What is the essence of good comedy? It is levity in the face of tragedy. It is the clown, and it is drag. Too many people mistake sexual, ethnic, and racial humour for a mockery of the victim, when in fact what the comedian is really doing is mocking the victimizer.
Comedy is so complex now that comedians are doing blackface in order to show how absurd and ridiculous blackface really is, and drag queens are impersonating 1960s housewives to lampoon twentieth century feminine norms. Layers of irony are heaped on top of one another until the object of ridicule becomes obscured for the simple-minded, remaining crystal-clear for the more perceptive observer.
Sometimes, the comedian simply wants to make fun of everybody. They do not discriminate—they want to expose the flaws in every person, for every person has them. In fact, they want to celebrate these flaws as part of what makes us human. It is the obligation of the comedian’s target to overcome their pride, acknowledge the wonderfully honest caricatures the comedian paints of them, and laugh at them with a sort of tongue-in-cheek humility.
Shock humour is not malicious; it is expositive. Malice is a concerted effort to inflict harm; shock humour is a concerted effort to expose the foibles of human nature. A person who seeks to hurt the feelings of their target is not a comedian, but a cruel and elaborate misanthrope. Indeed, the comedian practises her art out of an appreciation for humanity and its imperfections.
The most important thing for the audience is to know the intent of the comedian. The burden of understanding lies not just on the shoulders of the comedian, but also on those of the observer. While the comedian is obliged to communicate her jokes in a fairly down-to-earth, sociable, and straightforward way, the observer is obliged to meet her half-way and try to decipher her language, tone, allusions, and body-language in order to uncover her intent. Otherwise it would be a simplistic, and hence boring, act. It’s a two-way street.
Take the ridicule of gay people, for example. I think it’s fucking hilarious. Most gay people I’ve met think it’s fucking hilarious. Gay people know what homophobia is when they see it, and they know that a stand-up comic poking fun at anal sex is not necessarily homophobic. In all likelihood, the comic is poking fun at anal sex because she is comfortable about it and openly acknowledges it as just another part of the puzzle that is humanity. Indeed, she may be a proud and loyal fag-hag attacking the very homophobes who rail against gay sex. Gay people know the difference between a genuine attack, and a lighthearted jest exposing their own foibles.
With that longwinded disclaimer, I would like to present you with a series of random and otherworldly works, or “quirks”, of art that my friend Seth and I created using MS Paint and the Web Site Dragulator, created by drag icon Ru Paul. The goal is to mock assumptions and stereotypes, so hopefully you will see that. I hope that I haven’t killed the effect, because a spontaneous heart is required to enjoy the art.
(You should visit Seth’s blog at http://thelittlereport.blogspot.com)