After watching a stand-up comedy DVD (one I'd never heard of or seen before, and that was brought over by family) this weekend, I realized this about comedy:
Great comedians have the amazing ability to tell the truth — the most awkward, painful, hilarious, honest truths — to laughs and nods (or to head-shaking in embarrassment because, after all, what they are saying is often true).
Some comedians tell truths in palatable ways. They confirm what we people know or suspect about political leaders, fashion trends, famous folks, and characteristics of general society. While they can offend, and they always offend someone eventually, comedians push ahead in their quest to share observations and anecdotes; these stories, often about their personal lives or right-on observations from daily life, are brutally honest yet told with a "wink-wink", so they are heard.
If you want to know the truth within current events, an awkward political scandal, a corporate mishandling, or celebrity snafu, look to the comedians. Some days I think that a comedy monologue should accompany the nightly TV news, so that subtle aspects behind what is really going on could be spoken (by the media) and acknowledged (by the media and the rest of us).
If a society has no comedians, I would bet that truth-telling in the media is near zero. Comedy, particularly satire, provides an outlet for healthy release of societal tensions around awkward issues. Comedy brings up what we cannot say ourselves, and lets us look at it straight on, couched as pure entertainment.
Two of the best things to happen to American news media in the past few years are "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." While mainstream news media has lost chance after chance to pursue real, worthwhile stories (like the Iraq war), comedians are the only ones who ask questions and propose scenarios for what could be happening. Perhaps a comedian should be hired as an assistant Press Secretary to the President of the United States. After the President's mouthpiece spins the latest propaganda and the White House Press Corps decide not to ask any questions or investigate further, the comedian/assistant Press Secretary will then stand up and bring real issues to the fore. We would then need jokesters/reporters to ask insightful, fearless questions to hold the comedian/assistant Press Secretary accountable.
Comedians cannot be funny unless a grain of truth underlies what they say. In fact, comedians may be the most publicly honest figures any society has.
These realizations have surprised me. I thought that comedians focused mainly on producing laughs with their material; deep down, they may be more concerned with telling a truth they way they see it.
Thoughts, anyone? Who is your favorite comedian and does he/she tell it like it is? What comedy do you like and why? Have comedians influenced the political process where you live? Comments, please!