I'm going to tell you a wonderful, wonderful story that happened to me one time:
I was perusing the works of the late, great George Carlin, one of my biggest heroes growing up. This was back in the day when you had to catch the special on HBO or else rent the video from Blockbuster (only a five-minute ride from my house on dinosaur-back). And I caught the one time in his stage act where he ripped into parents and children. Thanks to the miracle of modern YouTube, the clip is available here:
As I watched that routine, as I listened to a man I'd laughed at and loved for most of my life, a funny thing happened:
I began to become offended!
I don't know why, maybe my guard was down, but this time I caught myself saying
"Oh, no, George, that's going too far!"
I mean, children! We were all children once. And as a dad of four, I'm pretty damn satisfied with myself for being the parent I've been.
That little flash of irritation passed, and then I laughed out loud at myself. A wonderful thing happened:
In that moment, it suddenly hit me that George Carlin had in the past joked about rape, incest, violence, death, suicide, war, genocide, Hitler, sex, men, women, and animals and had used every possible conceivable foul word in every possible string of combinations.
This is, after all, the man who got arrested for using too many dirty words. And he hadn't gotten to me. I'd just chuckle and shake my head, there goes that crazy outrageous George. Always trying to shock me!
But this time, I had the epiphany that George Carlin must have figured there were people such as I in his fan base. Smug jerks like me who dared him to offend us - I'll show you, I'm too resilient! So Carlin most likely said,
"this time I'll knock the chip off the parents' shoulders!"
Without that moment of raising my hackles and growling at the infidel, I would not know that George was actually considering it his life's mission to give us all that flash of recognition: this is what it feels like to sit on the other side of the judge's bench.
But I got over it!
If it weren't for that instant of being offended, I would never have discovered that I have this superpower. The wonderful, magical ability to be offended, and then get over it! I'm still considering sewing up a superhero costume and calling myself OverItMan.
Courage, you know, isn't just not being scared. Courage is being scared as hell and facing it anyway.
Likewise, large-mindedness isn't just being this flawless, offense-proof Uberhuman. Large-mindedness is also about catching yourself being small-minded once in a while, then snapping yourself out of it. It's a growth opportunity. When he says in his routine there,
"The sooner you face it, the better off you're going to be!"
Can We All Learn The Magic Power Of Get-Over-It?
And now for the present day: One of my favorite present comedians, Louis C.K., is in the hot seat. This isn't about his sexual scandal (and yes, he's still a favorite of mine, because I separate the work from the artist), but about his jokes about survivors of school shootings.
The Millennial "politically correct" hate-squad on the Internet decided that was too offensive. One of my favorite news sites (which doesn't mean I always agree with them), Vox.com, mourned the words of Louis and colleague Aziz Ansari as "a loss for us all."
Oh, God, great, what did Aziz do now? Well, it turns out all he did was ridicule the Millennial "politically correct" hate-squad on the Internet. Ooooh, how dare he! Well, he's alright, but he's not in my favorite comedians' list.
But before we get too far ahead, let's back up to George Carlin again. Did you watch that whole YouTube clip? Because in the second half, he goes after the school-shooter angle too! He jokes when he was a kid and there was a school shooting, they went right on with their arithmetic: "35 classmates minus 4…"
Hey, wait a minute: Where was the outrage at George Carlin?
How come he didn't get Vox.com shaming him and his shows all canceled?
Because of all the classic comedians, Carlin is revered as a saint by that very same Millennial era. He's still spoken of in glowing terms by everybody I see from where I'm sitting. Meanwhile, Kevin Hart has to keep apologizing for gay jokes he made ten years ago.
Stand-up comedy is under attack. The PC politically correct inquisition is just not going to let this free speech stuff happen.
Because we sure yell about having the right to free speech from the government, but when it comes to each other, we can't seem to allow that same liberty from our fellow humans.
For once, this isn't a USA issue, but a factor in the UK, EU, AU, all over the world. And it leads to real-world censorship, such as when Hasan Minhaj got censored by Netflix in Saudi Arabia. I've never even checked out his act yet, so I don't know if he's in my favorites list or not.
It reminds me of when Kathy Griffin got sacked from her New Years' Eve gig for posing with a dummy mock-up of president Donald Trump's severed head, which she's still catching hell about.
Now, I'm not going to get into sides on the Trump issue. He's probably a very well-intentioned Fuhrer. I can't even bring myself to side with Kathy Griffin, because I always found her mildly tolerable to adorably kooky at best.
