Why Comedy Matters

laughing britsComedy cannot permanently change the world — at least not as effectively as brave science, bold literature, and partially clad women. But comedy can bring us disparate human souls together in the shared communion of laughter. Even Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat can enjoy the same jokes. “A rabbi and a mullah walk into a bar. . .”

We humans have wildly different beliefs about religion and politics and justice, sex and love and kindness. But we all can laugh. Not everything is funny to everyone simultaneously (although a man in a dress seems to work for about 98% of Western Civilization). Sometimes, despite our philosophical and moral differences, we “get it” at more or less the same moment. No matter our deeply ingrained conflicts, it’s during these occasions of universal pleasure when human beings can hold out hope that maybe our ultimate destination isn’t self-immolation. Maybe we’ll end up solving our problems with humor, cleverness and grace.

Comedy with an edge – comedy that examines racial stereotypes, for instance – ought not be denigrated or silenced. Rather than homogenize an eclecticeddie pepitone telling the truth comically group of viewpoints into a banal blend of indistinguishable color, we ought to celebrate the bravery of humorists who defy or invert our notions of ethnicity, sex, and class. We shouldn’t censor those who use forbidden words to make a political point; we should examine why these words have such powerful effects on our hearts and minds.

We admire comedians whose minds work as feverishly as a Southeast Asian slave laborer constructing bombastically marketed athletic shoes endorsed by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. These provocateurs aren’t going to change the world. But by inspiring a few collective laughs they are going to make it an infinitesimally better place.

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