway, the point that I’m trying to make is that humor takes strength. And in today’s society where no one can be offended, where weakness (and not vulnerability; Jordan Peterson talked about the difference between the two) is put on a pedestal, there is no place for comedy.

And I think this is sad, not only because I love comedy, but because comedy is an effective way to deal with life. Life isn’t perfect. There’s always going to be something depressing about it- the death of a loved one, failures, heartbreaks,  and roads (if you’re a Libertarian)- and oftentimes these things are out of your control. It’s alright to feel bad when these things happen- that’s natural, but you can’t keep feeling bad forever. At some point, you have to make the conscious effort to get up and move on with your life, and laughter helps you do that- or at least gives you a reason to smile despite the pain.

But what’s happening now is that every time humor tries to tackle truths, it has become the vogue to try to shut it down because someone, somewhere, got offended. Or even worse, no one got offended but people are afraid someone might. No wonder comedians seem to be so unfunny now. It’s not because they lack wit. It’s because they fear that the funnier they are, the more they expose themselves to being called offensive.

Some say that humor is subjective. This is especially true in the realm of political humor. And the reason why is because different political factions have their own truths. A Liberal delights in Trump jokes because, to him, the truth is that Trump is evil. A Conservative delights in making fun of Obama because for us, our truth (which I’m going to say right now as a biased conservative is the objective truth) is that Obama is a crackpot (and not the good kind like our stoned Libertarian buddies). The problem now is that one side has deemed its truth to be the only truth, and has decided to shut down anyone who thinks differently.  When you have only one side telling their truths over and over again in mainstream TV, the purpose isn’t humor anymore- it’s propaganda.

But why focus only on political humor? There are so many things that unite us, so many sorrowful experiences everyone goes through – and these are things that, if laughed at together, unite rather than divide.  Comedians shouldn’t be afraid to deal with these topics because no matter what, someone out there is going to be offended. Instead of fearing backlash, one should be brave enough to tackle these issues.

And if the comedy scene throws one out for being too risqué in one’s humor, there’s always law school.

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