Since I'm writing about comedy as a thing and talking it up, there's a danger that I'm going to come off as arrogant or, at very least, so full of myself that I'm about to collapse into a singularity. And that's probably inevitable, so fine, call me a pretentious dweeb on Twitter: I'll smile and take it, and you can take comfort in the fact that you aren't entirely wrong. I'll be plenty happy that you took the time to read my silly ideas.
I got into this business by spending most of the years of my life on the outside, looking in and joke wizards crafting their laugh-incantations. Whether it was Patton Oswalt or George Carlin or, in the early days, my dad, I was always utterly mystified and completely impressed by this weird power the right turn of phrase had over me and everyone else. So let me take this chance to tell you why I think making people laugh, whether on a stage or on the internet or in your crappy studio apartment, is just the best, you guys. Just the best.
Because it's the most metal shit you have ever fucking seen. Devil horns! You see ...
"Serious" Stories Control You
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To set the stage a bit, I want to point out a weird trend in movies that win the best picture Oscar: First off, there are like no comedies -- but more importantly they all glorify suffering. It's a simple pattern: First, they beat the shit out of the hero, then he triumphs and restores the world to being more-or-less the one we're familiar with, and then we bathe him in our sticky love. For example: war movies show young men sent to die to "protect our way of life." Romances like Titanic, Casablanca, or Gone With the Wind end the relationship in tragedy. Historical dramas like Schindler's List or Dances With Wolves dwell on terrible injustices that (and this is important) aren't happening anymore.
Remember, this is popular entertainment, so the movie hero is meant to be aspirational. Even if we don't literally make an action figure out of him, we're still meant to -- a little bit -- take cues about our values from him. So what cues are we taking?
First, that suffering is noble, and second, that the status quo is great. Our heroes are, across the board, people who suffer and die in the name of keeping things exactly how they are: Jack from Titanic sacrifices his life for his wealthy girlfriend. Frodo from Lord of the Rings sacrifices his innocence, sanity and (sorta) life (it's vague) to protect the Shire. You might argue that Dunbar in Dances With Wolves is trying to stop American westward expansion, which is a criticism of the modern world as we know it, but no one dared to give that movie an award until any hope of stopping the genocide of Native Americans had been dead for over a generation. The message of Dances With Wolves is "this bad thing happened, and now it's safe to feel guilty because there's nothing any of us can do." If the movie had been about a violent revolution on a modern-day reservation, the Academy wouldn't have even noticed.