Friday, March 03, 2006

Politics And The Funny, Vol. [I've Lost Count]

Insightful and funny article in the Chron about the Cartoons and the always puzzling question - why can't we all laugh at the same things?

The question that springs to mind is, Why is it OK for Marzouk to joke about suicide bombers, murderously fanatical Islamists and 72-virgin giveaways, when those are precisely the stereotypes represented in the worst of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons?
The answer, of course, lies in the with/at distinction on which all comedians must balance their acts. One of comedy's greatest powers is its ability to create in and/or out groups and harness that resulting energy to whatever ends the comedian sees fit. That's not always for good, of course.

(The piece also references Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World as an example of, at least theoretically, the bridge-building capabilities of comedy. From what I hear - the film is crap, which is sad because I was really looking forward to it. But the premise makes sense.)

But while the piece is an interesting, if somewhat superficial, treatment of the various motivations and outlets for niche comedy (by ethnic or racial group in this case), it fails to really come back to that first question of when it's okay for groups to reach outside themselves for humor.

Also wrongly conflated here are stand-up artists and the Danish cartoonists at the center of this controversy. The goals of these groups are, if not divergent, at least distinguishable.

It's a healthy discussion and definitely gave me a list of comedians I'd like to check out. But I wish it were the first in a series or that the writer, Jeff Yang, were going to continue somehow with this subject.

Worth a read and good for a few laughs.

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