Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

“…the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and

William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act III, Scene 2

The humorless John Conyers

Much has already been said and written about Stephen Colbert’s testimony before the House last week regarding migrant workers. Too bad, I’m chiming in anyway.

Many may not realize that Colbert was speaking about plight of migrant workers because the press, both liberal and conservative and even “moderate” obsessed about there being a *gasp* comedian in that Capital and what an insult/joke/degradation etc. that is.

Because of course, having Elmo, lying steroid addled athletes, the massively under-qualified Alberto Gonzalez testify before the House were such dignified events. As if allowing someone like Louis Gohmert or Michelle Bachmann let anything come out of their ignorant and crazy mouths in the halls of congress were remotely respectful.

This wasn’t a disease suffered only by FOX anchors, Chuck Todd who was at one time a promising and bright analyst for MSNBC but who has become a barely articulate mouth breather of an anchor whined incessantly about the dignity of the House as if he hadn’t been covering Washington for the past two years.

Apparently, the press will do anything but discuss the plight of migrant workers, the sorry state of our nation’s farms and farmers and the decline of the American Agricultural tradition. It’s easier (lazier) to focus on the trivial and make it a big fucking deal.

Note to Chuck Todd: When you’re in the same company as Megyn Kelly, check yourself.

So far as I can tell, only Keith Olbermann and Lawrence O’Donnell actually covered and discussed the meat of what Colbert was addressing and why he was brought in to testify. Only these two of the press, that I can find, and John Stewart, even approached the seriousness of the situation. Is it possible that only these three individuals understand the purpose of satire in the national media?

It’s possible. The media is filled with idiots and sycophants, after all, as we already know. It’s also possible that the media, which is pretty much 100% corporate owned, doesn’t want us talking about these things at all. But that’s another subject….or rather an offshoot of the same subject.

What I want to discuss is America’s growing lack of a sense of humor which I believe can be traced right down to the chipping away of arts education. As an actor I am of course an advocate for arts education in our public schools and it should be no surprise that I believe arts education is more important than what are generally called, the basics.

Why, you may ask?

Learning about theater, dance, music and visual arts opens up both sides of the brain. It stimulates creativity and creative thinking. It provides a very strong foundation with which to learn math, science, reading and writing. It teaches you to approach the world from a more rounded standpoint than a narrow, left brained training.

We learn through the arts, how to play and by learning how to play, we learn how to work.

But in the last couple of decades we have seen and experienced not only the cutting of arts education from schools, but the dismissal of it as a luxury. As if there is nothing to be gained from understanding what an artist might be trying to communicate or what goes into learning and bringing a part to life on stage, etc. As if a stimulated imagination has nothing to do with anything else in the world.

We can certainly get into a discussion on whether this is actually part of an overall strategy to keep the masses under educated in order to keep the powerful in power and I would agree with that assessment, but that’s also another blog post for another day.

The other thing that comes with arts education is a broadening of a sense of humor. Any education that involves being creative does this. Human beings love to laugh and we find new ways to do it whenever we can.

Unless you’re Gallagher. Taking a hammer to a watermelon is great and hilarious…when you’re 8 years. Then, hopefully, you grow up and it becomes mildly amusing but you need some good, strong satire, of whatever political bent, to really get your mind going.

And this is what Stephen Colbert gave us last week.

John Conyers, a congressman whose politics are much aligned with mine but who is, largely, a rather humorless man (and I have followed him for about 25 years now) let that lack of sense of humor get the best of him.

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the embarrassment.

Not that Stephen Colbert testified in character, but that John Conyers didn’t get it. That Chuck Todd, most of the House, all of Fox News and most of the rest of the media DIDN’T GET that the joke is on us. That is what shames me as an American.

Nancy Pelosi got it. Clearly Zoe Lofgren, who requested his testimony got it. What she didn’t get was that she was surrounded by colleagues and a press too narrowminded and too childish to think or to understand. Her mistake was in assuming that her colleagues both left and right were smart enough to get it. Her mistake was thinking that the press would instead of asking what the steak was seasoned with would skip right to the dessert of bad rice pudding with off brand jello.

Yes, in that one day that he worked, Colbert became more of an expert on the subject than anyone in that room who wasn’t testifying. By a long shot.

Colbert’s testimony, joke by joke, jeered at the lack of action, the lack of character and the lack of maturity that one finds in today’s politics and in so doing made clear what happens to people when politicians act as they do. He even brilliantly brought it home with a final, sober and out of character statement that to spoke our humanity and human dignity.

But our own lack of humor allows us to buy the nonsense that FOX, Todd and the rest feed us.

As an artist, Stephen Colbert held the mirror up to nature, and nature didn’t like what looked back at it, so…it whined about the mirror instead of itself.

It is to laugh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank God for guys like Colbert and Stewart. I was watching Colbert be a migrant worker on his show this week, and he's so funny; he really knows how to make fun of himself.

You'd love the high school I went to back in the day. During January - March we actually carved out about an hour of school time so we could put on a school musical. EVERYONE had to be in it. Singing, dancing, handmade costumes, stage managing, etc. Total train wreck city. My parents tried every excuse to get out of going because it was so bad, but I loved it.

Good post. Not surprised they don't take comedians seriously in Congress - they're too busy taking themselves as seriously as they can.