Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hey, That's Not Funny!

Hey, That's Not Funny!

We live in the age of Edgy Comedy. Or, more accurately, we live in the age where comedians want to be perceived as Edgy. To be Edgy, you have to toe that line -- and sometimes you're going to cross that line. To be Funny is to be Edgy, and conversely, to be Edgy is to be Funny. Right?
Ummm... really?
Now, who am I to question the wisdom behind pop culture -- I mean, audiences choose what they like, right? It's not like, for example, disco was crammed down our collective throats (to use a particularly tasteless analogy.) The poor record executives were simply responding to popular demand -- the popular demand to supply cocaine, hookers, money, and other goodies to radio program directors who, without these perks, wouldn't stand within a mile of K.C. and the Sunshine Band if it meant hearing "Shake Your Booty".
Edgy comedy is nothing new. Just go back and read Voltaire... what a hoot! Man -- that guy really skewered the prevailing power structure. And Jonathan Swift? He was so edgy and crafty in his satire that you can barely discern where the boring prose stops and the hilarious satire starts!
Closer to current times, edge walkers cite role models such as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Bill Hicks, leading to modern practitioners such as Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, Chris Rock, and Daniel Tosh -- S-C-R-E-E-C-H (sound of tires squealing, if you didn't get it) -- wait a minute... Daniel Tosh????
Yes... poor Daniel recently was trying to walk the edge and fell on the wrong side of the line. Now... to be fair, Daniel generally confuses the concept of being edgy with that of being a complete idiot. I almost always switch away from Daniel's show in search of something more appealing to my intellectual bent such as "Ow, My Balls" - er, I mean "Top 20 Most Shocking".
Daniel, in a recent stand-up performance, attempting to respond off the top of his head -- a dangerously small area -- to an audience member's remark made a joke which some would consider seriously offensive. By "some" here, I mean 99.999999999% of humans with functioning brains.Now, in the aftermath of Tosh's plunge from this precipitous edge, there are the obligatory demands that he be removed from his Comedy Central Show, "Tosh.O". Now, my television has an advanced control which lets me switch from one show to another, but apparently some TVs don't have this capability, nor can they be disabled. Consequently, these sets blare forth at full volume "Tosh.O" day and night, subjecting the hapless owners to constant brain-atrophying stupidity. Alas -- he must be removed. On the other hand, hatefilled, fear-mongering, fact-bending Rush Limbaugh is protected by freedom of speech.
...and, SURPRISE. This is right: he is and he should be.
This doesn't mean Tosh can't be criticized for his idiocy. But Daniel, is just like Lenny, George, Richard, and others who have raised controversy in their times. Well, other than the fact that George Carlin, for example, was a brilliant satirist who lampooned hypocrisy in his creative comedy routines; Daniel Tosh's concept would impart to The Three Stooges the gravitas of Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, and Walter Cronkite covering the outbreak of World War III.
Personally, I don't believe "edginess" in comedy requires having one's anus figuratively moved to a position below one's nose. Though it's hard to judge in modern context, Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Monty Python, Steve Martin, and most recently, Brian Regan, have all walked a comedic edge, not by simply spouting mindlessly about ANY topic, but by expanding the actual sphere of what makes us laugh. Mike Judge did this in his animation and motion pictures; Gary Larson accomplished this with a single panel daily cartoon. We feel SMARTER after laughing a these things. I would hazard to say, no one feels better for having watched yet another skate-boarder fall on the metal railing he/she -- no wait, the idiots are almost always "he" -- is attempting to navigate.
By the way... I know the best way to keep Daniel Tosh from repeating such a tasteless outburst: don't laugh. You'll be surprised how quickly this silences the class clown!

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