Sunday, April 08, 2018 2:34 PM
Concerned Over Comedy (2018Apr08)
The new logo for HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is Mr. Oliver slumped over his desk, face down, with one forearm raised—index finger aloft—as if pausing during a collapse to interject, “And just one more thing…” It perfectly symbolizes satirical political commentary in the Trump crisis, wherein comics must first present the actual facts of a premise, wait for the reaction of horror and nervous laughter, and then proceed with putting a punchline on the end—as if the facts weren’t ludicrous enough.
Comics who wish to point out the paradoxes, the hypocrisies, the tomfooleries, and the blatant, outright villainies of political leadership—these comics used to rub their hands in glee when a president stumbled on an airplane ramp or a vice-president fired buckshot into a friend’s physiognomy—any target-rich environment that made their jobs easier for a day or two. Now, they are more and more like John Oliver—exhausted by the firehose of inanity coming from our seats of power—exhausted by its diluvian persistence, but even more so by its frightening instability and provocation.
John Oliver is a funny man and I enjoy his show—one of my top three shows—so, no shade being sent his way by what I’m saying: Last Week Tonight is not a comedy show pretending to be news—it is current-events-in-civics pretending to be a comedy. The reason it works is the political and social conditions of our time are laughably paradoxical, hypocritical, foolish, and blatantly villainous. Our country is so hagridden by ignorance, corruption, and selfishness—in both its individual ‘statespersons’ and its ‘institutions’ (remember the Donald Trump Trust?) that the rest of the globe is embarrassed for our electorate.
How could American voters, possessing the jewel, the most envied government of the entire world—how could these idiots have ever let things come to the present pass? How self-destructive and mule-headed can we be, to throw away the wonder of the world—to obvious crooks and transparent charlatans? How could Ignorance have so fully won the day?
Television bears some responsibility, as do Facebook and Putin—and, frankly, the Democratic Party, which took the best, most popular and historic choice ever presented—and pissed it away. But ultimately enough voters consciously chose to hurt their country this way—and I think many of them did so purposely. They expressed their anger in their vote—much like a rioting mob will burn down its own neighborhood.
We have to remember what voting means. You find someone who will do what you want—and you make sure that person gets your vote. You don’t wait for a bunch of strangers to present you with some ‘lesser of two evils’ contest—you get the person who will do what you want him or her to do. Hint: It has something to do with people—and a lot less to do with economic interests.
I applaud the mobilization of our youngest adults, and demi-adults, demanding more common-sense-based legislation on one particular issue—guns. Of course, having been shot at for quite long enough, we must hold these youngsters blameless for attempting to defend themselves, even politically. Teachers, as well, have mobilized—making the excellent point that one should not have to choose both to teach our children and live in poverty, as a package deal.
The plain fact is that these schools are underfunded—the teachers’ salaries are simply the vocal, visible part—the crowded classrooms, the lack of books and supplies and computers—hell, the lack of desks… You can’t neglect the next generation without nulling the value of everything else you might do. So, when the leaders tell you the answer is to arm these teachers with guns—the question is not ‘Should we elect new leaders?’ so much as ‘How the hell did they get elected?’
I’m sure there’s a laugh in there somewhere—I leave it to the professionals to find.