The Death of Comedy

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….a small, blue planet teemed with life. The planet was inhabited by bipedal creatures called human beings. Human beings possessed remarkable intelligence. They harnessed the power of fire, and they invented the wheel. They created a series of complex languages, so they could communicate with one another. They turned these spoken languages into a system of symbols, a written language. They wrote books in thanksgiving of their Creator. They wrote books about the world around them. They wrote books to entertain and convey emotion. They also created music. They created music in thanksgiving of their Creator. They created music about the world around them. They created music to entertain and convey emotion. Emotion was important to human beings because they viewed love and loss as a distinctly human condition. They laughed. They cried. They took pleasure in irony, and they labeled this gift humor. They prized humor because it facilitated laughter.

Until, one day, someone wrote a book called This Is What Offends Me. The book contained a list of topics deemed too sensitive for humorous discussion, like religion, race, and political beliefs. Not all religions were deemed sensitive, only some. Not all races were deemed sensitive, only some. Not all political beliefs were deemed sensitive, only some. The human beings who didn’t find their religions, races, and political beliefs in the book became offended. They suggested the book shouldn’t exist, but they were rebuffed. Since their arguments against the book fell on deaf ears, they decided to add their religions, races, and political beliefs to the book as well. Other topics were added to the book. Diseases. Cultures. Foods that represented cultures. Colors. Genders. Sexual orientation. The book grew…and grew…and the book grew some more.

Some time later, a funny human being walked across the stage to a microphone. The funny human being had never read the book. He began to tell jokes about religion, race, and political beliefs. He even told a joke about a disease called cancer. A few human beings, who hadn’t read the book either, began to laugh. The rest of the human beings in the audience were silent, except one. He jumped into the air and shouted, “Religion is no laughing matter. Race is no laughing matter. Political beliefs are no laughing matter. Cancer, certainly, is no laughing matter. Do you honestly think this is funny?” The funny man didn’t know what to say. No, he didn’t think these topics were funny. He never did, and they never were. That wasn’t the point. The human beings had forgotten that humor was intended to give comfort during the uncomfortable, power to the powerless. The world was a scary, cold, dark place. Humor allowed human beings to laugh during times of sorrow and face the scary world together, despite their petty differences. 

The funny man told a few more jokes. The human beings, who hadn’t read the book either, were too afraid to laugh. The room was silent once again. One by one, the human beings in the audience left. The funny man was alone, so he returned to his home. For the funny man, this was a sad day because he never told another joke.

Then, on the saddest day of all the sad days…a priest, a rabbi, and a minister walked into a bar and didn’t speak.

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