Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who's Laughing Now?

A message from a friend today led me on a rabbit trail of watching a wide and embarrassing array of YouTube videos this evening, to the point that I spent a good half hour watching some classic George Carlin clips.

I've always been a lukewarm Carlin fan. I find him to be one of the more insightful comedians, but I also think in many ways he's hypocritical. But even that is tempered by the fact that sometimes he's winking at the audience like we're all in on the act, but the next set he will be deadpan serious about his hypocrisy. And while I get and respect his fascination with wordplay, sometimes what is funny for thirty seconds stops being funny three minutes later.

Most of the "groundbreaking" comedians I find to be simply self-serving hacks. I've always found Lenny Bruce to be a disappointment, more interesting in art and shock than actually being funny. I feel the same way about Bill Hicks, one of the least funny comedians to succeed with the extra added bonus of being particularly sloppy with his beliefs. A comedian to espouses a philosophy can often be very powerful, but the ones most known for it I find to be remarkably overrated.

Of course, that's not to say that I'm not a hypocrite as well. I hear Carlin's bit about the scams that advertisers try to push on us and how we're all just gullible sheep for buying said products. Despite the free-market paradise I've constructed in my head, I actually more or less agree ...but I also realize that no one is forcing us to do any of that. When people are free to make their own horrible decisions, I have a very difficult time building up a sufficient amount of rage and anger about it. People should live with their own mistakes, and what we should be more concerned with is that people should own up to their own deficiencies. When our culture turns the sanction of shame and penalty into badges of honor, that should be called out and quarantined...but until the government forces us to to any of this, my gut instinct is that it will all work itself out.

That's probably a bad idea, in the end, because sooner or later what is the voluntary pressures of our culture will end up codified in the books, and then it will be too late. Part of me thinks this is already happening: people (and, perhaps, Detroit-based auto manufacturers) are no longer permitted to fail, when in fact failure is just as important as success in this life. Embracing failure seems like a contradictory sentiment, but I find it to be truer now than ever. But try peddling bumper stickers and very special episodes of Glee with "Embrace Failure!" and see how far that gets you.

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