It’s the ultimate hypocrisy destruction weapon, yet its power unites by exposing us all.
Carroll O’Connor had passed away, and some cable channel ran a marathon of his classic TV series All In The Family in tribute to Archie Bunker, America’s Most Lovable Bigot. I finally understood the adult political humor my parents’ generation adored in the early 1970s.
Nineteen years after All In The Family’s introduction, In Living Color debuted, a sketch comedy show largely produced by blacks. They slaughtered enough sacred cows to threaten McDonalds’s bottom line. Their favorite target? Racial stupidity, ALL of it. They made fun of women and men; they even offered humor bombs like the disabled superhero Handi-Man and a fire safety burn victim. The characters didn’t look ‘less than’ or inferior. Anyone caricatured on In Living Color could become a member of Our Tribe if they chose: The ones who know to be human is to be funny, and if we can laugh together we can stop fighting each other.
One of us! One of us! Gooble-gobble gooble-gobble!
Do you know who was most offended by the Handi-Man sketches?
Not the disabled. They thought he was funny.
Performer Damon Wayans reported criticism came from those who weren’t handicapped, or with handicapped relations they didn’t support very well.
Wayans himself grew up with a club foot, the butt of far crueler humor than anything on the show.
Handi-Man: He brought laughs, and justice for for the physically disabled
The late quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan’s assessment of the offense his disability cartoons caused was far more blunt. “My only compass for whether I’ve gone too far is the reaction I get from people in wheelchairs, or with hooks for hands, he said. “Like me, they are fed up with people who presume to speak for the disabled. All the pity and the patronizing. That’s what is truly detestable.”
Seems the disabled felt a lot less ‘untouchable’ once allowed into the fraternity/sorority of fun.
Set hypocrisy phaser to Stun, Lefty!
The Left’s politically correct, hypersensitive, oh-so-woke War On Humor faction is largely oblivious to how exclusionary it’s become. Their well-intentioned search-and-destroy missions for the moral and spiritual toxins poisoning North America, metastasized in the Age of Trump, has unwittingly obliviated avenues for confronting our fears and discomforts, and most critically, to bond with others who are different.
Hard to imagine today, but in the days of Archie Bunker and In Living Color’s prison-release inmate Homey D. Clown, the Left possessed an actual sense of humor. Before ‘cancel culture’ and career-destroying ‘call-outs’ and J.K. Rowling wizard hunts, the Left understood the bonding benefits of laughing with each other, at each other, and at ourselves.
Homey D. Clown: He hated kids and white people
The Left’s head would explode if Netflix re-created these comedic takedowns for 2021. Although I can’t think of a more desperately-needed time to Make Humans Funny again. Oh, the comedy motherlode for the Abhorring Twenties…!
I’d love to see Blaine and Antoine, the flamboyantly gay movie critics from In Living Color’s ‘Men On…’ sketches remade with two narcissistic overprivileged transwomen.
Humor’s greatest gift is in exposing the foibles and fundamental heart of what it means to be a human being: We’re bloody hypocrites.
Liberals loved laughing at Archie Bunker’s ignorant vitriol, but The Meathead’s social justice views got challenged too, like when his childlike wife Gloria discovers ‘women’s lib’ and spreads her nascent feminist wings, telling her husband she wants to be an equal partner in their marriage. That goes over like a Watergate break-in.
When is humor a hypocrisy blaster, and when is it ugly bullying? We need to ask ourselves an important question.
Do the targets deserve it?
In 2021, Generation ‘Snowflake’ replaces pinch-faced aunties and bewhiskered, monocled moralists of yore with pursed-mouthed purists obsessed with the haunting fear that somebody, somewhere, may be having a laugh at someone else’s expense.
What America needs now, more than ever, are outrageous new challengers to our assumptions of what we think we know about the world.
Archie Bunker was an ignorant racist, (take that, you conservatives!) but he also possessed a human, kinder side (And you too, liberals!).
Who knew bigots weren’t 100% evil? Even Mary Trump describes a few occasions of kindness from her notorious cousin.
If you think no one should ever be made fun of, because they might hurt someone’s feelings, I have one word for you: Trumpistan.
No one deserves satirical derision more than Donald Trump, except his toxic hyper-testosteroned fan club. Even though Trump appears to be a genuinely mentally troubled individual, likely suffering from dementia, with the sort of beneath-the-surface low self-esteem that customarily sends the Left running to fetch the tissue box.
Few decried the four-year flow of often mean-spirited humor memes. I shared them too. Hey, is fat-shaming okay when it’s applied to an obese fat-shaming narcissistic psychopath?
Donald Trump painted the target on his own chest. The most powerful man in the world had zero sense of humor. His ‘jokes’ were cruel barbs aimed solely at tearing others down to lift himself up. The last person who could get away with a disabled-person ‘joke’ famously mocked one anyway, and his spiritually disabled base roared with laughter.
Imagine feeling so low about yourself you have to tear down a guy with cerebral palsy. Down. He had to tear down. Even the handicapped guy made Trump feel ‘less than’.
The President of the United States subconsciously felt inferior to a guy with CP.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And Bill Maher.
Trump’s loyal sheep couldn’t stand to see their guru mocked. Snowflakes also wear MAGA hats, flag pins and gold crosses.
Collectively, they beg for comedic jabs. Compassion is one of the Republican Seven Deadly Sins.
We love watching Trevor Noah or Steven Colbert mow down our own bête noires with comedic assault riffs, but the laughter too often stops mid-track when the barrel of the insult weapon turns toward ourselves. It’s why some on the Left detest Bill Maher so much. He’s an equal-opportunity political offender.
