Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How Oprah Paved the Way for Trump

How Oprah Paved the Way for Trump

By John  Beuhler

Although times seem dire, you can take solace in the fact that you’re pretty cool. You’re the result of millions of years of evolution and—you are the most intricate system in the known universe.

Your body is a complex society. Cells with the same DNA make up different biological structures for different purposes just like how people of the same species have different jobs in society.

The white blood cells police the body. Proteins construct organs structures to form tissues. The central nervous system mitigates the body’s functions like a government. The digestive system is the energy company and waste disposal—you get the point.

Like the body, society is constantly seeking a balance of operating conditions in which it functions best. Too far in either direction means illness within a biological body or unrest in a society. To keep a balance, both systems utilize duality. Two opposite forces keeping each other in check and the system in balance.

Duality occurs in the family, with the opposing energies of the father and the mother compromising to raise a balanced child. Too much nurturing raises a spoiled neurotic, and too much nature produces an emotionally illiterate brute.

Evolution is elegant; it only needs two energies, because two is the least amount needed to create opposition. Government has even been reduced to a liberal and conservative model that mirrors the male and female model.

If left off balance for too long, complex systems will correct themselves with a violent reaction such as a fever or a revolution. Just as a single bacteria or mutation in the body can cause illness, certain people and ideologies that can throw a society out of balance, also making it sick.

In 1986, Oprah went on the air—and over the next 25 years, pushed Western culture so far to the feminine side of the equilibrium, that 30 years later she paved the way for her masculine equivalent, Donald Trump to win the highest office in the world.

Trump won because he offered himself as a force to balance the equation with his ultra-masculinity. He would be an equal and opposite reaction to the current hyper-feminized culture Oprah had created and few enjoyed.

Trump and Oprah are two sides of the same coin. Trump’s a megalomaniac who puts his name on everything he touches, delights at the sound of his own voice, and has absolutely no idea what he is talking about—just like Oprah.

He sells his name to brand buildings, ties, and steaks. She puts her name on magazines, books, and merchandise. He pushes hard, male ideologies. She pushes feminine, faux-spiritualities. They are both reality TV stars, and both are stunningly full of shit.

Trump doesn’t own the buildings that bear his name; he is a merely a brand. Oprah doesn’t write the books in her book-club; she is merely a name. Trump spouts macho rhetoric because it garners him votes. Oprah spouted therapeutic, pseudo-spiritual claptrap because it garnered her ratings.

They both even opened schools, with mixed results.

The significant difference between them is that Trump’s wives are only with him for his money, whereas Oprah has Stedman, who never quit his job at the carwash.

Both Trump and Oprah have superseded their human forms, each becoming media mainstays. He claims to want to make America great again and she claims to want to help you live your best life. The truth is that neither of their interests extend past their own bank accounts.

Oprah had an influence on society that will never be realized again. Media has splintered into so many different platforms that no channel will ever be as influential as the big three (NBC, CBS, and ABC) networks were. Even Oprah’s own cable network, OWN, is currently being “owned” by a cadre of competitors.

If you don’t think she was influential; her show produced 4,561 episodes. That is enough to fill an hour a day, seven days a week, for nine years. There is no other media source that has ever had that much exposure in culture. You might say religion did, but 43 minutes a day, five days a week for 25 years is the equivalent of going to church for an hour every Sunday…for 63 years.

She targeted the underestimated housewife market which was, up until that point, resigned to watching games shows and soap operas. The housewives were ultimately the most powerful members of society, as they formed children’s values, shaped the school system, and made most household purchases.

Oprah also broadcast into millions of homes simultaneously—by sheer numbers alone, Oprah’s influence dwarfed any religion ever.

During my own development, many sociological changes occurred as a direct result of Oprah’s influence on mothers: the self-esteem, self-love, and victim-worship movements; fear-mongering about sexual abuse, pedophilia, and incest; the relentless pursuit of happiness; and positive visualization as a science, to name a few.

Though they masqueraded as positive ideals, Oprah’s philosophies and their legacies continue to have, a deleterious effect on society. For advice on marriage, parenting, and our health, we trusted a single, childless, overweight woman—and we’ve been paying for it ever since.

How did Oprah become so famous? She’s not an entertainer. What the hell did she do?

She was a friend.

She joked with women, complimented them, experienced things with them, and exposed them to new ideas—but most of all she let them know about fantastic things they should buy. She was a one-woman marketplace—exhibiting ideas, philosophies, and merchandise—and taking a cut.

The opinions, philosophies, and life rules came from guests, not from her, so she could take a cut of the profits without any responsibility for the product. She was insulated; safe to sell her heart out—and sell she did.

A show produced every day became a voracious beast hungry for content, so there wasn’t time to vet the ideas, products, or books for truth. They would be selected based on profitability.

Slogans such as “Take Care of Yourself,” “Live in the Now,” “You’re Worth It,” “Spoil Yourself,” and “My Favorite Things,” easily translated into “Buy something nice for yourself, right now!

She sold more than goods; she sold a culture of self-indulgence and instant gratification. This of course, made women less happy. As it turns out, when you eat whatever you want and buy whatever you want, you don’t get happy, you get fat and broke.

