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Saturday, December 11, 2021

It’s Not Funny!!–Really? What’s Not Funny About Hectoring Ankle-Biters And Overripe Climate Windbags?

Greta Thunberg, teenage climate activist, had just finished hectoring another group of world leaders about their disgraceful lagging on environmental issues.  They were nothing but fat, overripe, elitist windbags who needed a talking to; and Greta, darling of the liberal left, poster child for climate change, and Vogue cover girl, let them have it.  

Didn’t they know, she lectured, how irresponsible they were?  How sashaying up to Big Oil, sitting down with them to dinners of foie gras and game hen, skirting the issue and meandering into comfort zones of mutual interest was tantamount to genocide? 

How were they any different from those who tended their sheep while Hitler roasted Jews in the ovens?  Do the right thing she howled, shaking her fist at the assemblage, rising up to her full moral posture, spreading her arms, looking agonizingly up to the gilt, chandeliered, Tiepolo ceiling, and saying, tearfully, “Why has Thou forsaken me?”

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Donald Trump, watching the video of her performance, said that although she was a very happy young girl, he wouldn’t want to go to a party with her.  

The Left went apoplectic.  The most cruel, insensitive, bigoted slander that this demon had ever uttered.  How could he? they asked.  How could he rag on the new, young hope for the climate? It was just like him to pile on innocence, to derogate the inspirational words of an environmental saint, and to smear the good intentions of a voice of impassioned reason.

Everyone else howled with laughter.  The whole idea of a young ankle-biter, barely tall enough to see over the podium, a girl with not one drop of humor, propped up and used by an image-addled media, banging away at heads of state, was worth the price of admission.  It was the main event of an international Barnum & Bailey circus.  No headliner at Grossingers, no Jackie Mason or Henny Youngman was ever funnier.  Eddie Murphy at his most raw, uncensored, incorrect, and hilarious could not hold a candle to young Greta Thunberg.

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Of course she never intended to be funny - climate change is an existential threat ignored at the world’s peril – but her performance was priceless.   There she was, a girl who, said Donald Trump, should ‘work on her anger management problem and then go to an old-fashioned movie with a friend’, standing on a world stage thumping and thundering away at old men as if she would actually outlive her fifteen minutes of fame.

The old men couldn’t have responded more to script.  They nodded, smiled, frowned, and clapped at the right moments.  They enjoyed the lashing of this girl and grimaced with penitential pain as she drove the nails in deeper and deeper.

‘Cowards’, she yelled, ‘pusillanimous, craven pimps of the oil bitch; running dogs of capitalist imperialism…’

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At this moment, an aide slipped her a note, and she, like any good preacher, paused for effect, smiled, and continued on in more temperate, conciliatory tone (the note had told her to hold the running dog, Maoist allusions).  “I know our task won’t be easy”, she said in a very measured way. “But if we work together, we can succeed”.  

The old men smiled and sat up in their seats.  They had been thrown a bone, and they wanted to chew on it. But the best was yet to come as Greta, charged now with a righteous passion she had never before felt, heady with the scent of power in the air and on the highest pinnacle of right, continued.  

“You moral weaklings”, she said.  “You hirelings, lackeys to greed, acolytes to evil…” and here again the aide slipped her a note, this time with a summary warning (Shut up!); but Greta was on a roll, juices flowing, the sense of control, power, and conviction indescribable. 

Finally she left the stage, worn and spent, to thunderous applause.  She had prevailed.

Of course the conservative media had a field day with her crucifixion imagery; and photoshopped pictures of her on the cross with the sword of a Monopoly capitalist deep in her side went viral.  So did the ‘running dogs’ reprise of Maoist era anti-capitalist propaganda.  It was hilarious, a media side show.  Not only was Greta’s performance the best of ironic stand-up comedy, it was the beginning of an at-last blow-back at progressive sanctimony.  The genie was out of the bottle, and no more would conservatives sit on their hands and hope that liberal sanctimony would disappear. 

It was perhaps unfair to pillory Greta so.  She was only a young girl who had been used by the media that knew a great story when they saw one.  She most certainly had the environmental concerns of most of her age group – where would idealism be without the young? – but thanks to her ambitious family and opportunistic advisors she simply added outrage to this youthful idealism and became a star.

Of course Greta Thunberg is not the only vaudevillian on the world stage.  What about Nancy Pelosi, looking scary as she looked into the cameras and said, without a trace of irony, that she could never forgive Donald Trump for his January 6th massacre of innocent people at the Capitol? How perfectly soap opera, tailored suit, pancake Toulouse Lautrec make up, stern, injured look, shamelessly playing to her daytime audience.  

