Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Here is the problem: comedy is a reflection of The Mass Opinion.  The Mass Opinion is the blanket against which our ideas or suggestions are contrasted.  In the comedy setting, laughter indicates either approval, recognition, or understanding, and therefore highlights a subjective truth of the collective consciousness.

I am a stand-up comedian.  I have “chosen” this path for many reasons, but mostly because I enjoy it.  I enjoy the process of writing about new ideas and developing them into performable pieces.  I will not (and can not) write about something that does not contain a large kernel of personal importance.  Whether it be a part of my personal history, a habit of mine, a nagging thought, or an important idea, only those things will be discussed in my act.  I am not one to bring Snuggie bits to your ears, or go on about how I heard this one really out of context “stupid” thing said by some obscure stranger which is of no importance to the world.  That’s not my deal.  I will call it like I see it, targeting even myself (gasp!) in the foray of criticism.

However, in doing that, I find myself somewhat isolated on a lot of issues.  Call me a dissident or “contrarian” but that’s merely the reality of the situation.  Now I’m sure you can foresee the issue.  My opinions and beliefs are drastically different than the collective ideal (more on this in later articles).  So when I offer an idea as absurd or criticize a behavior, most of the public does not share my disapproval as they are the ones being criticized.  Now, one could argue that people can laugh at themselves.  True.  However, they can NOT laugh at themselves when a core belief is questioned or criticized.  They can laugh at how we all suck at the self-checkout, or how we have strange bathroom habits, but can not (and will not) laugh at their own ignorance on issues in which they perceive themselves as informed.  The list is endless: politics, religion, sociology, human nature, biology, science, etc.  Most people are pretty set with their ideology, having worked a lifetime at the docks or in a steel mill or in a cubicle, they’re not gung-ho about a 24 year old know it all screaming at their hypocritical faces.  Understandable.

This is nothing novel.  Bill Hicks was marginalized to obscurity in America.  Doug Stanhope barely squeaks by (only due to the advent of Youtube and an internet presence).  Dissidence is not welcome in comedy because the Mass Opinion, by definition opposes the dissenting view.  However, if one were to revolutionize the society and pull everyone to this platform from which I rant, then I would no longer be dissident.  I’d be preaching to the choir about the straw men of the past that comedians love to publicly chastise (gay marriage, anyone?  Religious fundamentalism?).  In short, I’d be a shit head.  A phony.  A late blooming fraud posing in the guise of “cutting edge”.  There is a painful duality involved in such a notion.  By existing beyond the mass (and the Mass Opinion), you are on the revolutionary side of ideology.  However, you will also by default be misunderstood and disconnected from the public you are trying to reach.  They will often, in the face of criticism, retreat into the safety of routine and mass agreement.  I understand this reality, yet I press on; I suppose I wish the public were a little more eager to go along for the ride of progress...

Monday, June 22, 2009


I have, over the years or months or however long I’ve been interacting with a fair degree of honesty, been labeled a cynic.  A pessimist.  And I certainly understand where those accusations are coming from, given the current social framework by which cynicism and radicalism is judged.  For example, I was at an engagement party this past weekend at which my anti-marriage, anti-institutionalization of love and emotion, etc. was bound to come out in one way or another.  As is consistent with my behavior history, it came out in a series of jokes.  Among them, asking the (supposed) groom-to-be, “Do we get all these hours back after the inevitable divorce?” etc.  Cynicism is only cynicism when judged against the reference of socially accepted “optimism”.  In this specific case, the social optimism is that the two will be married and in love for the rest of their lives.  So, in this case, I am the cynic, the pessimist.

In the last few months, my supposed cynicism has been directed more at the foundation of society (as well as its subsequent outcomes including marriage, advertising, etc.).  In this case the social optimism is that life is GOOD.  Our society is free, we are autonomous individuals, free of manipulation and in this capitalist enterprise we are free to do as we please and work to whatever end we deem fit.  And I have, amongst other things, realized this to be radically untrue.  Subsequently, that pervading theme slips out of my face in the form of passive-aggressive humor et al.  The central target of these recent outbursts of meta-sarcasm seems to be directed at the framework by which our society operates today: state-capitalism.  Now, some (“hard-core capitalists”) believe that eliminating the state involvement, leading to “laissez faire” capitalism is the answer, but I’ve found that the very belief capitalism at its core gives insight to a very interesting fundamental belief.

I was discussing these ideas with two close friends of mine, both of whom belong to two important groups: capitalists (and/or objectivists), and those who consider me cynical.  Through our dissection of economy, sociology, and human nature, we came to a fundamental disagreement that gave some incredibly counterintuitive insight.  We realized the primary driving force behind their belief in such ideology was a fundamental human SELFISHNESS that would perpetually pervert any ideal of communal benefit.  That is the capitalist ideal.  We are inherently selfish and therefore we will always want more (greed) and are entitled to it if we work for it.  Now, I agree with them on the basis, however vehemently disagree with the subsequent leap.  I do find that humans are “selfish” at the fundamental level.  We will always do what is best for us, no matter what.  However, that does not necessarily imply that we will be GREEDY.  We will only be greedy if our ideological prism is set up as such.  That is, greed will only be our goal if we believe that greed is the best goal.  However, alter the ideological prism through which the world is experienced, and we can see that it is possible to alter the behavior.  If we were to BELIEVE that communal benefit was more important than individual wealth, then by pursuing our “selfish” goals, we will strive for communal benefit so as to be selfishly selfless.  That is, one who believes the best way for a human to act is to benefit society, then he/she will benefit society so as to feel that he/she is acting as justly as possible.  Yet, the “hard-core capitalists” (my friends), at their belief core, claim that human nature is such that this is impossible; people will always put themselves above others at whatever cost (global disparity in wealth, poverty, violence, etc.).  However, given countless examples to the contrary (vegetarians, for example) I truly believe that humans not only have the capability to, but indeed WANT to strive for a more connected, communal experience.  We have the capacity for sharing, for societal benefit and it simply takes a change in belief structure from dog-eat-dog to we are part of something more important than the individual and by working together we can achieve more individual freedom.  My friends (as well as their intellectual allies) do not think this is possible, which led to an incredibly revealing truth: my perceived cynicism is in fact deep rooted optimism in the face off mass cynicism.  This counterintuitive fundamental realization is instrumental in progressing the discussion.  Is it not progress these discussions are meant to catalyze?