A theme kept recurring in Oprah’s dialogue with women and that was their ambition towards happiness. Oprah realized that she should just sell them what they wanted.

Happiness was a gold mine because it perpetuated its own demand much in the way alcohol does. Depressed? Drink alcohol. Feel happy momentarily. Then feel depressed. Drink more alcohol. The person caught in the cycle pays through the nose, but if you’re selling, you sell.

Like alcohol, material goods also only briefly alleviated depression, but happiness was better. It didn’t have to be manufactured, transported, or warehoused, only marketed—and Oprah was the queen of marketing.

Happiness was the perfect product because it created its own demand, and people had to keep rebuying it because they couldn’t hold on to it.

The saying “Happiness is not a fish you can catch” is factually correct. Your brain will actually close the reward pathways in your brain to return your mood to a balance. That’s why your favorite song or food loses its appeal after too much exposure. This is also why addicts have to take more and more of a substance to achieve the same high. The society in your head tries to balance itself.

People even migrate back to a base mood after experiencing events as extreme as winning the lottery or losing their eyesight. Happiness is fleeting, and thankfully so. Ecstasy can’t be maintained for a reason. If an orgasm lasted for two days, you’d be praying for a bath with your toaster.

Although perpetual happiness doesn’t exist, Oprah sold it by introducing us to people who claimed to know how to get it. However, the problem with selling something that doesn’t exist it that the buyer will eventually lose interest when they can’t get it.

To get around this problem, Oprah would put the onus of obtaining happiness on the happiness seekers themselves. That way, when they couldn’t find it, they would blame themselves and not Oprah.

She had to make perpetual happiness impossible to find, so that no one could discover that it wasn’t real. It’s a classic scam; sell a pill too big to swallow to cure a disease that you’ve made up.

The impossible method Oprah would sell housewives as a means to find happiness was self-love. If they could just learn to love themselves they would finally be happy.

Of course, self-love doesn’t exist either. Self-respect and self-esteem do, but love is an emotion for family and other people, not yourself. If you truly love yourself, you are a narcissist and you should seek help.

A healthy person exists in a constant state of self-diagnosis. “What is wrong?” “Should I have said that?” “How am I being perceived?” “Do I look okay?” It is important to be self-critical for the comfort of others and for your own well-being.

We know that death-row inmates score the highest in self-love and self-esteem, but because of Oprah, the pursuit of it persists as the main goal in life. If it is the right thing to do, then why does its actualization read so obviously as pathological? After all, who loves themselves more than Donald Trump?

In the years following the self-love movement’s inception, people futilely chased it, but it eluded them just as happiness had. Again, Oprah had to change tack and concentrate on why women couldn’t love themselves. She looked to blame outside influences such as body standards, unsupportive husbands, not doing what you love…but most of all, not having enough stuff.

When the housewives couldn’t manage to love themselves, they reasoned that it might be impossible for them. Maybe years of exposure to these external influences had rendered them unable to ever love themselves. Maybe it was too late.

However, it wasn’t too late for their kids.

Of course! If their parents and society were responsible for ruining their self-esteem, they’d be damned if they were going to let the same fate befall their kids. Their children would love themselves and be happy if it killed them.

With that realization, the self-esteem movement entered the nursery and then the schools, ultimately turning them into narcissism factories. Oprah began rocking the hand that rocked the cradle and focusing the mother’s protective instinct on their children’s self-esteem.

All things that lowered self-esteem were attacked. Competition was bad because it produced a loser, and losing doesn’t make one feel good about themselves. Sports changed from an emphasis on winning and sportsmanship to having fun and giving participation. We rewarded mediocrity, then wondered why our children were not be able to compete with cultures not lucky enough to grow up with Oprah.

Discipline also makes children feel bad, so we did away with it and produced a generation with no respect for authority. We treated a generation like child stars and then wondered why they grew up like child stars.

Oprah also knew that fear was a huge ratings grabber. Self-preservation and the safety of family rates very high on people’s hierarchy of interests, so why not combine fear with children?

She would commit shows to how our children could be hurt by faulty products, bad parenting practices, freak accidents, or violent toys and play—but the biggest ratings draw was sexual predators.

Oprah combined fear, sex, and children into one super-topic of child sex abuse. Although statistically very rare, child molestation by a stranger was hyped up for maximum emotional impact and it changed parenting forever.

Oprah professed that being a mother was the hardest job, and it is—especially when you’re fighting a nonexistent enemy.

She framed the outside world as such a dangerous place that mothers brought their children indoors. These new indoor kids lacked a sense of competition and exercise. With this isolation, they failed to develop the interpersonal skills developed by sports and non-structured imaginative play and would grow up socially delayed in many cases.

Mothers stopped denying their children junk food, for fear repeating the oppression of their own parents, and American children became the fattest in the world.

Mothers were nurturing their children to death, to spare their feelings.

Oprah had become the mouth at the ear of America’s mothers. Housewives took their parenting advice from a childless woman just because she was good on TV and for their efforts, they created to a spoiled, self-centered, ineffectual generation with a life expectancy shorter than that of their own.

Ostensibly, they had done it for the child’s happiness—but children were less happy than ever because they were isolated and unhealthy.

