Begin by answering this poll about satire:
If you answered: humor or exaggeration to expose people’s stupidity, you can stop reading.
Or maybe not. Just because you can identify a definition doesn’t mean you truly understand the words. Does any of the following sound familiar: You’re easily offended by comedy even though you know the text book definition of satire? Maybe you correctly answered but are still angry at the topic of this article. You don’t know why. You just feel you’ve been insulted. You think you understand satire, but unless it hits you over the head, you just don’t get it- subtle satire is simply lost on you. Or, perhaps you spend more time being offended by what comedians say than politicians. Sadly, these are all red flags that you are indeed humor-impaired.
I have to admit, I find this all depressing, and it does cause me some level of anger. I’m saddened by a culture that forms lynch mobs to go after comedians instead of spending their energy on meaningful protest at politicians that could actually take action. I’m exhausted by seeing satirists attacked by multitudes of asinine or threatening comments on their pieces by people who have no clue what a joke is in written form. I’m angry we live in a culture that largely can’t differentiate between satire, humor, or sarcasm with serious issues and those who actually mean us harm. So, how did we wind up in this current quagmire of the satire-impaired? Admittedly, there are too many factors to cover in one article, so I’ll aim my focus on the most prevalent.
Sadly, one major cause of the inability to understand satire can currently be linked to American colleges. Once a fertile ground for free speech and zero censorship, they are now so deeply entrenched in a politically correct culture they can’t discern that they’re part of the problem. Today, many comedians won’t play at colleges. Probably some lefty, foul mouthed garbage comedians, right? Yep, that Jerry Seinfeld sure is a monster. Jerry Seinfeld won’t play colleges anymore because he’s considered too offensive. Look at the image above “wild and crazy” is censored at a Smith College speech. Steve Martin, my favorite wild and crazy guy started his career on college campuses, even famously taking out his entire college audience to eat once after one show. God, I wish I was there. Free food AND Steve Martin? I think I just had a comedygasm. Consider this: if Steve Martin started stand-up today he couldn’t be the “Wild and Crazy Guy” he’d be the “Intellectually challenged Yet Socially Evolved Person of Male Origin But Never Inappropriate Guy.” Wow, that sounds hilarious…
So really, who are you? Who are you: the perpetually offended online? Are you a college student, a grandparent, a 13th century Franciscan monk? Because I truly want to know. Wait, are you my cat? (my cat is easily offended too, but it’s a medical condition) As a writer and because I don’t know exactly who you are- I’ll have to use my imagination. With my awesome writer’s brain I can picture you there: fingers hovering over your keyboard ready to be outraged by an online comment or article, thumbs itching to right a perceived internet wrong. Actually, the reason I can see you is I’m right outside your window, look behind you! (That’s not real, you don’t have to look behind you, but I know you have problems understanding jokes, so again, I’m not really behind you, just to be clear.) What I do know is life is too valuable to be spent in constant anger, or ready to police other’s speech. It’s sad to see anyone living with so much misdirected hostility or self appointed authority over other’s intellect.
And what is it exactly that you’re so angry about online? Maybe you’re angry about something you read on The Onion, or this site, Bourgeois Alien, or the You Tube comments section, or an ironic tweet. Sure, those are obvious examples of things not to be taken seriously, but I think we need to start at square one. Look at the definition of satire which I added in my article to make you ask, “Am I reading an article written by a high school freshmen in English 101? What kind of idiot includes a definition in a serious article?” (This is called satirizing one’s self, or a self-micro-aggression, at which I am expert) Fair enough. But, I added it because I truly think we need to revisit the definition of satire posthaste. Carefully read the sentence above, “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues” then ask yourself: “Who truly deserves my outrage?” Should the politician who takes no action on gun violence, for example, be the target of your rage; or the political satirist/humor writer who writes a piece to draw attention to the problem?
Think hard. I’ll give you a minute.
This may seem like a no-brainer, and to many of you it is, but let’s not forget how many people who have gone after George Carlin, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and Amy Schumer to name just a few, for their comedy. And this isn’t a new phenomena: when one of the most ground-breaking comedy shows went on air in the 1970’s, “All in the Family” many people were outraged. Rather than taking the time to carefully understand the point of the satire or what the show was artfully trying to portray, some decided they simply wanted it removed from the air. Why? They thought it was offensive and in agreement with Archie Bunker’s views rather than understanding that this was a timely piece on a real issue (among others) plaguing our society: rampant racism.
