Comedy: Society’s Superhero by Angela Seal
In the past several decades, comedy has certainly taken a turn for the relevant, much of which is resonating in tackling some of the world’s most pressing social and political issues. Consider the persistent mockery of mainstream America in Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” or the tongue-in-cheek depiction of long withstanding racism in Dave Chappelle’s shamefully hilarious sketches. At the core, both serve as means of echoing deeply rooted socio-political concerns but without sacrificing a little, or rather a lot of, humor. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fine line between sinfully clever and sinfully insensitive. But from time to time, the genre manages to transcend expectation and popular belief by complementing comedy and creating acute cultural insights.
Take Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report.” Whether you happen to agree with the man’s politics, there’s no denying his ability to capture the attention of thousands nationwide. In the video posted above, Colbert demonstrates his knack for reflecting the stereotype of the calloused American psyche in an interview with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. Discussing the recent kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and the Twitter hashtag #BringOurGirlsBack, Colbert’s parodied indifference to the girls’ well being was used as a means of commentary on the shortcomings of human sentiment ostensible the world over. So although his content tends to range between the subtly profound and the hilariously senseless, more often than not his viewers are subject to coming face to face with their own reality, forced to consider where they stand and moreover why.
Similar to Colbert, Dave Chappelle has made a career out of his ability to integrate the humorless with the humorous. Chappelle’s finesse for using comedy to reflect on the senseless but no less enduring relevance of issues such as racism, has allotted him nothing short of an army of loyal followers. In one of Chappelle’s best know sketches, “Black White Supremacist,” Chappelle plays a blind, black man who is under the impression that he’s actually white. The sketch illustrates the irony in his avid racism against blacks, causing viewers to recognize the indisputable futility concerning racism. So while the issue of racism in America is no laughing matter, Chappelle’s play on the absurd reality of bigotry in our otherwise progressive nation, somehow manages to transcend the gravity and skip straight to the giggles. This performance lightly picks upon an audience, but has the power to make them reconsider their own personal stances and observe the situation, in this case racism, in a new light.
Where comedy meets the age of technology is also where comedy meets the mainstream, and in this day and age, comedic relevancy is no doubt a force to be reckoned with. This metamorphosis of comedy is not only a testament to the genre’s versatility but furthermore it’s dedication to innovation and growth, serving both the interests of comedians as well as fans. We all need a good laugh now and again, but we also need not neglect the world around us. Integrating the real world into comedy on a large scale has and will continue to speak volumes on how far a sense of humor can truly go in uniting the otherwise divided and inspiring the otherwise indifferent.