Saturday, November 25, 2006

Comedism and Evil

Brothers , Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere:

For those who are new to the Playground, weekends are for the weekly Comedist sermons. For an introduction to Comedism, the new religion; passages from The Comedist Manifesto, our holy book; Comedist support for evolution and gay marriage; how Comedism was founded; and a note on the War on Comedy, see these links.

So I was asked by some of my logic students last week whether Comedism suffers from the problem of evil like other religions. Is the existence of evil, suffering, or the non-funny a worry for Comedism? Those monotheistic traditions who claim an all knowing, all powerful all loving God, have a problem explaining the suffering of innocents and the existence of evil, since an all knowing God would be aware of it, an all powerful God would be able to stop it, and an all loving God would need to prevent it. But what about an all funny God?

We have no such problem. Like Manichaenism, Taoism, and certain Native American spiritual systems, we believe that nature must have balance. As Arlo Guthrie once said, "You can't have a light, without a dark to stick it in." You can't have the funny without the unfunny, you can't have a punchline without a set-up, you can't have a funny man without a straight man. We see the unwoven as an opportunity, not as a theological problem.

That said, there is true evil and Comedists are required to stand against it. Evil is not comic, it is tragic. While the human spirit is intoning and will be able to produce humor in the most horrific circumstances, true human suffering is a violation of the preconditions for the possibility of the joy Comedists seek for all.

And so we must comment of Michael Richards outburst this week. Here is a man who in so many ways, not the least of which as Kramer on Seinfeld, not to mention the underappreciated role of Stanley Spadowski in weird Al's UHF, went off on a disgustingly racist tirade against a couple of African American hecklers while on stage last weekend.

Comedy can be a powerful weapon, even against the most powerful. See this article pointed out to me by Brother MT from Der Spiegel (German for "the Spiegel") discussing the first German comedy about Hitler. Seventy-three years late, I'll grant, but an act of humorous bravery nonetheless.

Humor can be powerful, but like all weapons, it can be used for good or evil and Richards' use of it was for evil. In his public apology on Letterman's Late Show, Richards did come across as genuinely sorry, claimed ownership of the act, and expressed deep regret to those harmed. He said that the crazy thing was that he was not a racist, that he was trying "a jujitsu" against the hecklers. The idea is that you use their successful comic energy flowing at you, against them. His claim was that he was trying to go so far over the top that their barbs against him on stage would pale in comparison and cease to be funny.

I don't know if this is true or whether it came from a place of true bigotry, but, to be honest, it does not matter. Richards had power as the comedian on stage. He had power for being a comic celebrity. He had more power than the hecklers and he chose to use that power as weapon in a way that reinforced the power of bigots. He knowing chose to take that direction in coming back at these guys, a line he knew was wrong, a line of oppression. He tried to use the power of racism to boost his comedic power and that was horribly wrong, no matter the intention. He gave comic aid and comfort to the evil that is racism and that was wrong on every possible level. Comedists do believe in evil and we believe that humor can be used as a weapon by either side. It is a sad day when someone so skilled in its use employs it to harm and to oppress, rather than to liberate.