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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

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"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

October 20, 2007

The Problem With Comedy

Here's a good example of why I'm not in the comedy world anymore.

It's a video piece by the Onion, parodying a cable roundtable on the topic "Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough?" It made me laugh and laugh, and is exactly what I'd want to be doing if I were writing comedy professionally.

Yet at its core it's crushingly sad. Paranoid schizophrenics genuinely do think all these things, and they and their families suffer horribly. It's funny 'cause it's true.

And that's the problem with comedy. It requires you to spend all day long every day thinking about suffering, to the exclusion of every other aspect of existence. There's nothing funny about happiness. Soon suffering's all you perceive. Meanwhile, professional comedy allows you no avenues for improving things. Everything's horrible, and there's nothing you can do. Comedy can be a dark, dark place to put your brain.

That said: enjoy!

In The Know: Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough?

Posted at October 20, 2007 02:03 PM | TrackBack

Exquisitely well done, but it sure as hell shows the limits of this aesthetic...I wonder what they were trying to communicate to the audience?

Posted by: Mike of Angle at October 20, 2007 04:14 PM

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I loooove Gilligan's Island!

Posted by: Tilly at October 20, 2007 04:47 PM

Well, hell, FRANK ZAPPA told us that from when AL GORE was spying on him, and I think Frank's been dead I'm guessing 10 years.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 20, 2007 07:06 PM

the porn star one. also the porn star one. not worksafe tho.

yeah, and, there are like a thousand words for bummer in the english language. it's our area of expertise, the nature and duration of the pain. this is why we are a net exporter of comedy. even silent comedy. the language of the body. satire of mimes, man. hard to get more meta.

it's hard to balance it, but i think there's compatibility between finding funny in desire-and-suffering, and "do what you will but harm none." i find when i listen to people who are very fond of their extended families, talking about their people, there's a sense of mischief, particularly unpacking pomposity, without going negative, right?

when you're talking about groups of people as large as modern countries, and your sniping target is a whole culture that has a total of about 5 minutes a day where any person in it might notice you or any other outsider, you're into this like ellison-invisible pit -- but i don't think the fact that the power culture continues to prefer listening to itself -- or its memories -- is the same as making no headway, outside.

it's kinda like, everybody talks about the moths drawn to the flame, right, but nobody mentions that those are maybe less than 1% of all the moths in the world. a lot of die by predation, or deprivation, that's also true; many live.

Posted by: hapa at October 20, 2007 07:26 PM

Sometimes happiness can be funny. The search for it can be downright hilarious, and the shape it shows up in can be unbelievably absurd. Every screwball comedy relies on this. Other people's odd pleasures are always good for a cheap shot. So is sex, so are body functions.

What's funny isn't happiness or misery; it's absurdity.

Posted by: paradoctor at October 20, 2007 08:33 PM

it was good to see bobby rivers on the panel - i remember enjoying vh1 back in the day

and i'm glad you've escaped from the dark, depressing world of comedy, jonathan, and now concern yourself with politics and current events - always look on the bright side of life

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 21, 2007 12:16 AM

IT'S AN OLD JOKE, but it might cheer you up.
Four Jews are sitting at a cafe table in Vichy France.
The first looks Heavenward and says,"oy".
The second, with head in hands says,"oy,oy".
The third, shaking, with tears running down his cheeks, says, "oy vey, oy vey".
The fourth stands up and says, "If you guys came here just to talk politics then, I'm leaving".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 21, 2007 01:59 PM

If a paranoid schizophrenic saw this video, he would be devastated and see it as fact, not fiction. I hope no schizophrenics do see this.

Posted by: Mark Miller at October 23, 2007 10:20 AM