Memo to all parents: Wanna stay relevant? Don't crack jokes around your kids.
You can flaunt your techno savvy. Tweet… Stream… Selfie… Send money by phone – they like that. But make a funny and you'll be revealed as the retro-geezer they suspected you were all along.
I was outed by my children during a recent political campaign, which I'll attempt to anonymize so the comment section doesn't turn into shitflinging. Watching this lefty politician's contortions I had what I thought was a funny idea.
"How about this for a novelty product? [Lefty politician's name] Flip Flops. Walking metaphors for his positions. On the right sole we put his early statements, and turn up the left sole and you get the flop. Great party favor. Sell it at speeches, events…"
The silence wasn't rapt, it was stony. Like any bombing comedian I hastened to explain.
"Flip flops? Flipping pancakes? Funny, huh?"
"Republicans flip flop, Dad."
"So do you."
"Why is everybody allowed to change their mind, but a Democrat?"
Drenched in flop sweat, my voice broke like a teenager's.
"It's just a joke."
"But it shows how you really feel."
Whether they knew it or not they agreed with Freud that jokes are a socially acceptable way of expressing repressed hostility and unpopular opinions. And with Aristotle that a joke is a "a representation of people worse than us, a subdivision of the ugly and shameful."
Can't blame them. This fresh batch of humans live in a grim world. Bombs exploding, bullets flying. A world where you can die from a mosquito bite. Or end up the collateral victim of some psycho's grudge. Where a harmless prank can lead to permanent pariahdom. Or suicide.
A world of narrowing prospects in which they are constantly reminded that they will make less money than their parents, and any money they do somehow obtain will be inflated away any way.
Generation Z, and to some extent millennials, have to be careful what they say and do. Somebody out there – black, white, left, right, gay, transgender – is waiting to pounce on their smallest deviation. Better to be safe and check your privilege.
The secular culture of taking and making jokes is long dead. Their discourse is dominated by competing orthodoxies, which have one thing in common: no humor allowed.
Religion has regained prominence. Horny, gluttonous or greedy cleric jokes are off limits. Friar Tuck is redacted from the children's version of Robin Hood. There's no humor in the Holy Scriptures. The Garden of Eden gets funny for a second when the snake slithers in, but the party is soon over. Moses could use a visit to Anger Management. Jesus won't even stick a warm up joke in his sermons. And Muhammad…uh oh, better tread lightly here… Great guy, Muhammad, terrific kidder. What's that Arab proverb – Muhammad laughs and the caravan moves on?
The left is remaking the world and demands immunity to ridicule. It condemns humor as a bourgeois plot to make the oppressed laugh at and accept their exploitation.
Bernie Sanders once admitted he has a "bad sense of humor." He won't need it once his Revolution comes, because according to Marxist theorist Tom McLaughlin: "Under Socialism there will be no classes and consequently no class conflict. Humor will cease to reflect any objective reality and will wither away."
The Right sometimes doesn't have to be intentionally funny, it can serve as a parody of itself. What joke could equal schoolboy sneers about hand size, after all.
Plato banned humor from his Republic. "No composer of comedy… shall be permitted to hold any citizen up to laughter, by word or gesture, with passion or otherwise," he wrote in Laws.
The comedians have gotten the message. In his last years on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart gave up satire in favor of predictable rants which got predictable roars from the Amen Corner. He recently returned to the limelight, and his opening salvo – The Problem With White People – was a long tirade about why white people are bad.
Chris Rock no longer plays colleges. In an interview he said the audience was "too conservative." Not politically, but socially. …"in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of "We're not going to keep score in the game because we don't want anybody to lose." Or just ignoring race to a fault…."
When Jerry Seinfeld revealed that fellow comedians had warned him away from colleges because they "were too PC," he was savaged by the left media. Columnist Amanda Marcotte accused him of making excuses for being "a second rate hack."
Okay, I get it. This form of good-natured ribbing is obsolete, suspect. Fine. I'll just putter and mutter. Make chewing noises. Work on my osteo bump.
Humor is dead. Long live humor.