Comedians provide important cultural insight

Comedy tends to be the least respected yet most enjoyable form of entertainment.

Some comedians like Daniel Tosh may be able to make people laugh, yet it’s clear  the only goal of his routine is laughter, there is no thought to be had.

However, many comedians have an underlying intelligence that is surprising; considering their profession.

One notable example is George Carlin. One day he will have a routine complaining about airplanes, but another day he will have a routine deconstructing consumerism in our modern culture and our insatiable need to amass possessions with no foreseeable goal.

Carlin was an especially brilliant comedian. He was a master of the English language and you would often see his brilliant grasp of linguistics in his routines, such as when he explained how the phrase shell shock devolved into post traumatic stress disorder.

We still have stand-up comedians this brilliant today. One notable example is the popular Louis C.K. who offers his insight into everything from how easily our culture takes modern technology for granted to anti-environmentalist Christians being hypocritical for not trying to preserve the environment that was created specifically for them.

Another great comedian is Lewis Black. Black will often point out the nonsense of creationism or how little sense our two party political system makes. His comedy is not obscene for the sake of being obscene, but because he is trying to make a point, and he does it well.

It’s not just stand up comedians that can be underestimated either. On the same network (Comedy Central) that has some of the lowest forms of comedy, we also see the brilliant mind of Jon Stewart.

Jon Stewart deconstructs everything that is wrong with modern news media on a daily basis. Often when he attempts to seriously denounce problems he sees in the mainstream news media he is hit with the criticism that he is a comedian, despite the fact that even as a comedian he is more reliable than the people who pretend to do actual news.

Of course this is more of a sad reflection on the state of our news media, but it still speaks to his brilliance as a comedian that he can have such sharp political commentary while at the same time turning every major news headline into a massive joke.

Stewart calls out politicians and news pundits for being hypocrites and uses footage of the people themselves to do it. People claim he is hiding behind being a comedian, but Jon Stewart doesn’t just do comedy, he does satire.

Much like Mark Twain back in his day, Jon Stewart is a master at using humour to make powerful political and social commentary.

Then there is Stephen Colbert, a liberal who pretends to be a conservative in order to mock conservatives. This is even more clever as he brilliantly points out the flaws in many conservative arguments while often pretending to argue passionately for it. If you didn’t know it was all a joke, there are some days where you might actually mistake him for a republican.

Colbert really does touch on everything, from the really big political news to celebrity gossip, all while mocking the speech, mannerisms and program style of Bill O’ Reilly and other similar pundits.

He also intentionally keeps his own personal views a mystery, as they aren’t always as liberal as Jon Stewart’s.

A great quotation from Colbert demonstrating his particular brand of humour comes from his interview with NYU Jon Sexton “I like that ineffable thing, cause I then get to say: I can’t explain it — I am right, though”

Comedians in general tend to be underestimated due to what can be viewed as the low brow nature of their profession.

The same person who makes fart jokes will turn around in the same comedy routine and deliver scathing social or political satire. It’s easy to disregard the comedian for his fart jokes, yet his political satire is still extremely powerful.

Of course comedians aren’t always disregarded. Jon Stewart pretty much shut down CNN’s Crossfire when he came on the show to tell them, and I quote, “You’re hurting America.” Louis C.K. is one of the most popular comedians today.

Still, despite the seemingly juvenile nature of some of their jokes, there are a lot of comedians who have something insightful to say and often a very creative way to say it.

Mike Rauser is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].