Nanette, Owen Benjamin and How the Death of Comedy Sucks

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For whatever reason, this old text keeps getting views so I share it with you.


When Hannah Gadsby announced that she quit comedy, all the media world-wide fawned. How wonderful. She was about to go around with a trite program, “Nanette,” and expected to play it a handful of times before frying chips at a McDonald’s for the rest of her life. What she could not expect was the wave of support and the international interest in her retirement. She got a Netflix special, well-paid gigs and finally she had to admit that the revived interest makes it impossible for her to follow through. The money is more important than accusations of hypocrisy.


What happened? It used to be a joke that people would make street music with the sign that says, “I stop singing for a dime.” But this joke is real and big. A comedian quits and people are so happy about it that she becomes a star over it.

Who wants comedians to quit? Comedy harms the powerful first and foremost. There is a level of irreverence and uncontrollable honesty that ships with the art. So the celebration of an end of comedy is natural for the news media. I read not only one, but TWO articles about her in my German newspaper ZEIT. But there are also certain personalities who have an interest in taking down comedy.

Totalitarianism is the revenge of the stupid.


Imagine you have spent all your life nervously trying to figure out when others start laughing so that you don’t do it at the wrong time. It must be very stressful. Many people claim that it is impossible to detect satire on the internet. We see a flood of emoticons because some people really, really cannot figure out if you are serious or not. Better be safe than sorry. But why is it that some people understand jokes and others don’t?


A joke reveals something, contains a little riddle, gives cues, and relies on the listener to figure it out. Imagine you happen to overlook contradictions regularly. Imagine you could be told sentences like “The private individual must abide to the constitution” and would not notice the obvious contradiction between “abide to constitution” and a person who does not represent any part of the state. How easy would your life be if we did no longer laugh? How much less embarrassing would it be if people did never hint, but alway had to spell out unambiguously what they have in mind? If it’s not hostile and they are well-behaved, there should be no reason for jokes, should there?


One of the articles about Hannah Gadsby in my newspaper was written by Hannah Passmann. ZEIT is trying to build her up as a kind of house star like Milo when he was with Breitbart. They also made a podcast with her and without listening much into it, I can quickly tell that she is not funny. Even Michelle Wolf, Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer are funnier than her. Passman called Gadsby the best comedian of all times. We are hitting the bottom.


Some cartoon shows are still on the air, but for how long? After the destruction of the  high-rating sitcom Roseanne, it is reasonable to assume that the anti-humor juggernaut will soon roll over all the fun that is left. By the way, I want to apologize to apes if they feel compared to Valerie Jarret. I am racist enough to consider apes lower than humans, but not lower than Jarret and the mob that went after Roseanne in her name. It takes the lowest spirit to see a mob in one’s name and not to stop it. That message also goes to German soccer player Jérôme Boateng.


Still there is something that the entertainment industry calls comedy. They are shows and events where laughs from the audience are somewhat common. They are not heard because some insight was had, but because the authority of a blinking ‘applause’ sign sets people into a frenzy.


And Owen Benjamin? We wouldn’t even hear about him if it were not for the death of humor. He has turned his profession into activism against the humorlessness. The problem is that he is not funny. Comedians who are and who have an audience to lose when they speak up fear the end of their professional lives as the mobs keep roaming around.