Thursday, September 28, 2017

A word or two on satire.

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/
noun
  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

I am an avid fan of The Onion and The New Yorker's Borowitz ReportI love Da Ali G Show, The Flight of the Conchords, and Saturday Night Live. I love movies like What We Do in the Shadows and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. For as long as I can remember, I've loved artists that use sarcasm to poke fun at traditional themes, historical events, or icons. And damn, I love it when I find a book that can really make me question reality and laugh out loud.

Well executed and wicked satire is rare, and it usually blows my mind when I come across it. The best satire books I've read include The True Account: A Novel of the Lewis and Clark and Kinneson Expeditions by Howard Frank Mosher (I RUE THE DAY I lent this book to someone), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Graham Smith, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain (the original Snarky McSnarkykins).


Satire makes the hard realities of life easier to digest. For hundreds of years, American political satirists have not just provided us with a laugh - they've showed us alternate ways of looking at issues that impact all of us. When Melissa McCarthy spoofed White House spokesperson Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live, I knew in my heart I wasn't the only American thinking every single press conference Spicer held was a freaking train wreck. McCarthy's exaggerated performance showed Spicer's worst qualities for all the world to see. Not long after, the Trump administration quickly removed "Spicey" from his high profile position. I wasn't surprised. By poking fun at something or someone, we reduce the power it/they has over us. 

Once upon a time, I wrote satire myself (mostly out of boredom), in the form of one-page stories written only for the eyes of my friends and trusted coworkers. The most memorable one, The Undertone of Poo, was a soliloquy that became famous within a small circle of friends. (I wish I still had it - I need it for my portfolio.) I wrote The Undertone of Poo because my boss ignored the fact that his male employees were shitting in the one women's bathroom and covered it up with flowery air freshener spray. Hence the title.

Mark Twain wrote, "[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand."

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