Daily Archives: July 11, 2012

Comedians and Society

George Carlin was ahead of society. He led freethinkers, skeptics, others. Think of all those clips from George Carlin routines that we play today as reference to important, vibrant, current ideas. Those clips are always years old, sometimes decades. Something similar could be said of Louis Black. Ellen. There are others.

Recently we have seen a rash of something very different happening. The comedian who offended everyone at an atheist conference in Australia earlier this year comes to mind. Recently, when Daniel Tosh suggested that it would be really funny if a woman in his audience was gang raped by five men, almost everyone responded with one big giant “WTF?” There were those who decried criticism of Tosh … “Comedy is subjective, man, leave it alone.” … and one apparently well known comedian of whom I’ve never heard, Louis C.K. came to Tosh’s defense as well.

These are comedians whoa are not ahead of society, but rather, are lagging well behind, languishing along with their clueless neckbeard fans in a long gone era.

Now, here’s my question. Is this a pattern, and if so, what is the pattern? Here are a few ideas:

1) Oscillation. The degree to which most/mainstream comedians (or more generally, comedy) leads vs. follows cultural and social evolution simply varies back and forth over time, and oscillates because it varies…movement one way potentiates movement in the opposite direction as opposition emerges, or opportunities arise for shifting the comedic center. This would be much like shifting fashions where there is a simple spectrum or binaries: dress length, mustache or no mustache, that sort of thing.

2) Selection bias and culling. The comedians we remember are the ones that led society. There were morons like Tosh and CK 30 years ago, we just forgot.

3) It is all random. That would be funny.

So, what is it? Between all of us we must know.

NPR: Your Headline Offends

I am not happy with this NPR title: Will Medicaid Bring The Uninsured Out Of The Woodwork?.

Dear New York Times: The uninsured are not in the woodwork. They are in pain. They are in trouble. They are in debt. They are not in the woodwork. Cockroaches are in the woodwork. The uninsured are not.

I have a friend who was badly injured last winter. She’s always been either a full time student or had a job. Her jobs as far as I know are always helping people in some way, usually working with youth, either education-related or working with kids at risk. That is what her schooling is about at all, too; Youth, social justice, etc. etc. But, by chance, her injury came at a period in her life when she was between insurance-providing jobs (though she was working multiple part time jobs) and school is so expensive that she was also between paid up semesters. I was with her when she was injured. It was something like December (I’d have to check). Her injury required surgery.

Unfortunately, she was not covered by any sort of insurance and the sorts of things that needed to be done were not available via the usual routes. She knew she’d be able to get a job soon, as she was looking, qualified, and had some good leads. It seemed likely that one of her part time jobs might pan out to a full time job with benefits. Eventually, this Spring, she was hired for full time employment (working with kids at risk in the Twin Cities). Then the required waiting period before you get actual medical coverage even though you have medical coverage went by, and she got an appointment with a doctor, then the right kind of doctor, then the surgeon, and then made the appointment to go under the knife.

Her surgery is tomorrow. She did not crawl out of the woodwork. She was not in the woodwork for the last six months. She was in pain. She was in pain the whole time, Mr. New York Times.

I am totally bringing her chicken soup.

(Note: Sorry, I thought the piece was from the NYT, not NPR because I was reading both at the same time … thus the slug.)