With TV as the primary caregivers of the indoor generation, children became obsessed with celebrity. Their artificially inflated self-esteem saw fame as the only worthwhile life path.

A generation encouraged to follow their dreams, all picked the same dream, super-stardom. There is little limelight in careers such as plumbing or teaching, so practical ambitions were dashed and the population of YouTubers, Instagram vixens, and karaoke contestants exploded.

If anyone criticized a child’s lackluster performance, they were called a bully, the newest enemy of self-esteem. Bullies were held up as foreign invaders that needed to be eradicated. They are, however, a natural part of society.

Of course, assault is a matter for the police; I’m speaking of social pressure placed on a high-strung child when their level of achievement doesn’t match their level of self-esteem. For example, a student makes a play at raising their social status higher than that of their fellow students by singing a song and posting it on YouTube.

They haven’t put in the time or practice that it takes to get good at singing, but they want the accolades, wealth, and popularity that comes with fame. Ultra-supportive parenting has inflated the child’s ego artificially, so when the negative comments from honest children pour in, the ego pops.

Some children have even killed themselves over these ego crashes. Instead of placing the blame where it belongs—with the parents, we invent a new foreign invader: the bully.

If your child is truly interested in performance, they will start out with training, then recitals for family or a smaller, trusted group while they develop their talent into something worth exhibiting.

If you want your child to be bully-proof, teach them humility and hard work instead of lavishing fake praise and empty accolades that only set them up for a fall back to reality.

To be fair, bully hysteria did not come from Oprah directly, but is a direct result of her legacy of victim-worship.

Children and fear were great topics, but people could become fatigued by the constant fear-mongering.

Oprah would balance her shows with therapeutic, happy things. People were also very interested in the things that made them feel good and they didn’t even question the logic as they were ‘happy.’ things. Thanks to a concept introduced on The Oprah Winfrey Show, 77% of Americans believe in angels, and many also believe in positive visualization as a science (The Secret).

People ask me what the problem with pseudo-therapy is if it makes people feel good. The problem is that things that feel good with no sacrifice or effort are rarely good for you. Donuts are not packed with vitamins.  An overemphasis on eliminating everything that makes you feel bad mirrors the effects of the current painkiller addiction. It doesn’t address the root cause, it takes more and more to achieve the same result, and it eventually kills you.

Negative emotions are important. They serve as a contrast, allowing us to feel real happiness. That is the secret to real happiness, by the way. Happiness takes sacrifice and discomfort; it exists only in contrast to unhappiness and struggle.

You never hear that because you can’t sell that idea in a book. The reason you can’t sell that idea is because everybody already knows it to be true, deep down.

Negative emotions should not be muted, as they are essential for navigating life. We feel bad when we do things we shouldn’t, so we don’t do them again. We feel shame when our behavior has negative effects on others and on ourselves.

Shame is essential to civilize a society. No rule of law can control a population that does not feel accountability for its actions. However, in Oprah’s world, it must be done away with because it degrades one’s self-esteem.

The war on shame started with the moms, then leaked into schools and infected an entire generation. Shame was outlawed, and now the only people you are allowed to shame are the bullies or people who are honest.

Oprah was also a big opponent of body shaming. As a compulsive overeater, she has had a life-long struggle with her own weight. She used that fact to gain credibility with her viewers as she trotted out all manner of ‘experts’ selling fad diets and lifestyle changes.

You can’t sell a book about sensible eating and exercise because we know that already. Novelty is the rule of television, so fads took center stage and the viewers laid down the dollars that forged Oprah’s three-billion-dollar empire.

Of course, the diets worked only briefly, leaving the dieter deprived, only to gain back more weight when they ultimately gave up. Diets are another self-perpetuating product for Oprah, because the cure is the sickness—buy the diet, deprive yourself, fail, indulge to make up for lost time, gain weight, buy the diet…

When the women failed, they would blame themselves, never Oprah—because it wasn’t her diet idea, she just took some profits from each book.

The diets kept failing for years and Oprah was forced to take the new tack of ‘body acceptance.’ She pointed women’s blame away from themselves and toward the beauty industry’s unattainable standards.

If she could not keep her own weight in check, she would seek to change the reality of body preferences to fit her own.

Oprah would later claim that one of the factors contributing to her overeating was the trauma of sexual abuse.

It was a perfect way to shift accountability for overeating from herself to her sexual trauma—another big ratings grabber.

Oprah would reveal her own sexual abuse, and in doing so, change how we saw victims.

She called victims of sexual abuse “survivors” and “brave”. With shame gone, people began feeling pride for having endured trauma and began wearing it like a badge of courage. Even competing with others for trauma-supremacy. “You think you had it bad?

If that wasn’t enough to launch victim-worship into the public ethos, Oprah invited celebrities to share their own traumas, conflating trauma and talent in the public ethos. They could safely share your trauma without seeming egocentric if they claimed to be doing it to spread awareness or to help others. This made victimhood even seductive to a celebrity-obsessed generation. You could achieve a small level of fame by sheer virtue of having been a victim.

Trauma was excellent because Oprah could sell self-help and therapy to cure it. The only problem was that not everyone had trauma, so people would begin to invent it out of smaller and smaller things.

