I don't want to say too much about this, because I've already written two articles about satirists who were crucified by people who missed the point, but I couldn't discuss comedic things I love that bring me pain without mentioning satire. It's true, people hate satire. It's confusing. It upsets them. Wanna know something else? Lots of people who claim to love satire also don't get it. I've had non-satirical works of mine defended many times by people who wrongly called it satire. It works both ways.
"Satire like nipple clamps? Nipple clamps work both ways!"
In a nutshell, although the definition of satire can be broad, what I'm referring to most are the kinds of satire that adopt the voice of the thing they're criticizing. That's the part that messes people up the most. Stephen Colbert is not an ardent conservative. He adopts that rhetoric to reveal the flaws in its logic. Jonathan Swift cold-heartedly proposed eating the babies of the poor as a way of criticizing indifference to their plight (while ridiculing wrong-headed social programs). But why say the opposite of what you mean, dude? It's just extra work for the reader. And people hate working. Still, the things we work for penetrate our minds most deeply.
I really don't want to mention my name only a paragraph away from Colbert and Swift, but if I had to recount my most painful experience with satire, it would involve a comment fight I had with a gay woman I offended to no end with my piece supporting gay marriage. It was written from the perspective of a small-minded straight man completely clueless about the gay community and indifferent to the need for gay marriage to be legalized. By warning gays against marriage, it was my intent to show why only a fool would oppose it. Yes, many people, straight and gay, got it, but man, was that lesbian pissed. It killed me. It still kills me. Trying to write something helpful and being attacked by the very kind of person you're hoping to help is hard to shake. I still remember her name, which is more than I can say about any random troll who's called me a "retarted fagget."
#1. Greg Giraldo
Greg Giraldo was undeniably brilliant. He was also side-splittingly hilarious, a husband and father, and a drug addict. Greg Giraldo is dead.
Greg Giraldo is my hero (except for those bits at the end).
You probably know Giraldo best from his appearances at Comedy Central roasts, absolutely demolishing the guests and panelists with a visceral mix of highbrow and lowbrow barbs.
You can find his stand-up special online as well, and it's pretty strong, but what made me a Greg Giraldo fan was his work on Colin Quinn's old show Tough Crowd. Every day, he would show up smart and prepared. Giraldo was not a one-trick pony. He had a deep bench of abilities and a wealth of experience to draw upon. His pairing of satirical intellect and sheer funny simply beat the pants off every other guest in every single episode.
Nowhere was that more clear than when Denis Leary came to the show. At that point, Leary was no longer at the height of his popularity as a comic, but was still the big name of the panel and still relying heavily on his schtick of attitude over material. He thought he could just show up and goof on current events, but Giraldo came to play. Clearly both jealous and intimidated, Leary set out to actively step on Giraldo's jokes. He then proceeded from joke-stepping to openly mocking Giraldo for doing well. Basically, Leary was just like any bully you've ever seen. Not only was he picking on someone for all the wrong reasons, he was doing it out of his own insecurity while surrounded by his old buddies Lenny Clarke and Colin Quinn.
Except Greg Giraldo -- a young comic getting sucker punched and surrounded by a heavyweight -- had something that Leary didn't have: brains and balls. He did not back down. He topped him in sheer intellect, he topped him in funny, and when it looked like it might get physical, he did not blink. Here is, literally, with no hyperbole, one of the greatest things I've ever seen:
The "little" guy won. The smarter guy won. The more talented guy won. The braver guy won. This clip is everything that is right with the world. This clip is justice. This clip is what you show your son if you want him to grow up to be a man.
Of course, time rolls on. Denis Leary transitions into an actor, which doesn't require him to make actual jokes or do his comedic homework, and he's still alive and doing great! Giraldo, on the other hand, did not cross over to the next level. I don't know what drugs he was addicted to or why he couldn't quit them. I don't know how hard he did or didn't try. I just remember he OD'd, spent some time in a coma, and died. And we can't blame that on Leary or the business or even the people too stupid to love him as much as I did. There are few people whose respect I wanted more than his and I'll never get it, and we will never see another moment like the one in the video above. A moment that just for a second made life look like a game that could be won if you did all the things they taught you as a child living in a world that was fair.
Come see Gladstone do stand up at NYC's Bareburger on May 22, 2013 and the Gotham Comedy Club on May 28, 2013. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.