Make fun of Trump all you want, but staaaaaay awaaaaay from us! Move along! Nothing to see here!
“Okay, but if you spend your time combing through old TV shows looking to identify stuff that by today’s standards looks bad, you’re not ‘woke’, you’re just a douchebag.”
The Wokenati fear humor’s soul: It’s the ultimate hypocrisy bomb. It destroys on impact.
What if someone notices our biological sex science denial is near-identical to a Trumper’s denial of climate change or the COVID crisis? And why do some of these transwomen talk and act an awful lot like entitled white dudes? And when did we all become white supremacists? I for one have never burned a cross on anyone’s lawn!
Didn’t we look an awful lot like clueless, irrelevant morons when we attacked John Wayne for being a racist, sexist, product of his time and generation? What if someone digs up that regrettable Halloween costume choice from 1984 before I became woker-than-thou? What are people going to say about me thirty, forty years from now, or after I’m dead?
The Regressive Left knows, deep down, we all have much in common with the Trumpers.
We’re hypocritical too, and we’d rather focus on their hypocrisy than ours. It’s ironic, because in destroying contradiction and exposing hypocrisy, humor is actually a Secret Equality Weapon.
The mark of the emotionally intelligent and truly secure — left or right — is whether they can make — and take — a genuine joke about themselves.
The humanizing power of humor
Dave Chappelle takes heat for his trans humor, a movement ripe for risibility with its self-obsession, misogyny and science denial.
Some see him making fun of transwomen; I see someone making fun of transphobia. I understand why some don’t find funny his joke about a perfectly-dressed transwoman walking into the boardroom on her high heels and slamming her dick on the table; but I see the ones who aren’t yet ready to give up their male entitlement. The ones who lead the baying mob against a children’s book author for speaking science.
He speaks of one transwoman, Daphne, who laughed at all his jokes and then invited him to have a drink with her at the bar. “She said, ‘I thought it was interesting that they blamed you for R. Kelly, they said you ‘normalized him’ for telling jokes about him. I wonder why they never said that you ‘normalize’ transgenders by telling jokes about us.”
There’s a key point: The humanizing and normalizing power of humor.
Tragically, she committed suicide last year.
Some of Chappelle’s trans humor comes across as a little homophobic, but he may ruffle feathers with his more-truth-than-poetry commentary. He says America embracing transfolk makes him a little jealous. “How the fuck are trans people beating black people in the Discrimination Olympics?” he asks. “If the police shot half as many transgenders as they did n — ers last year there’d be a fuckin’ war in L.A.!”
What’s really eating Generation Snowflake?
A veneer of social justice may provide a convenient excuse for oversensitive young people behind ‘cancel culture’ imbroglios to avoid examining the more painful, and real, feelings behind their almost programmed outrage over a lame attempt at humor or a poorly-executed joke. As Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff note in their book The Coddling of the American Mind, later Millennials and Gen Z exhibit the common cognitive distortions and catastrophizing exhibited by depressed, stressed, and relentlessly anxious psychiatric patients.
No wonder, considering how Millennials were raised by obsessed helicopter parents hell-bent on keeping them safe from any negative feelings while driving them to achieve and perform practically before leaving the womb. In eleven years, from 2007 to 2018, the suicide rate for the 10–24 age group increased over 57%. No one’s quite sure what’s behind it specifically, but Millennials — heavily educated, underemployed, and never allowed to relax — also exhibit increased rates of the aforementioned mental health problems, juiced by social media absorption, self-comparison and FOMO, and today, enforced isolation.
Is the problem really a comedian’s homophobic-sounding joke, or are Millennials reacting to a literal entire lifetime of being driven to succeed, only to find themselves stuck with their parents because, post-Great Financial Collapse, much of their opportunity disappeared along with their parents’ investments portfolio?
Is the problem really someone who disrespects a Gen Z’er’s self-perceived right to an unchallenged assumption, or adolescent problems in a climate of decreasing personal intimacy, sexual pressures and gender identity conflicts, increasing misogyny/racism/ transphobia and a seemingly collective national downward spiral into violence, civil unrest and maybe even the breakdown of democracy?
All at a time when younger generations aren’t old enough or experienced enough to understand and process what’s happening, at a time when their elders can no longer reassure them We’ve seen this all before. It will pass. Believe me, I remember when I thought Ronald Reagan was the end of civilization.
Let’s make the world safe for humor again
We need to make humor, and humans, funny again. Like knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud, and often cringe-inducing did s/he really say that? hysterical. The Left (and the Right) be damned.
If we can laugh, we don’t have to cry. If we can only cry, then please, someone remove all the pointy objects in our vicinity, and lock up the handguns.
We need to learn how to laugh at ourselves again. And with each other, occasionally at each other, and our common human silliness, stupidities, hypocrisies, contradictions, overblown egos and essential differences.
You know, all the faults and frailties that universally make us human.
The humor that doesn’t kill us will make us stronger, and today is the worst possible time to be spiritually and morally delicate.
It’s not only the other side’s problem. It’s hilarious you think so!
“I didn’t even hear what you had to say because the objectionary programs that my mind carries that I mistake as my own thinking reflexively went off.”
We need to be emotionally intelligent enough to recognize the difference between cruelty and bullying, kinship and common ground. Every time the far Left complains jokes about others are really racism, sexism, or your least favorite -ophobia, it sounds more and more like Pay no attention to that bigot behind the curtain’.
If you laughed, it’s because you’re an anti-American bigot. I’ll bet you’re a Canadian. Or worse yet, a European!!!
This post first appeared on Medium in February 2021.