As an example of how mundane trauma have become; American college students now claim trauma over words and ideas just because they conflict with their own—demanding safe spaces and trigger warnings.

Victimhood has become so prevalent that colleges have become less like institutions for expansion of the mind and more like shelters for emotional weakness.

These students are actually victims, not of a hate speech, but of a legacy of victim-worship.

One can only hope that the hero paradigm will recover. The hero used to be one who had a positive effect on the world. Now you are a hero when the world has had a negative effect on you. Ambition toward victim status doesn’t produce effective people, only emotional cripples who hold up hard luck stories and fake trauma instead of art or achievement.

We let society become severely damaged by believing a liar for a long time.

I had read about her propensity for lying, storytelling, and embellishing the truth, so I watched an old Oprah episode to see if I could catch her in a lie. It took all of thirty seconds.

She told a story about how Stedman had surprised her with a Sheepy Fleece bathrobe. The well-trained audience swooned at the romantic gesture, never questioning the likelihood of a multi-billionaire being caught dead in a $92 bathrobe. “She probably wears it when she clips coupons,” they must have thought.

She gave each audience member a robe, and they were ecstatic. The company pays Oprah to lie about using their product, sales go through the roof, women get a material fix, and Oprah gets paid…to lie.

Oprah cares so little about being genuine that she even hired a lying coach for her court case against Texas ranchers. The man who specialized in coaching defendants on how to be more believable on the stand was Dr. Phil McGraw. He was an expert in lying. He was such a good liar in fact, that Oprah gave him his own show following hers.

Dr. Phil was to be the perfect patsy for Oprah’s toxic effect on relationships. She would claim that husbands were the source of much of women’s unhappiness. She would suggest sweeping life changes to be made behind the husband’s back. 

The Oprah Winfrey Show would end at 5 p.m., leaving wives simmering with vitriol just as their husbands were arriving home—to a bushwhacking.

When a husband wondered who might have poisoned his wife against him, a glance at the TV showed no signs of Oprah—only Dr. Phil. That lovable hayseed, that font of folksy common sense—the perfect patsy.

There are people with whom we all wish our mates would not consort, because they seem to poison them against us. Women had no trouble forbidding men from hanging out with their bad-influence friends, but men didn’t even realize the extent to which Oprah was influencing their wives. No big deal- only more than any other influence in history.

Women would put a quick stop to their husbands watching a male version of Oprah.

Especially if he encouraged them to buy products they couldn’t afford, to only do work that nurtured their spirit, or to stop being ambitious and just be happy with their current size of their bank account.

In Oprah culture, a man’s value in relationships became worthless. They were seen as more of an adversary than a partner. Men didn’t feel needed or wanted in the relationship, so they began leaving marriages or not getting hitched in the first place. The ones who stayed were the submissive men who fit the new paradigm of irrelevance.

As men disappeared from the family, so too did their role as fathers, with cataclysmic results.

The ideals of a workable society are in danger of being lost entirely, as they have been absent over two generations- replaced by pseudo-spiritual mottos and motivational quotes that are only good for an immediate and fleeting emotional boost.

Emotions are the language of therapy, so emotional thinking is gaining respect as the preferred form of thinking over logic in many areas of life. Everyone from anti-vaxxers to climate-change skeptics, even ‘flat-earthers’ are all now able to voice delusional opinions because they feel that they are true.

Of course, everyone has a right to their own opinion.

That is also a flawed ideal of the new ethos. Of course, everyone has a right to say anything, but if you don’t know what you are talking about, your opinion is worthless. However, because we’ve cut the shame, people now offer unqualified opinions without fear of reprisal.

Of course, everyone deserves respect. Wrong—that is another fake ideal.

Respect is defined as “esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability.” Not everyone or every idea deserves esteem. Awarding people respect not deserved is an extension of the self-esteem movement; it is the equivalent of a participation award. Obligatory respect is not respect at all.

I am not a religious man and I am not proselytizing here, but I do respect the Christian religion and how it has framed Western society. It evolved to be the best religion because we take what we consider useful and leave the rest to fade into antiquity, falling off like vestigial appendages. 

I heard once that the only significant rule in The Bible is The Golden Rule; the rest is just commentary—and I agree. Christianity works so well because of its emphasis on treating others well.

Selflessness is the ideal that holds society precariously over a fall into anarchy, so it is very troubling to hear anyone extolling self-centeredness as the most important virtue. Oprah is the mother of egocentrism and self-centeredness, and those qualities are the precursors to an evil, and cruel society.

The good news is that people have become fed up with the quality of people that these new ideals have been turning out. So fed up in fact, that when they were presented with the feminine, hyper-nurturing ethos, they chose a megalomaniac, just because he was the alternative.

This thirty-year ethos of egocentrism, fear mongering, and victim worship is coming to an end.

We have been arresting reality in favor of emotion for a very long time, and the results have been terrible.

I don’t judge Trump for being Trump or Oprah for being Oprah. They are simply emergent energies in a capitalist game. Their psyches have developed to support their own avarice.

Trump became an eventuality once Oprah pushed the pendulum so far to the emotional side of the spectrum. Its swing back towards the center is not going to be pleasant.

Oprah’s children have come home to roost. They are mean and without conscience. Thank god, they are ineffectual wimps.