But how many of you out there condemning Kathy Griffin to know about this parade float on the streets of Germany?
That happened before Griffin's incident, and again, where was your outrage then???
Oops, that must have happened before the cut-off date for ridiculing Trump. So to speak. I mean, I read Trump's Twitter feed and I see what you all reply to him. The hate squad has a lot worse to say to Trump's face, believe me!
The Surprisingly Noble Heritage Of Stand-Up Comedy
A lot of you might be tempted to dismiss the profession of a comedian as being trivial, something you do if you can't make it in the real world. But hearken back to the Medieval era - ironically starting to look like an enlightened time compared to now - and you have the court jester. To quote one historian…
"The Medieval Jester held privileges which were not afforded to many other persons at court. The court jester was one of the few characters in the court who could freely speak his mind without causing offense and somebody who could use humor to mock, jibe and joke about the lords, ladies, and nobles of the court. Jesters came from a wide variety of backgrounds and many of them were well educated."
That was a necessary right to have explicitly granted because anybody else who gave the king sass found themselves on the wrong end of the executioner's ax in short order. But the jester was there to help people learn the magical, miraculous, wondrous power of Get-Over-It!
Yes, those were times when there were no constitutions, and kings were monarchs with too much power, so we're slowly getting rid of them. But power doesn't just go away; instead, it has dissipated to the masses and now all of us are kings and queens of the court. We, too, need our court jesters.
Let me introduce you to the king of true jesters in our modern time.
This is the comedian - ask any stand-up comedy comedian you ever find - whom all the other comedians look up to. Ladies and gentlemen, crack open your prescription blood pressure medication and prepare to be offended with a vengeance:
Lenny Bruce was likewise arrested for his comedy act, at a time during the mid-20th-century when saying the kinds of things he'd say on stage could get you beat up. Nevertheless, he's not one of my favorite comedians, simply because he's too outdated to be relevant now. But I revere him anyway because by all accounts he was a hero.
You Don't Have To Agree With Comedians!
Wait, let me rephrase that:
You Don't Have To Agree With Anybody!
You don't even have to agree with me.
You're on my blog right now, so as long as I'm buying the drinks you're obligated to go on silently fuming as you listen. It'll be my turn to fume soon enough. Oh yes, I fume all the time, I find plenty to get fumed about.
But I GET OVER IT.
Maybe it's too late. I mean, losing comedians is a shame, but those of us who like being offended and take several offenses before breakfast will still be the market for line-pushing comedians anyway. I can't make the rest of you take your vitamins, but I'll be damned if you take mine away.
Let's get away from comedians and focus on a closing example of an entirely different feather:
Some of you might recall that I write extensively about horror movies, in the context of writing about movies in general.
And in studying up on the horror genre, there's one name that you can't avoid for long: H. P. Lovecraft. The recent film Bird Box is said to be another in a long line of Lovecraft-inspired works. The thing is, I've read Lovecraft's biography, and no matter what else I think of his work, the man was a poop. He was a racist, misogynistic, bigoted, sour, thin, runny, poop.
And he wrote like he'd just as soon wipe his ass on the paper as write on it.
But he didn't just write in the horror genre, he invented like a whole third of it! Everybody knows his Cthulhu mythos, but he also wrote about ghosts and murders and ancient Egyptian gods and zombies and aliens.
Mary Shelley had Frankenstein and Bram Stoker had Dracula, then Edgar Allen Poe recognized this added up to a horror genre and laid the foundation for it, and then along came H.P. Lovecraft and said: "Right, I'll fill in the rest." Nobody less than Stephen King acknowledges Lovecraft as his chief influence.
I can't stand Lovecraft. He was a bigoted poop, he was a sour cuss that cast a gloomy cloud over everyone who crossed his path, he was stunningly backward and ignorant even for his time, the film Re-Animator based on his work is over-rated, and his writing to me sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Worst of all, Lovecraft hated his own profession; he considered it shameful that he had to scribble away his life in pulp magazines for a petty living, dying a pauper because he hated his own gift.
H. P. Lovecraft is my favorite horror author.
Because I can GET OVER IT.
And in case you're wondering if I smugly consider myself better than the people who can't get over it - why, yes, as a matter of fact, I am.
You don't have to agree with me.
Hell, *I* don't even have to agree with me!