That’s the historic dictum of the humor industry, but these days reality is a cheap laugh and comedians are a drug on the market. Between no pay “comedy clubs” and exposure dates at local pizza palaces, being funny is an easy path to fame or fortune. Like pro sports, humor has its stars, but most players are lucky to be signed for a salary, somewhere in the small city minor leagues.
Comedy is a cyclic event, much like the advent of Cicadas every eighteen years. These days, however, the influx of wanna-be humorists is more like a seasonal plague of locusts in the Great Basin, unstoppable but bearable as long as it’s government land. This plethora of jesters has spread to other venues, creating numerous satiric television parodies of the popular programming on that medium, particularly the “news” which had atrophied into a half hour nightly network summary of the days triumphs and trivia. The common industry view that news needed a dose of laughter to suppress the nausea of current events further opened the airwaves to comic relief.
The real source of most comedy is the truth that we recognize and relate to. The humor comes from the contrast between what we thought and the truth of the matter. We laugh out loud when we first understand something, an epiphany if you will. The Zen koans tell of the sudden enlightenment of the novice, who invariably bursts into laughter.
All of which opens the question of whether humor is a weapon against the established society, as we know it. Parody and ridicule are powerful tools for the powerless in any society, and mocking the king was often the first sign of pending rebellion. Court jesters were not simply a distraction for the nobility, but often their jokes and tales gave the ruling class intelligence on what the masses were thinking. The traveling minstrel was often entertained at court in order to hear the latest salacious gossip from the next province, and the bawdy ballads were a measure of the disrespect in which local lords were held.
With our modern media going global in the gathering of information,
comedians have a huge horde of material from which to create caustic comments on the hypocrisy of the day’s events, and that, over time, becomes corrosive to the authority of government and church, depending on which you choose to believe in to begin with. With the rise of the comics, we are daily bathed in scorn and derision directed at whatever targets the perpetrator selects. In this environment it is best to keep your sense of humor, or it makes no sense.
Always remember, “He who laughs lasts!”
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.