It’s 5 o’clock.  Oprah is over. Daddy is home.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Dangers of Victim-worship.

The Dangers of Victim-worship 

By John Beuhler
In the past few years, I have noticed a trend that I believe to be dangerous to free expression and society, but more importantly—to me professionally.
I’m a standup comedian, and I’m talking about the explosion of hypersensitivity, fake outrage, and the renaissance of political correctness.
People are claiming to be offended more and more by less and less; even seeming to seek out being offended.
Being offended is not the same as having your feelings hurt. Having your feelings hurt is an involuntary emotional response to a perceived insult or offense.
Being offended is different. It is the defensive posture one assumes after having our feelings hurt. We do this in order to take some power back by drawing attention to the offense, and often returning fire.
The sneaky part of emotional offenses is that people can claim to have suffered from them even when their feelings weren’t actually hurt. They may do this as a kind of social power play.
This strategy is nothing new. It’s a common practice in sports to embellish an infraction by the opposition in order to be awarded a game advantage; sometimes actually called a power play.
If someone can feign being a victim without incurring any actual injury, the experience can be wholly positive—for them.
The victim often receives sympathy and attention, even praise for their courage. If the outrage is on behalf of someone else, they can even be considered selfless; thereby garnering even more sympathy, attention, and praise.
The problem with this empowerment of the victim is that people have begun to fake being a victim in order to gain power. We’ve made such an effort to comfort the victim that we’ve made being a victim a comfortable place.
This victimhood movement has adversely affected the heroism paradigm. A person used to become a hero by having a positive effect on the world—but is now considered a hero when the world has had a negative effect on them.
People choose fake outrage as the easiest route to victimhood because it costs nothing, and no injury need have taken place—only the appearance of one.
People also use fake outrage as a way of elevating their own station from that of the group.
You can even see this posturing in how inmates treat rapists and child molesters; as a last ditch attempt by murderers to raise their station from dead last and gain some social dominance.
These are just a few of the motivations for people to “game” the system of political correctness.
Political correctness began as a way to socialize people into being more sensitive, but it has devolved into a point system where the victim wins.
Sharing one’s fake outrage online offers the same sympathy and praise, but from a vastly larger, interconnected community.
Social media gives people a place to share their fake outrage in the same way it gives them a place to share their digital photography.
The media quickly created a demand for content, and people began to be offended by anything—in much the same way they began taking pictures of anything; so they could have something to share.
Fake outrage goes viral very easily because it contains the controversy and emotional triggers that content needs in order to compel readers to share it. It’s perfect fodder for a community starved for the controversy that’s missing from their own mundane lives.
The brass ring of fake outrage is when a celebrity breaks the rules of political correctness—because a celebrity-obsessed media will spread those indiscretions even more quickly.
In a culture that has replaced piety with celebrity, the public likes to see famous people falter. When celebrities stumble from their pedestals, regular people then feel as if they’re on an equal level with them; in turn, elevating themselves to the level of what we’ve put in the place of gods.
Being a direct victim of a celebrity’s indiscretions offers much attention, and—unlike a sexual assault or paternity suit—a claim of emotional offence can be launched from the safety of one’s own computer.
The really sad thing is that instead of using social media for information sharing, many have used it to join a culture of tattletales and fake victims.
This new culture of victimhood is not a result of more emotional offenses, but of a progression of time, technology, and perceived humanitarianism. Political correctness was simply inevitable.
A decadent society eventually runs out of real challenges, and therefore problems must be invented. People train their sights on the perceived evils of their own culture in their search for yet another realm to conquer.
Like an idle immune system takes the form of an autoimmune disease, people attack the very culture that has evolved to support their way of life. Hypersensitivity becomes less the right thing to do, and more just something to do.
The problem is that political correctness doesn’t work—for several reasons.
It is designed under the false logic that removing negative speech will somehow force people to act positively towards one another. As if removing the weapons will end the war—but that doesn’t work.
When a “negative” word is eliminated, its negative connotation is migrated to the replacement word, and in time, the new word must then be eliminated.
The only lasting result is the hyper-sensitizing of a culture which begins to turn out more sensitive people—who in turn become offended by less and less. Society must then be re-sensitized, and the cycle self-perpetuates.
The cultural movement accomplishes nothing but to give work and entertainment to the sanctimonious; busybodies created by the same movement.
Political correctness now has the exact opposite result of what was originally intended; removing negative speech causes people to function worse as a society.
With the elimination of negative speech, we lose the ability to hold others accountable for their actions, including those in power. This is because negative speech is an integral part of criticism and shame.
Shame felt for oneself and from others is what civilizes a society. No length of legal code or force of military can control a culture that is, at its core, shameless.
Shame isn’t pleasant, but anyone who conducts themselves without caring what others think is in essence, acting antisocially.
In the effort to end bad feelings, society begins to dismantle.
Bad feelings will always persist because classifying new “bad words” actually causes more hurt feelings because of the brain’s ability to contextualize pain.
Certain systems of the brain conspire to create a picture of the pain in order to assign it a level of seriousness. Think about the difference in pain levels between getting a tattoo, and getting a tattoo against your will. The terror that our emotions assign to the latter will cause a measurable somatic difference.
Soldiers will often require more pain-killing medications in the hospital than they did on the battlefield. Some will run miles before realizing that they’ve been shot—and only then, will they fall to the ground.
A child who falls off of his bike when he is alone will pick himself up and dust himself off, but will burst into tears if his mother is watching. Both reactions are genuine, but with the mother’s presence creating a different context.
A hypersensitive culture acts as your mother watching.
When we legitimize words as being damaging, they become damaging. When we overly sensitize society, we cause its members to be hurt by less and less.
“What worries me is the acceptance of the importance of feelings without any effort to understand their complex biological and sociocultural machinery. …to explain bruised feelings by appealing to surface social causes…”
—Dr. Antonio Damasio
University Professor, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, Director, Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California
Eliminating words should only be done after very close examination, because language is the brain of a society. As with brain cells, when you remove words, you simplify the entire organism.
Political correctness removes words while technology limits the size of the message—to the length of tweets, or the brevity of texts. This leads to an erosion of discourse and art as a whole.
Which brings me to my problem.
Standup relies on profane speech and exaggeration for the benefit of shock and emphasis. The line of good taste is danced upon and often crossed because-- it’s fun and that’s what people pay for.
Comedy crowds are beginning to shut down and stay silent if any joke so much as mentions members of the ever-growing ‘protected humans’ list; as if being gay, or black, or female is a birth defect that must not have any attention drawn to it.
Calling a comedian sexist, racist, homophobic—or worse—has become an adult game of cooties where you point your fingers to draw attention away from yourself.
Standup comedy is something that allows us to put the rules of office behind us, to let our hair down, and to laugh at each other. A good comedian will seem like a funny friend, and when friends converse they don’t do it by using a political rule book.
It’s called a comedy ‘club’ because a club is a group of people who have a common interest. In this case, it’s to laugh, to have fun, and to be entertained.
If you are someone who just wants to groan, complain, or clam up in order to prove that you are of a higher class than the rest of the crowd—or if you want to pull out a phone in order to tattle on the performer—you’re betraying the nature of my art form.
So. I would like to invite those people to leave, and to go find something else to do that won’t offend their delicate sensibilities. If that’s you—you are not a good fit with standup comedy—and you’re out of the club.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why Rape Jokes Can Be Funny

