April Fool’s Day in a land with its sense of humor on the decline. Humor is important. It can liberate us from the limitations of our conceits.
If anyone ever wrote a history of April Fool’s Day, no one would believe it. And that would not be a bad thing, because we now really live in a land where one of our two ruling parties routinely tricks a solid half of our participating electorate into believing absurdities. For example, as the nation’s president and the federal legislative leadership try to advance legislation making it easier for the electorate to vote, the opposition party that controls more state legislatures than it deserves and uses them to make it harder to vote, sanctimoniously condemns the federal effort as a “power grab.” It may not be funny ha-ha but it’s funny how that trick always works on a stalwart cohort of our electorate.
But seriously, folks. What is funny in America, anymore? It seems that the last time there was a hit sit-com on American television it revolved around diners and actual wired telephones. It was called Seinfeld and it lives on in syndication. It must be like watching syndicated reruns of The Honeymooners back when Seinfeld was a Thursday night network hit. But there are barely networks anymore, let alone hit sitcoms. We can consider ourselves lucky when one of the endless stream of assembly line crafted poop jokes lands.
The common element in good comedy is surprise but the ability for comedy to shock has made too many of our present day fools lazy. The closest we come to TV comedy gold these days is animated stuff like Bob’s Burgers, The Simpsons, Rick and Morty and Archer. They might still be making new South Park episodes but I stopped caring way back many Christmastimes ago, when it featured the traditionally recurring character of a literal piece of shit named Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo.
I don’t want to hear or read about political correctness, either. That’s a dumb excuse, because comedy should always be way ahead of what offends us and what has always separated the mediocre comics from the great ones has been the talent to bring the funny while offending and without punching down. Groucho Marx did it. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor made it look easy. If you can’t punch up, try self-deprecation.
Comedy is seldom pretty, never easy and we, as a civilization, are a little fucked up right now. We’ve been cooped up for the better part of a year hiding from a global pandemic (still with far too long a way to go for way too many communities), global communications and the abuse thereof has many of us at each others’ throats, with too much firepower in the hands of too many bullies, the industrial stress we put on the environment is a slow rolling train wreck and criminal inhumanity is often out of control. One cannot force the laughs but we are ready to have our cages rattled and rattle they must, because something’s gotta give!