LAUGHING MATTERS.

AuthorHiggins, Maeve
PositionMAEVE IN AMERICA

When The Wall Street Journal writes about comedy, you know it's going to be funny. Not intentionally funny, of course, but funny.

Not long ago, the paper ran an opinion piece by Matthew Hennessey, a member of its editorial staff. It was titled, "Jim Gaffigan, Donald Trump, and the Death of Laughter." I mean, the drama of the headline alone is hilarious to me!

The writer was mad at Jim Gaffigan, an affable and very talented stand-up comic, for expressing his feelings about the President. Gaffigan is not a Trump fan, and earlier that week he had tweeted his criticism, particularly concerning Trump's constant lying and the hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths under his watch.

As one of Gaffigan's 3.2 million Twitter followers, I saw those tweets. They were truthful and angry, and didn't make me laugh. Fine by me, but not by The Wall Street Journal.

"Hollywood stars are entirely at liberty to offend half (or all) their fans with provocative statements," Hennessey clucked. "Actors and singers do it all the time. But for some reason when it comes from a comedian it feels like more of a betrayal. Laughter is therapeutic. We turn to comedians the way we turn to doctors--for healing, for relief, for reassurance that everything will be OK in the end."

As a comedian, I beg of you, don't do this! I barely chew my food correctly and I have literally no medical training. Laughter is not the best medicine, medicine is the best medicine, OK?

Athletes who speak up for social justice are told to shut up and dribble, but many refuse to do that, often risking their careers in the process. Comedians, the soft-bodied opposite of athletes, are also entitled to our voices.

Besides, we can bring our whole selves to the conversation, to make you laugh and make a point. It does not have to be one or the other.

Many comedians--including Dick Gregory on race, George Carlin on climate change, and Maria Bamford on mental illness--are known for being damning, honest, and very funny. I am all for comedians being loud about what they think is right and wrong. What I'm not so sure about is how our voices effect change in others, if that is what we are attempting to do.

It's difficult to quantify exactly what makes a culture shift and change. It's close to impossible to measure the impact of a few Jim Gaffigan tweets on a person's choice in the privacy of a voting booth. So I've been looking out for something more tangible. In the past few months, I've found...

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