IS SATIRE DEAD?

February 10th, 2017                                                                                    *still in Mexico

Various funny people have been asking themselves lately if satire is now a dead horse, and if it is a dead horse, is it still worth beating?

Or: Is satire dead?

Firstly – The more pain and injustice there is, the more smart people will suffer internally, and the more smart people suffer internally, the more they will make jokes as a last bid to avoid entering mental institutions.

Secondly – Let’s talk dead horses. If I actually saw a man in the street beating a dead horse, I would not primarily think, “oh, that’s pointless,” and walk on by. I would more likely think, “oh no, that man is deranged,” and “oh, that poor horse, I know it’s dead but I can’t stop the instinctual activation of my reserves of pity” and “why the hell is this injustice happening” and “egad, I’d better call the authorities.”

Unless I didn’t trust the authorities. In which case I would likely be traumatized by my feelings of powerlessness in witnessing the event, and write about it.

I don’t believe satire will die just because the government is rude and hyperbolic and absurdist. Nor do I think current circumstances kill our need for rude, hyperbolic, absurdist artwork.

Great satire is lifted up by these qualities: intelligence, a clear-eyed sense of injustice, big picture analysis, and an unflinching commitment to examining ourselves at our worst.

Real satire is more coherent than a government led by colicky toddlers. Beating a dead horse might not bring the horse back to life but it can make you think and feel – about the horse, about the man who keeps beating, about absurdity, about desperation, about the social conditions of the man and the horse.

We need great works of satire in the intimate and ambitious mediums of theater, novels, and poetry.

Anything that can laughed at should be taken seriously, and vice versa.

SOME YELP REVIEWS OF HUMAN EMOTIONS

GRIEF – 1/27/17

Uncovered some grief after a visit to Brooklyn Open Acupuncture. They say life is a comedy to those who think, tragedy to those who feel. Certainly, joke-telling can keep painful feelings at bay, but I have some healing to do, so I let a nice woman put needles in my earlobes. Grief came to visit the next day, and for a full week thereafter. Pros: The despair was served with unexpected pairings of relief, calm, and joy. Cons: As far as feelings go, this one is a little overwhelming; not for beginners. Regardless, I’d call experiencing it a must for anyone else with trauma, tight shoulders, trump administration.

4 out of 5 stars (due to overwhelm)

GRATITUDE – 1/25/17

Brought in my commission play to my writer’s group at Ars Nova and was various shades of grateful. The other writers said smart things; they did not derail my process; some of them had acting backgrounds; there was pizza. Pros: This emotion is straightforward. It can be easily handled by small children. Cons: This emotion is self-satisfied and will not actually write the next draft of your play. It can also easily annoy others when put on public display. Are you over 30 and on the internet? Then I strongly caution against expressing gratitude. FYI, I am not bragging right now by publicly sharing. I am just trying to write an honest review. – Kate, age 6

3 out of 5 stars (due to tricky handling requirements for adults)

DELIGHT – 1/31/17

I am writing this review from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. I will soon also be visiting the Yucatan, Mexico City, and a butterfly sanctuary. This creates anticipatory delight, e.g: I am delighted I will not have to visit the butterfly sanctuary by horseback because I am deathly allergic to horses and do not wish to die. This past weekend I visited the famous indigenous church in San Juan Chamula, with its floor covered in pine needles, rows of saints, and rainbow candles. I was delighted by the scent, the glow, and the beautiful unfamiliarity of rituals witnessed, such as a healer passing a chicken over a young boy’s body. I quietly asked the space to help lift some of my pain. Con: I don’t think there are any real cons to this emotion. Delight is fleeting. Catch it while you can.

5 out of 5 stars