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
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 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
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.