Tag Archives: Lenny Bruce

The Onion and How Comedy Deals with Tragedy (Or Not)

The most famous edition of the satirical newspaper The Onion has to be its 9/11 edition. That issue was also the first that they published after relocating from Madison, Wisconsin, to New York City. The headlines were shocking to a nation that had not yet returned to its usual fare of late night shtick or our then-new love of “reality” television. (Survivor premiered the year before and American Idol began the year after.)

The Onion writers, however, did not leap into addressing the attack with abandon. According to Onion John Krewson, the humorists were stymied until one of them suggested the headline “America Turns into a Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Film,” after which the dam burst and they felt capable of turning a comic eye on a national tragedy.

The Onion 9_11 cover

Knowing this, should we be surprised that The Onion has already covered the horror of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre? Here is a snippet from an article they published on Friday, the very day of the shootings.

The Onion on Newtown

As with 9/11, The Onion attempts to signal their understanding of the seriousness of the situation by employing epithets. Still, there are multiple ways in which The Onion’s response to Newtown differs from their earlier response to 9/11. For one, the fact that the Newtown victims were predominantly children makes for a greater risk of looking like one is taking a light-hearted perspective on the heavy-hearted matter. In addition, The Onion’s response to 9/11 came from New York City itself. And finally, there is the fact of timing. Remember, The Onion actually cancelled the print edition originally scheduled for 9/11, and they issued the above headlines in late September. In today’s online news world, The Onion could respond within hours.

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Stand Up Sunday: Easter Eddie, The Easter Bunny, and Atheism

Fans of Eddie Izzard will find this bit an all-too-obvious feature for a stand-up Sunday that falls on Easter, but in my small household, viewing it has become somewhat of a tradition, and I’d like to share it.  Izzard performs this bit in his 1999 tour, Dress to Kill. 

Was it just me, or did some of the San Francisco audience seem a little uncomfortable with Izzard’s pithy summary of  the Easter tradition?

We use stand up comedians as a societal court jester; sometimes we listen to them just to hear things we don’t want to hear.  I may have been the smallest bit shocked when I heard this bit for the first time, but now I find that it provides a gentle grounding that I very much appreciate.  It’s a similar feeling to the one evoked by Dustin Hoffman performing Lenny Bruce’s “Happy Ending Culture” bit in Lenny (1974).  It’s sad.  It hurts.  But, because he can acknowledge it, I can acknowledge it, and I feel better.  Wait, do I?

Eddie Izzard is receiving as much attention for his out-and-proud atheism these days as for his out-and-proud transvestism. Very recently he appeared on the National Mall as a guest speaker for the Week of Reason’s Reason Rally, amongst other atheist activists as Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher.

The thing about Eddie Izzard’s forays into atheism that I most relate to, as opposed to Maher’s, for example, is that we can stare the terrifying prospect of a Godless existence in the face and respond with silliness.  Izzard’s whimsey coupled with the legacy of Bruce’s truth-telling is preferable to me on days like today, when I remember the feeling I got having discovered the truth about the Easter Bunny.  Even if deep down, we don’t really feel better, it serves as a much more pleasant transition from myth dissemblance back into our everyday lives filled with everyday tasks.  At least we get some chocolate bunnies out of it.