“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
― Oscar Wilde
Truth is a relative thing, a notion that is empowered to the point of being “correct” via agreement amongst the masses. Sometimes the idea in question is quite cut and dry, such as in the case of the sciences, where experts using thorough processes have pulled on definitive evidence to create definitive conclusions; ie: the Earth is the third planet from the Sun and is indeed round rather than flat.
But when we step away from nature and its hard-and-fast mathematical principles, we soon find ourself in the murky, capricious realm of cultural truth. Where as storms and oceans and trees all follow patterns that we can understand with equations, society introduces the unpredictable variables of human consciousness and emotion.
So who do we go to when we want cultural truth? And how do we know their opinions on society are worth listening to, much less worth giving credence to?
I would argue that we still operate on consensus validation to decide who these ‘valuable’ members of society are. Rather than scientific evidence though, we base our perceptions on mutual recognition of a talent or skill, and therefore the resulting fame they acquire for their unique ability validates them in the public eyes. But even then, the value we give someone is largely based on how much money they have, how much “success” they’ve had with that ability. We often use money as a measure of how successful or “correct” this person is in their way of existence.
For instance, a homeless person who lacks fame and money is considered to be dirty and dressed in rags. Those same torn jeans and worn jacket on a member of society who is more successful because they have more money is instead rugged, even potentially a trendy hipster or fashionista depending on how well the “comfortable/worn” look is built into their style.
We use this same attitude to decide who is worth listening to. If that same homeless man approaches you with knowledge about how broken our society is, you will likely ignore him and write him off as a psychotic and paranoid conspiracy theorist.
But if George Carlin says nearly the exact same thing, we accept it with reverence because he’s successful.
The problem here is that the masses lifting up said ‘cultural experts’ are not even experts themselves–they are not universities who have spent decades honing curriculum to ensure the experts they push into the limelight are actually experts. No, these are the people on the couch making a phone call to American Idol and making views on a youtube video, and often we are left with situations where companies like Fox News are actually considered valid sources of expert, unbiased news.
And even then, a great many people will still only give others their attention if that person is validated by the masses. For example: Joshua Bells, a violin virtuoso runs through his 100$/ticket performance in a DC subway, and in the those 45 minutes, only 6 people stopped, and only 20 people gave him money for a total of 32 dollars.
And because of this fickleness of fame, and thus the money that comes with it, most of our cultural icons have to be careful about what they say so as to not offend anyone who might help pay their bills.
But not comedians.
Comedians are incredible in that their fame is largely based on their ability to see the truth the rest of us are blind to, the truths we haven’t agreed on. They’re the ones calling us out for how bad we are as a culture at creating a worthwhile consensus regarding the true state of our species.
They also penetrate a bubble that most keep themselves guarded by; usually in our society we yearn to turn our ears off when it comes to hearing anything that is too serious: politics, tragedy, religion, death, existentialism, etc. We just want to be entertained by Michael Bay films that will have lots of exploitation of women and explosions, because that’s easier and fun. And most of the time, I really can’t blame anyone; after a long day of servitude to a shit job that doesn’t fulfill you just so you can barely afford to make it through the month, it’s only natural we need some kind of release–some humor and levity and relaxation.
But that, my friends, is once more the gift of comedians. What comedians do is allow us to have both. They give us the growth and wisdom that comes from difficult conversations through the veil of laughter. And so rather than write them off for being boring and preachy, we open our ears widely with giddy excitement for whats to come. And so comedians get the incredible position of being paid to simply talk about things that we usually would ignore.
“They give us the growth and wisdom that comes from difficult conversations through the veil of laughter.”
“I’ve found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts so much… because it’s the only thing that’ll make it stop hurting…The goodness is in the laughing itself…it is a bravery . . . and a sharing… against pain and sorrow and defeat.” — Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
What is beautiful is that these comedians use their consensus validated success to point out how asinine the culture is of those who validated them, saying the truths others fear for lack of being paid.
These philosophers, these prophets, are given a stage to enlighten us from because they’ve discovered the magical ability to give us the truths that we so deeply yearn for but often neglect because they mock our shortcomings; but in this medium we accept the forced self-reflection, because within the veil of comedy we forget we’re being forced to think critically because we think it’s all fun and games and laughter. But the lessons are still there, the seeds of ideas are still planted into our consciousness–and I for one am ecstatic about this, for these comedians understand reality with a clarity that very few can lay claim to.
And I think many people have failed to realize this, have indeed struggled to look beyond the celebrity facade in order to see the deep truths discussed off stage in the lesser known circles. I know I did this with Joe Rogan. I thought: “The Fear Factor and UFC guy? You’re telling me he’s not just a bro host, but rather an insightful mystical psychonaut who eloquently and openly talks about extremely taboo subjects with insightful brilliance? The kind of subjects that we need champions for so that our species will actually awaken from this bullshit facade we all keep selling ourselves to?”
The answer, my friends, is yes, there is much more than meets the eyes with those who make us laugh. And so, it is in this light that I thought I would share a few of the most enlightening and inspiring routines/speeches from some of my favorite comedian prophets. Please enjoy.
One of the best closing segments to any routine I’ve ever seen. Mostly because it perfectly exemplifies that fact that some comedians aren’t just telling jokes, they’re using their platform to give you these extremely powerful speeches.
And without a doubt one of the best comedians of all time, Charlie Chaplin, delivering one of the most powerful, spine-tingling speeches ever.
In closing, I’d like to mention just a few other favorite comedians of mine who I think exemplify this insightfulness: George Carlin, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Paula Poundstone, Louis CK, Janeane Garofalo, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Trey Park and Matt Stone (creators of South Park & Book of Mormon).