Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 35

LS: Hmm, well, this is a big question, and there is not a quick and easy answer. MS: Just start somewhere and I’m sure we will eventually get to everything. LS: OK. Well, let me start by saying that, of course, the relation of humor and politics is very complex, but my own view is that humor can be used both to reinforce oppressive poli- tics, i.e., the misogyny of some male humor, or to resist or even transcend oppression. Humor is not a thing, but rather a process, and it is a continually evolving aspect of our experience. Humor, like dreams, can allow us to consider ideas that we might normally repress. So, for example, having a little eight year old girl, Lisa Simpson, articulate feminist ideas allowed people who might have otherwise been closed, to be more open to these ideas—they were incongruous and not threatening. My charac- ter is cute, and she speaks with that wonderful Yeardley Smith voice—who could not love her? MS: Yes, I understand what you’re saying. But do you think that all satire is transformative? I mean, what about some of the contemporary comedy, like Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, that satirized and often ridiculed the Bush administration, or John Oliver, or Stephen Colbert, on Trump, his administration and his base? Isn’t this contemporary satire more a ne- gation of what is rather than a comedic depic- tion of what could be? LS: Well, yes, you have a point. But I think it has to be viewed historically. That is, comedy which is rooted in negation may, in fact, have transformative qualities at a time when people need to be uplifted from demoralization, as they have in the Bush and Trump years, to feel that they are not alone, and gain confidence in laughing at power, in acknowledging that “the emperor has no clothes.” A lot of Simpsons’ humor fits into this category. But that same comedy at another time, when social move- VOL. 34, NO. 1 ments actually begin to develop, may no longer be transformative, and a new comedic process will need to evolve. Current satire fits with emerging rebellion, which is by its nature nega- tive—we are rebelling against something. But after the rebellion, when we are trying to build something, envision something positive, there will be a new challenge for humor. What that new comedy will be is hard to say, but I suspect it will involve some satirizing and humor about how we earnestly blunder and often clumsily grope our way through a transformative pro- cess, so we don’t take ourselves and our lead- ership too seriously. We will have to develop empathic humor. MS: So the forms humor and comedy assume must evolve as we evolve. LS: Exactly! And, by the way, for Tikkun read- ers, getting back to my friend Krusty for an- other moment—his whole identity as a clown was based on his perception of the importance of humor to progressive spirituality. Krusty continually reminds me that the Chasidic master, the Baal Shem Tov, taught his students that humor and laughter can take you from a state of constricted consciousness to an ex- panded consciousness. And everyone loves to laugh. One of the cruelist current misogynistic memes is that women, and especially feminists, have no sense of humor. That’s why it has been hard to forgive Louis C.K. for his comment that there’s “a fight between comedians and feminists which are natural enemies, because feminists can’t take a joke.” Oh, for heavens’ sake! Hasn’t he heard of Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Gilda Radner, Tracy Ullman, Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho, Phoebe Robinson, and…Betty White? And frankly, speaking of humorless- ness, I think the male left has little competition in that arena! MS: So true! Okay! Well, all this discussion about humor and politics and consciousness, is © 2019 TIKKUN MAGAZINE 35