There’s some sense of truth behind every joke. If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t be funny. The pieces of truth that give comedy its punch can create a commentary about a political or social situation, effectively and creatively revealing dissatisfaction about an issue in a way that other forms of communication cannot.
As part of the Center for Arts and Humanities’ “Comedy, Seriously” series, comedian Baratunde Thurston shared this idea in his hilarious talk last night at Colby. In one of the most engaging and down-right funny events I have attended, Baratunde demonstrated how he uses the creative power of humor as a form of persuasion. Also an internet entrepreneur, Thurston shared how the internet can be used as a forum for comedy-based communication. Thurston highlighted the potential the internet has for constructing “new way ways of interacting with the world”; saying that the connections that online comedy creates can help to counteract bodies of centralized power.
Although comedy can carry sophisticated, politically-oriented messages, Baratunde emphasized the fact that the role of the comedian is not to get people to organize politically. Humor challenges people to think about their views and convictions, but humor alone is not a rallying force. Efforts of real political action must be created alongside humor in order to actually challenge the injustices that comedy mocks. A parody or funny video clip will not change a situation. However, we can use humor as a form of expression; as a fuel for getting people emotionally involved with a cause. It is up to us to use the awareness political satire creates to actually initiate change, to take that frustration expressed by a joke and convert it into action.
As Baratunde closed with last night, let’s use the tools we have available to us – be funny, communicate online, spread your ideas and take in the ideas of others. Don’t just make jokes, but act on them. Next big opportunity coming up on Nov 6 – get out there and vote!