By John Beuhler

When did we all become such emotional hypochondriacs?

The recent turn of PC sanctimony and faux-outrage towards the medium of stand up comedy is cause for concern. Several comedians have made headlines for parts of their shows that, although told in a private settling, have been made public through the wonder of social media and used as fodder for the 24-hour news cycle.

Here’s an explanation of why the best comics tend to tackle the more touchy and controversial subjects.

Laughter developed as an autonomic reaction to the relief of short-term stress. Its physical component serves to burn off a build-up of stress hormones (epinephrine) and its auditory component (laughing) lets the rest of your group know that the stress is over. Stress makes you want to run or fight and if you remove the stress before the fight, the animal is physically wound up; laughter transforms that potential energy to a kinetic and releases the pressure.

A joke example from man’s beginnings: “Turns out it wasn’t a saber-toothed tiger; it was just a rock.” Funny because a saber-toothed tiger is stressful and a rock is not. The laughter travels from the front of the hunting party to the back, so that those who didn't see the rock can have their stress relieved as well. Laughter is autonomic communication.

The Saber Toothed Rock story will then be related around the fire that night to silence. This was the origin of, “I guess you had to be there.”

Brief moments of stress and relief are followed by a rush of dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter. Scary movies, roller coasters, and infidelity are some of the ways we achieve brain rewards. Comedy is no different; it brings us joy and that is why we can charge people for it while they eat things that can only very liberally be called appetizers. Laughter is a natural drug, unlike that stuff I make in my garage.

This is also the reason people hate a bad comedian. If they don’t get the joke, they haven’t had their tension relieved or received any reward dopamine. The tension sits there like a failed sneeze and the person is unhappy. Long-term exposure to cortisol, the stress hormone, can inhibit protein synthesis and the creation of immunity tissues. So, if you hear too many bad jokes you could end up looking as bad as the comedian.

The amount and intensity of laughter is inversely proportionate to the tension created, like pulling back a bow to shoot an arrow. The more tension created, the more tension will be relieved at the punch line; the more relief experienced, the bigger the laugh; the bigger the laugh, the bigger the chance of sex after the show. The pay from the club, however, will never change until you get some TV credits, you lazy asshole.

This explains why the greatest comics deal with such risqué subjects, such as racism, homophobia, rape, and hot pockets. Controversial subjects get bigger laughs, but there is more inherent risk involved. A swan-dive from the high platform is more spectacular because of the risk, just as racist jokes are risky (but more interesting than observations about your cat, Colonel Pudding Tummy)

When you’re at a comedy club and you hear something that you don’t agree with or are offended by, it’s not permissible to voice your objection. The comedian has worked for 10 plus years honing his craft, being broke, sacrificing a normal life to follow a dream that very rarely leads to happiness. He does this because he has a sickness that puts your happiness before his own. He is holding a microphone and you’re holding a Zima for a reason.