Now, consider that definition one more time, specifically this portion, “to expose and criticize people’s stupidity.” The role of the satirist is to expose racism, sexism, inequality, bullies, hypocrisy, and this is just to name a few, all falling under the larger umbrella of stupidity. And it’s a damn good thing satire exists: dedicated to social, political, and deeper criticism through the use of comedic elements. Often, just getting the conversation started is half the battle and the use of comedy can soften the message and engender a meaningful discussion. Unless, of course, an internet mob screams censorship and destroys the conversation before it even begins. And let’s be clear: censorship is death to the artist. People must be allowed to express themselves and satire, if done masterfully is an art. Please be mindful that the purpose of art is to both elicit a response and transform humanity.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed an inability to understand satireI’m now convinced it’s an epidemic. So I’ve put together a few simple tips to help out the satire-impaired. And while yes, I am laughing at you (I laugh at myself more than you, so calm down) I also sincerely want you to understand satire. I’m only going to focus on online examples here, but for chrissakes, if you choose to go see a stand-up comedian, don’t be the garbage-idiot that heckles them. If you do heckle people on stage, no one likes you. I’m sorry I had to be the one to tell you, but it’s true. Now go see a therapist- I promise, you’ll feel better.
First of all, when you decide to read something online, ask yourself, “What is the name of this article? What is the source? Is it from The Smithsonian or a site you found with an article called “The Reason I Chose to Keep My Husband in a Cage?” (Totally gonna write that caged husband article, by the way) This is an important distinction. Now, take a look at this comment left on my piece that blew up a few weeks ago, “One Mother Asks: I Only Let My Son Play With Wooden Toys, Why is He Such a Douche?”
I had around 200 comments on that piece and roughly 50% of them were angry at me for one reason or another. The top of my website says, “SATIRE, DRIVEL, TWITTER.” I have no idea how to be any clearer than that. ALWAYS look at where the article is originated from. If it’s satire, do not comment on the article with your serious thoughts, your thinly veiled self-aggrandizing, threats of death, or how YOU think it should have been written. Blogs are free- go start one, Skippy. Oh, and be ready for a shit storm of shitty comments thrown your way because humans are just terrible.
Check Point Quiz:
If you answered: “Trick Question: They’re All Satire” you’re ready to move on. If you became confused because you thought to yourself, “No, Fox News IS real,” you either need to start over or you are beyond my reach and should not read any further.
While it is indeed important to consider the source when detecting satire, it’s equally important to consider context. In this next example, we’ll consider sarcasm: satire’s less educated, and often drunk cousin from Mississippi. Let’s say, for example, you’re discussing what determines a child’s behaviors- nature or nurture, and one friend writes half way through the discussion, “when my child acts up, I put him in a cage and spend my night in an Arby’s parking lot on the meth” (I’m also going to write that article, you’re gonna love it, trust me) on the thread. Please answer below:
Check Point Quiz:
If you answered anything other than “ignore her” you need to need to start over. If you answered, “Go into a tirade about how it’s never OK to put a child in a cage or do meth anywhere” have you even read my article? Or did you just skim it? Either way, again, you have to start over.
Which brings me to my next point. Read the entire article if you plan on complaining about it ad nauseum in the comments section. Take the advice of humor superstar, and fellow foul-mouth, Nicole Knepper in her excellent article, “How to LISTEN #BlackLivesMatter” She writes, “I was trying to figure out when this not listening thing became the communication rule instead of the exception, but history tells us that not listening has actually been the unwritten rule and probably never the exception. Had it been otherwise, we certainly wouldn’t be able to look back on thousands of years of recorded history and wonder how we haven’t managed to see that this simple idea, yet difficult skill, LISTENING TO OTHERS, is the only thing that makes anything matter.” Nicole, is the author/founder of the incredibly successful Moms Who Drink and Swear . In the article I linked, she wrote eloquently about Black Lives Matter, however the quote above is applicable to everything: listen, try to understand before you allow yourself to become angry.
And as far as “trigger warnings?” No, I don’t believe in indulging in any of that garbage. We are all triggered by something. It’s personal experience. And the more you try to avoid something, the more power you give it in your life. Desensitize yourself to the triggers and move on. And don’t think you’re doing yourself or the world any favors by censoring- censorship is the road to fascism. No thanks, kids.
No. Fucking. Thanks.
Let’s see how you did. Answer this question below:
Did you answer “satire is important to the deeper understanding of the human condition?” You did? Good for you, we can now be friends….
And for the love of god, if you still don’t understand satire, don’t allow yourself to become a joke on Twitter…
That’s it. The article’s over. Go play with your cat or call a friend or whatever. I’m done.
Fuck off. (If you became angry at this, you need to start over)