Gerald Heard, an English writer of philosophy and science fiction and close cohort of Aldous Huxley during the drug years, divides laughter into two basic schools of comedy: high and low. Low humor is the slapstick of Punch and Judy, fart jokes and prat falls. The audience laughs out of relief that they are not the fools on stage doing embarrassingly stupid things and getting hit over the head for it.
High humor on the other hand generates its laughs from the sudden and unexpected understanding of some situation or event, as explained by the comic for the enlightenment of the spectators. This breakthrough enlightenment causes involuntary laughter to break forth from the individual who suddenly “gets it,” as exemplified by the Zen Buddhist monks who famously rise laughing and exit their studies on reaching true understanding. High humor is a mark of wisdom and should be sought out.
Which brings us to the current flap among the teapot dimwit right overt the congressional testimony of Steven Colbert, a popular television comic whose parody of the news and commentary media are often disrespectful of politics, the process, and its adherents. Colbert, a highly educated urbanite, joined a farm workers demonstration by working a day picking and packing crops. It was that experience he detailed for the congressional sub committee on immigration, much to the discomfort of the members who didn’t know how to take a comic telling them about the inequities of their policies. Cries of disrespect for Congress echoed across the conservative media skylines as right wing pundits asked who Colbert thinks he is.
The rise of the public angst over government failures and perfidy over the past several decades, from Ross Perot in 1992 to the rise of the Tea Party rebels in this era, mark not only a partisan shift, but a neo- “know nothing”-populism that appears to glorify the common man and his common ignorance as qualification for public office and political celebrity. We are treated to the wisdom of Joe the Plumber, Sarah Palin, and Sharon Angle plus a collection of candidates for national office whose collective understanding of public affairs could be engraved on the head of a pin by a spastic stone cutter.
With these examples of politics as a craft, it seems perfectly logical to begin choosing our leaders from outside the public service career field.
As a comic, Colbert must pay close attention to the current events on which he builds his routines. While Joe the Plumber is snaking our sewer line, Colbert is pondering the implications of the proposed Patriot Act expansion to allow the feds to monitor tweets and Facebook. If he is successful he will get a laugh out of the audience, several of whom will have understood the issue for the first time. High humor indeed.
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.