As I stated before, controversial subjects have the potential to be the funniest, so, no, rape isn't funny, but jokes about rape can be very funny. Rape is terrible and therefore needs jokes so we don’t feel the entire brunt of stress that accompanies it.

The hyper-sensitivity of contemporary society has led to people pursuing heroism and notoriety in the laziest way possible, through victimhood. The laziest way to pursue victim status is to pretend that your feelings or sensibilities have been offended and what better place to be offended than in a place where offensive things are said all the time; at a comedy club?

The fact is that the comedy club is a called a club for a reason. There is an understanding among the initiated of what is going to go on. You might not agree with everything the performer is saying, but it is to be taken with a grain of salt.

I would encourage comedians to only apologize to actual complaints which are made to the club and not to Internet blogs or other public media. Responding in the mainstream media to complaints that begin on the Internet will encourage more and more people to tape and report on our shows with the goal of getting a reaction.

Please do not reply to complaints about your show unless they are from the people who pay you. Internet complaints are not worth the paper they’re not written on. This mode of thinking is wrong and reacting to it, gives it validation and makes it dangerous to our livelihoods and rights to free speech.

Lenny Bruce died so that the government couldn’t stop up from saying what we wanted. What no one foresaw is that the government could step aside and let us all tattle on each other; so uneasy in our smallness that we looking to chastise those on a higher stage; even if it is only a foot and a half.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Technician’s Guide to Writing Stand up Comedy

