Laughter Is the Best Weapon

josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | sept. 2016

Comedy is (by definition) funny, but comedy can be a weapon of change as well and good comedy can affect this change without you even noticing.

Social issues are something that need to be discussed and yet are almost always an immediate turn off in any conversation ... unless you can find a way to do it in an amusing and funny manner.

The best comedy is that which is tinged with social satire and brings about intelligent thought to something that may have been distasteful to discuss on its own, like hiding that pill inside some candy.

Jim Gaffigan recently played Green Bay and he is a very stealthy kind of comic, he has 10-minute bits on Hot Pockets and what it's like to be fat ... but he also sneaks in thoughtful moments on racism, sexism and even the "War on Terror" and I bet most didn't even notice them sandwiched between the "fluff" jokes. That is what a stealth comic does; they just slip it in.

There are the more overt comedians that make no pretense about tackling social issues and attempting societal change. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Tim Slagle are just a few I can name. These more up front comedians hit it hard and pull no punches, they are out to make you see some cultural ill for what it is, and hopefully, change your mind by making light of it.

You then have comedians such as Joe Bob Briggs and those people at The Onion who are satirists who take real world issues and spin them into the ridiculous farces they deserve to be treated as. Satire is different than straight up comedy though as satire seems all too real while being insane and yet only slightly off the mark of reality.

I spoke to Charley McMullen, one of the most viciously funny stealth comedians out there today to get an "inside" look at how comedy and issues can (and should) co-mingle.

Why should "Politically Correct" be a beacon for comedy to attack?

When comedy is used as social change, what is more important, being funny or being relevant?

CM: Comedy can be a weapon of social change to a certain point. What comedians are best at is recognizing the ridiculousness of things people tend to take too seriously: religion, politics, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. It's up to the people to either see that hurting someone else over one's beliefs is preposterous or [they'll just] become even angrier. Social change has to be enacted by all people, not just comedians.

Why then does an editorial in the paper get so little attention while a stand-up comic seems to shine a light on these things? That has more to do with us as people. We don't like being told what to think and feel so we instinctively rebel against it ... but if we are made to laugh then ...

CM: Making someone laugh is the best way to get their attention. If you're entertaining, the person you're talking to doesn't even know they're being taught anything because they're laughing. Editorials, by definition, let people know right away they're about to be preached at.

Politically correct behavior and — more importantly — language is more oppressive to the listener than to the speaker. It's an instance of society telling people what should and shouldn't offend them. It's insulting to the national intelligence. The truly enlightened don't need protection from being offended. I personally enjoy being offended because it means my mind was engaged. Being offended is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Indeed it's not the worst thing to happen to a person but that brings up an important point, what should be the focus? Should being funny outweigh the issue or should being relevant take a back seat to being humorous?

CM: Being funny is ALWAYS the most important thing. I'm good at being funny, but I definitely don't know what's best for everyone any better than anyone else does. What's relevant to me (pop tarts) isn't the same as what's relevant to society (terror, famine, catastrophe). The best I can hope for is to make someone laugh and put them in a good mood before they face the world and maybe take on the problems we're all facing with a sense of levity.

So watch for some social issues mixed into the thrust next time you are laughing, you just might learn something.


A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.

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