Good Humor on the Right

A couple of years ago, a family member sent me a video of a ‘millenial’ talking about how she graduated from Harvard earlier in the week, got a job, showed up late the first day due to partying, and was fired, and proceeded to tell the ‘white man’ boss that she was to be respected.  It was portrayed as a first hand account, and clearly supposed to be taken seriously, and when I responded with “um… this seems fake, she’s at least my age” (technically a millenial, but I’m in my thirties so the graduating from Harvard and going out partying the night before a job didn’t ring true in the slightest) “I think this is just to spark outrage,” the response I got was “no shit Sherlock, it’s called satire.  That’s why it’s funny.”

But here’s the thing, it wasn’t funny, and I don’t mean “I didn’t like the angle” so it wasn’t funny, it was just objectively poorly executed and not funny.  There is a real political satire/humor deficit between the two sides.  The left has so many funny people that the unfunny are washed out, and so it seems to further intensify the ‘quality’ of the humor, and refines the tastes of those in agreement, but the right really has so little.  Dennis Miller, I’m told is pretty funny, I’ve enjoyed the little that I’ve seen of his stuff, but I’m not aware of where to find more (contemporary) stuff from him.  So when you get someone who you agree with, and they’re making fun of the other guys, you tend to find that funny if you have nothing else.

So where am I going with this?  Steven Crowder.  Now, I’ve talked about how I think Milo Yiannopoulos is entertaining, and occasionally he’s funny, but Steven Crowder is the first person, that I’m aware of, who is definitely on the right (Joe Rogan is in a kind of nebulous non-affiliated place, that’s why I’m not including him) who is pretty consistently funny.

Crowder’s impression of Young Turks’ creator Cenk Uygur is hilarious, and let me just say, I mostly like what I see from Cenk, but Crowder’s impersonation is spot on, and he finds the naturally exaggerated parts and mimics them perfectly.  “OF COURSE!”

What’s really impressive about Crowder, in addition to his ability to be funny, is that he is coherent while being funny, and he’s researched.  The first time I watched a “Change My Mind” segment, I was amazed at how deep he’d dove into the subject matter ahead of time.

The “Change My Mind” segment is also a good example of something that he’s doing, that I’m not aware of anyone else, left or right doing, and that is consistently airing unedited these pieces.  That’s not to say that there is an inherent fairness, ultimately whether it’s him, or Sasha Baron Cohen, or The Daily Show, the ‘house’ has the advantage, by going in prepared, but by not editing them, he shows his own confidence in his points, and he does tend to come out looking pretty good.

Now, I disagree on at least 50% of everything I’ve ever heard him say, but I do think he’s a really interesting voice in our political satire/commentary culture, and importantly he’s funny.  So, here’s the thing, that is both a good thing for conservatives, because humor can definitely make your points stronger.  I want to see the smartest, and funniest people on both sides making their points.  I think we only improve by getting the best people, with the best minds on both sides.  I don’t want dumb, or unfunny right leaning people to represent the right, because both sides can motivate each other to be better, but only if they’re on equal footing.

But, the right actually having a legitimately funny (and intelligent) voice is also a bad thing, for all of the unfunny conservatives who’ve been getting the default laughter of people who just happen to agree with them.  He’s raised the bar, and hopefully we’ll see more come out, because disagreeing with someone doesn’t inherently upset me, but thinking they’re unfunny, when they clearly think they are funny, upsets me more.  We need good comedy, and I hope we continue to get it.

Suicide and Jokes

Suicide has been talked about a lot lately.  First there was August Ames’ suicide, then Logan Paul going to the suicide forest in Japan, and before either of those.  It’s a serious topic, and it’s one that deserves serious discussion, but there is a different side to it that should be discussed too, and that is jokes about it.  I will not be minimizing the topic in this post, but I will be talking more about humor and jokes surrounding suicide.

The reason I’m bringing this up, is Logan Paul.  Now, you should understand, that I didn’t watch the Logan Paul video, but I saw clips through many other stories talking about it.  I personally don’t want to see a dead body in video, and so I never watch anything like that.  That being said, me not wanting to see it, doesn’t mean you can’t show it.

Ok, disclaimers aside, I saw some of the clips of Logan Paul joking, as well as laughing.  Now some of the jokes, seemed like they were in poor taste, or insensitive, but some came across as nervousness, and I think that’s a totally natural response.  We often laugh at what may not seem the best time, because we don’t know what else to do, it’s natural.

Now, some of what I personally didn’t care for with what I saw of Logan Paul’s video, wasn’t joking about suicide, but joking about someone specific.  That may seem weird, but follow me for a second.  I personally, have laughed a lot at suicide jokes, but I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed about suicide jokes that involved someone real or specific, as much as the idea of suicide.

But Mike, suicide is never funny!

Suicide isn’t, but suicide jokes can be, and they can be helpful or good.  As you may or may not know, I am bi-polar, and have not only struggled with suicidal thoughts, but a couple of attempts.  When I was 24, I swallowed a bunch of pills, and was hospitalized for a week, and made to swallow liquid charcoal to neutralize the toxins of the pills.  It was a miserable time for myself, and my family (probably worse for them if I’m being honest).  When I got out of the hospital, I saw my friend Jimbo, and Jimbo’s first thing he said to me was:

“Hey, next time you try to kill yourself, you should get a whole bunch of chicken wire, make a noose, put it around your neck, duct tape your hands to your head and jump off a bridge in front of traffic.  That way, the noose will cut your head off, and it will look like you pulled your own head off with your hands!”

Now, if you’re like my family, you may be reading this thinking that it’s completely insensitive, and disturbing, and you might be mad that it was ever said.  I, however, burst into laughter, laughter like I hadn’t laughed since before the whole thing happened.

I had spent all of the time between swallowing the pills and Jimbo saying that joke, in a state of emotional NPR soft talk, and after he said that, I was listening to music again.  To this day, it is one of the two best comedic experiences I’ve ever had (the other was after an even worse day).

After Jimbo made that joke, we went around and around coming up with different ways that would have been far more memorable.  I like to think no one really meant them, and that the humor was our coping mechanism.  Because even though some people don’t get it, humor is largely a way of people making thing palatable that are otherwise unacceptable.  Humor is important, and not just humor that comes at no ones expense, because really that shit doesn’t exist (watch Mike Birbiglia’s Netflix special “Thank God For Jokes,” about how every joke is at someone’s expense.)

I imagine, if I had successfully killed myself, that Jimbo would not have told that joke, and if he had told it to him, I don’t think there would have been an audience for it, but telling that suicide joke, because I had a different outcome was great, it was what I needed.  So my point is this, suicide isn’t funny, but the jokes can be, and they can be cathartic, and they can shatter our self imposed prisons of ‘sobriety,’ but like anything else, there is a time and a place, and hopefully we can get help for those who need help, and humor for those who need humor.