By John Beuhler

The following is a system of writing that I have established after 13 years of writing and performing standup comedy. This system takes advantage of current technology and has helped me write material more prolifically than any other process I have tried. It takes your routine (for lack of a better term) out of the beat up coil note book into the computer where you will find that editing and grouping your material will happen much more easily.
The note book process may seem satisfactory for people performing shorter sets, but if you’re planning on progressing to 45 minutes to an hour and beyond then this system will be invaluable. It will also make sure that you never lose or forget any jokes again as they will all be documented in a single Word file.
What is basically a filtering process of multiple Word files, my process makes sure that once saturated you will always have material and bits to develop and writing to do as well as material to perform; no more going months without any new jokes.
STEP (1) Recording New Ideas.
In this age of smart phones and large memory storage there is no reason to ever bother a waitress for a pen, fumble with several loose pieces of scribbled paper and cocktail napkins or fate worse than death, forget an idea you thought was great. Think it’s too funny to forget? It’s not.
Almost every model of present cell phone has a voice/ memo recorder. Why not use the device that is never more than arms reach away as the center for your new jokes ideas. With the memory size of some phones they can also be used to record your set so that you can examine what parts of the joke worked and which didn’t. Recording your voice instead of scribbling also allows you to hear a funny voice, inflection or cadence that would otherwise not translate if read off of note. 
You can also use the text message or notes feature to record ideas in situations that you may not be able to talk in such as movie theatres in classrooms or when making love to someone who is unaware you are making love to them.
STEP (2) Filling the First Filter
So it’s been a busy week and you have been diligent about putting every idea in your phone; from punchy provocative never fail gold material all the way to the jokes that Dane Cook might like. These ideas are ready to be transcribed into the first catch-all filter which I have titled NEWSHIT (I named this document when I was 19 and a black hip- hop artist) The name however is moot as long as it is identifiable as the first document in our process where we can empty all of the contents from our memo device.
The document name is apt as a lot of these ideas are going to be terrible. If one out of ten ideas has potential you’re doing great. If you only get one out of 15 do everyone a favor and put a shotgun in your mouth – that was harsh; put a hand gun in your mouth.
No one, no matter how talented is funny all the time. We all have crappy ideas; we just have to get through them. Your comedy writing career should resemble the sewer scene from Shawshank Redemption, actually comedy is like the whole movie without the interracial homosexual over tones.
After you’ve transcribed the ideas into NEWSHIT you can continue on or if you are feeling lazy just let the ideas pile up. No one is going to judge you; you don’t have time; you have to put your uniform on and get to Orange Julius. Besides there are worse things than having tons to ideas all in one file; half baked or not. Remember this process works best when it’s saturated so record everything that strikes you funny.
If you’re feeling saucy go over the long list of short joke ideas eliminating the ones that aren’t funny, unoriginal or just plain drunken nonsense. Sell the rejects to Carlos Mencia.
Move the jokes that stand up to the first elimination process to a new document called WORKYARD
Now to reiterate this process is about collecting many different jokes in one place before writing them all the way through to where you would be able to test them; that step comes later.
Give every idea a couple of word description, so later you won’t have to read the whole joke to know what it’s about. You will find that when singles jokes gather in one WORKYARD document that you start to see common subject matters develop.
As you collect ideas that in this file, begin to group similar ideas under general headings. I.E. DRINKING, MASTURBATING, NUCLEAR PHYSICS. Make these headings in uppercase and bold for easy reference later.
This gives you a job that will come about through out the entire process; GROUPING. Grouping is joining jokes and stories of a common subject together. If you don’t feel funny or like writing on a certain day you can always go through your WORKYARD files and do some grouping. Over time you will begin have subject heading with several funny jokes that you can then turn into a bit; a bit being a group of jokes or stories.
When you are confident that you have several jokes on the same subject and you want to develop it into a bit simply cut and paste to a blank document. This will give you more room to move, write and edit.
STEP (4) Putting a Bit Together
After creating the new document, write the joke the way you will mostly likely say it on stage and try to organize the jokes so that the strongest one is last if at all possible. At  every opportunity try to eliminate details and words that don’t add funny or any useful information to the joke. Cut the fat!!
For example let’s take what the previous paragraph would look like after editing.
Write the bit like you’d say it with the strongest joke last and no extraneous words.
That’s a lean sentence. That’s editing and it’s the biggest challenge I’ve seen facing new comics. To their defense it’s very hard to do in written form. Don’t tell me a long winded story about your breakfast routine just to get to a weak joke about eggs or bacon. Give them product, people laugh at funny not story.
However, this process will allow you to form jokes in succession into something that sounds like a story, but is much funnier and has much more fire power.
When you have a bit that is ready to be tested it moves into the ONDECK file. As you might have guessed, this file is full of bits that are in line to be tried on stage.
STEP (5) Creating a Queue
After a few months of writing you should find more and more bits collecting in this file. You can use lazy days to open your ONDECK file and do more grouping. This brings together larger groups of jokes and will making testing them easier because your topics aren’t jumping all over the place; this can lose the crowd and make your show seem disjointed.
Again this is for building longer sets which should be the goal of anyone doing stand up; unless you’re a recent divorcee who just wants to get some shit off of her chest.
Now you have a document full of filtered bits that are written exactly as you are to say them on stage with very little fat. You don’t have to flip back and forth in your notebook looking for that bit you were going to try; just print off this document and call a cab to your local Chuckle Pavilion.
STEP (6) Testing your “Funny” Jokes
The only major draw back to this system is that it takes the jokes out of your head and puts them more into the computer. You have to take steps to memorize more so than if you were adding a new joke every month or so. If you write more you will develop more and better material, but you will also have more to remember more and will have to be more diligent about testing. It’s a good problem to have however like that mole I have on my back. Sure it’s cancerous, but it looks like Whoopi Goldberg, the beautiful actress.
This is the point where you can write on paper if you want. If you are in the habit writing out your jokes on a crib sheet you can do the same here and because of the previous steps you have a subject heading for all of the jokes you are to try.
Use your personal recording device to record your set to get an accurate idea of how each new joke went. Some ideas will shoot up the ranks to the front of the queue and get tested before others and some will stick around your ONDECK file for months. This is almost always an indication that they aren’t very strong and should be deleted.
The hardest part of writing is deleting your weak ideas, but it has to be done. Do not keep trying material that is clearly not working, delete, delete, delete!! Your show will get tighter and tighter as you write more and more to fill the holes left by your slashing and burning. If you want to be a pro you have to tighten up.
Tightening up doesn’t mean polishing your personality off of your jokes. It isn’t about talking faster or losing the quirks that make you, you. Tightening and editing are about knowing where you’re going with a joke and not wasting people’s time.
STEP (7) Review
So the joke went great!! Aren’t you the treat of the week? I usually try the jokes a few times as not all crowds are created equal and a cakewalk room as well as a hell gig will not give you an accurate read on whether a joke is going to make the team. Give it a reasonable trial in a few rooms making subtle changes depending on crowd reaction. Be conscious of where in your set you put the joke as a crowd that is warm to you will let more slide and tend to want to like your stuff. Because of this fact try to always open strong and slip the new stuff in here and there.
Do not open with new jokes! This is a rookie mistake and it can sink your whole show. Veterans do this sometimes too because we get excited about a new bit, but it’s never worth the risk. Also don’t get drunk and do ten minutes of straight new stuff, bomb horribly and then strike out with the wait staff; that’s my shit!
After the joke has been adequately tested and has gone over well on stage a few times then it’s time to add it to your arsenal. Make a new document; I call mine TESTED for obvious reasons and I bet you can guess what the one job there is to do in hear? That’s right GROUPING. Joining bits together in this document is the most important because this will become your long set.
Grouping in this document can be difficult when it gets more and more full and it will get full because the jokes are written in long form so take the headings of these tested jokes and bits and add them to another file that will be your MASTER LIST. Break into columns to save space.
Nuclear Physics

You now have a page of tested jokes that you can reference at anytime and within the document you can drag and drop into any order you want. When you get all of these bits and jokes into an order that compliments them and makes sense in terms of a conversational progression then you have your long show; along with all the documents to check if you forget wording or references. It may sound complicated, but if you get into the process it will make sure you never lose jokes, always have stand up writing or grouping to do and it will ramp up your writing production considerably.
Create the following documents:
Ideas transcribed from recording device
Ideas and jokes that have past the first filter of scrutiny. Group together like subjects and move to-
Create and edit with plenty of room. If the bit is ready for testing move it to ONDECK. If not delete it or move it back to WORKYARD.
If the bit made it here it should have a hope. Group it with other like bits, print and memorize. Try to record when you test and the put the bits that work in-
Now you have a document full of tested material written the way it was tested and always there for easy reference.
This is a list of every good joke you have. Take this to shows and cherry pick the bits you want to do. Group them together for longer shows, record an album and make hundreds of dollars.  
Get writing and let me know if you have any questions.