Or Bill Clinton, “I never had sex with that woman” or “It all depends on what is, is”.  Or the tearful Mark Sanford admitting that he never hiked the Appalachian Trail as he had claimed but was in bed in Buenos Aires with his Argentine Firecracker.  Or the side show Congressional hearings where Kamala Harris went after Brett Kavanagh in an attack worthy of the Salem witch trials, a scripted operatic performance ready for prime time Turkish dizis.  Or Gary Hart, former Senator and Presidential candidate who fooled around like nobody’s business, denied it, and challenged the press to find him out, which they did, sending him back toColorado sooner than he ever expected.

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Exaggeration and hysteria are the staples of comedy.  Anyone who took himself too seriously back in the day was ripe for the savagery of the Borscht Belt and the Carnegie Delicatessen.  No one got away with anything in the days of  Sid Caesar, Don Rickles, and Buddy Hackett.  Now everyone except white men are off limits for comedy.  

The ankle-biting Alexandria Octavio-Cortez, just as prime meat for satire and comedy as Greta Thunberg, is off limits because she is a woman and a minority.  Her calculated disingenuousness, cute, pert persona covering sharp beak and talons, is left alone.  She is free to say whatever, whenever. 

There is no more hilarious a character than the Reverend Al Sharpton, former ambulance chaser, unreconstructed racial rabble-rouser, and sanctimonious television bore.  He has slimmed down since his Tawana Brawley days , looking a bit chicken-necked, but properly studious; and he has trimmed his 70s locks to a discrete mullet, but he is a must-watch for the images of self-importance and me-me advocacy.  

Sharpton is the political Zsa Zsa Gabor, a Hollywood celebrity for being a celebrity.  Zsa Zsa did nothing of any professional significance.  She never sang, she never acted, she was never a stand-in or body double.  She was simply a television personality for the age of image – a delightfully ditzy, blonde, conversationalist.  

No one can take Sharpton seriously.  How can they when he shamelessly meets with ‘the victims of white racial hatred’, marches at the head of the biggest Black Lives Matter parade, is a mouthpiece for every liberal piece of scat every single day of the week without ever running out of opportunities.

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And yet this windy, irrelevant preacher is given a bye by just about everyone.

Sid Caesar once remarked that everything is funny.  Nothing is off limits or out of bounds.  We in the privacy of our own homes laugh at the missteps of others. Black radicals slip on banana peels just like white accountants; blind men have trouble eating peas; the walks of some disabled people – teetering, tottering, but straight – can be clownish; lisps, stutters, and tics can be funny.  Priests can be funny in the way they shoot their chasubles like cufflinked sleeves, or thrust the host and the chalice upwards like a fence post ready to be slammed into place.  

Sweating, tearful evangelists are funny,  Old Jews telling jokes are funny. A pious neighborhood full of Toyota Priuses is funny as well as one with rainbow signs on every lawn. Predictable collective behavior,  kneeling in the same pew, reciting the same litany from the same prayer book is laughable. 

Humor is the great leveler, the grader of overblown ambition, the scraper of pomposity and arrogation.  It is the great unifier of absurdities – we all have our ridiculous side and better we know about it before it gets out of hand.  All in the Family, the Archie Bunker television series of a few decades ago had it right in principle  - there is something to laugh at in everyone, stereotypes are real, and there is no harm in bursting bubbles of self-importance.  We need Archie Bunker more than ever in this sanctimonious era of identity.

When did we get so thin-skinned, asks Bill Maher who in his early days as a stand-up comedian was a very funny man?  Why are we so quick to look for umbrage and injury? Can’t we take a joke any more?  Obviously not, and it is no fun living in such a censorious age where everything written, spoken, or acted is looked through the narrow, myopic lens of race, gender, and ethnicity. 

On the bright side, Donald Trump will be the likely winner in the Presidential election of 2024.  Conservative politics aside, the first Trump years were a wonderful, outrageous, hilarious show of political incorrectness, sharp one-liners, ad hominem hilarity, and downright showmanship.  

The Left hated Trump not so much for his politics but because he did not take them seriously.  He cared nothing for their received wisdom,  assumptions of settled science and settled philosophy, and moral presumptuousness.  He felt no compunction as President to hold back on anything.  Everyone and everything was fair game; and popping the Left’s balloon was the best way to return the country to sanity.

The era of the current dull, uninspired, humorless, puppet President will soon be over, and the hysterical faux-rage of the progressive Left will be quieted.  It will take a while for humor to return, but it will.

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