Sometimes comedians don't want to just be funny. There's a lot of debate out there as to whether or not that is appropriate, or even helpful. Certainly comedy is designed to paint in broad strokes. All of us comics aim to get big groups of people to identify with whatever we're talking about enough that they laugh at our conclusions. So when we want to address an issue that is more loaded and potentially incendiary than the issue of the last sock in the dryer, we have to tread carefully and get our facts straight -- and even then people will sometimes say we have no business getting into the fray.
I understand reservations about comedy getting in that mix but how'd I end up being a Kardashian minus the money? That sucks ... twice! I know that we comics don't always get the big stuff right. (Who does, though?) And yes, sometimes comics err on the side of humor. But I do think we have a place in all this. Comedy has a proud history of speaking truth to power -- from the days of Lenny Bruce up through this dude...
Recently the state of Georgia's execution of Troy Davis and the Occupy Wall Street movement have given comedians much to tweet about, speak about, Facebook about, and rant and rave about -- and maybe most importantly, point people in the direction of the individuals and organizations who have all the facts and ideas for how to help.
Comedy can break things down into hilarious bite-size pieces that can get an issue out there sometimes more effectively than the people in charge of that issue. Way more people quote Chris Rock's bit on capitalism than quote Alan Greenspan. And right now there is a smorgasbord of sociopolitical comics, aggressively throwing themselves into the fight and mixing it up: Baratunde Thurston (above), Jamie Kilstein, Maria Bamford, Hari Kondabolu, Leah Bonnema, Elon James White, Lee Camp.
And there's even Stephanie Miller's Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour with Hal Sparks and John Fugelsang, as well as Lizz WInstead's Planned Parenthood Comedy Tour. And I've heard that Laughter Against The Machine with Janine Brito, Nato Green, and W. Kamau Bell is pretty good too. There are of course many others whose names I am forgetting and certainly offending. Now, if you are looking for laughs per minute I'm sure that is a guy somewhere out there with a southern accent and a dummy by his side who is solely focused on jokes. But if you like your comedy impassioned and relevant then you are literally in a golden age of comedians who actually give a fuck.
Kamau's Komedy Korner is a weekly blog column about San Francisco comedy by W. Kamau Bell. Check back next Wednesday for more.