As we have known for some time now, comedy is dead: run over by the serial bandwagons of political correctness, and left as roadkill on the shoulder of the Highway of Progress. Such masterpieces of the stand-up comedian’s art as Henny Youngman’s perfectly crafted two-liner, “I dropped my wife off at the beauty parlor the other day. She was there for three and a half hours; and that was only for the estimate,” are now unspeakable; indeed, they are stonable offences.
Comedy can only take root in soil watered by self-reflection and quickened by the sunshine of liberty; in an age in which audiences are drunk on the sour grapes of resentment, victimhood, and self-esteem, the comedic arts fall on stony ground. Ironically, comedy thrived even amongst the untermenschen of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, though not, of course, among the self-serious fanatics of the ruling Parties. And in our Western progressive theocracies, practically everyone who counts—the media, the academy, Big Business, Big Tech — is a member of the Party.
All of this is rather sad—some might say tragic—because comedy is one of the oldest literary genres in Western civilization. Its origins go back to the dramas that were performed in ancient Greek theaters a century or so before the tragedies of Aeschylus. Scholars refer to them as “satyr plays,” because the chorus consisted of actors dressed as such: i.e, in the costume of the lascivious and inebriated mythological beasts imagined as goats below the waist and men above. Earnest feminists now regard all men as goats below the waist, and thus prime targets of comic ridicule, but the suggestion (cf. Henny Youngman, above) that women can on occasion succumb to vanity is “stereotyping” and thus offside.
Satire (no relation to “satyr,” though the derivation is tempting) is another extinct species of the comedic genre, which has enjoyed an only slightly shorter run. In the hands of such masters as Horace, Ovid, Juvenal, and Lucian of Samosata, its golden age extended from the first century B.C. to the second A.D., during which everything was fair game—politics, religion, race, homosexuality — and the ability of despotic Emperors to cancel and shame incorrect opinion remained a pitiful thing by comparison to that of our own progressive censors.
Even under the supposedly repressive medieval Church, satire thrived in the works of such renowned poets as Chaucer, Chretien de Troyes, Guillaume de Lorris, and Jean de Meun. As is depressingly typical of our humorless and historical-revisionist age, tone deaf as it is to irony, the latter’s monumental Roman de la Rose continues to be misread as an earnest celebration of erotic passion, while it is in fact a mordant satire on the sin of earthly lust aggrandizing itself as a sacred “religion” of celestial love; indeed, as the average medieval reader would have understood immediately, its dream vision is the allegorical transcript of a pubescent male’s nocturnal fantasy. If you haven’t read it, just think of the Roman’s “garden of delights” as Woodstock, and its presiding spirit, Sir Pleasure, as Hugh Hefner.
But satire of the medieval — or any — sort is simply no longer possible (for proof of which, tune into Saturday Night Live just about any Saturday night, to be subjected to two hours of angry Democrat-party raillery). I don’t merely mean that satire is forbidden and that the would-be satirist will be susceptible to de-platforming, censorship, firing from his day job, Maoist struggle sessions, and public rituals of remorse. I mean that it is no longer possible in the sense that it is no longer possible to write.
Satire depends upon the exaggeration of evil, irrationality, or pretension to the distillation point, a reductio ad absurdum in which the latent or embryonic absurdity of an idea or practice becomes manifest to all. Satire is thus optimistic in adumbrating and seeking to pre-empt the hard landing at the base of the slippery moral slope, on the assumption, that is, that we are still on the slippery slope. Once we have reached bottom, no reductio — and no satire—is any longer conceivable. Res ipsa loquitur; the plainly visible reality on its face is self-satirizing, or ought to be.
Jonathan Swift’s satirical masterpiece, A Modest Proposal, is a scathing expose of the delusions of the social engineers, do-gooders, and busybodies—the founding mothers of the modern welfare state—of his day, and their risible “solutions” to the problem of poverty. By a series of rigorously logical deductions from their premises, Swift affects to end the scourge of starvation and overpopulation in Ireland by encouraging impoverished Irish parents to kill their year-old infants and eat them, thus alleviating the economic burden of children and relieving their hunger at the same time.
You see the problem. In the early eighteenth century, the intellectual incoherence and moral enormity of Swift’s “modest proposal” would have been instantly apparent to all. But after three centuries in which the coin of evil has undergone steady inflation, Swift’s repugnant “proposal” has been broadly implemented, and is scarcely controversial today. Tens of millions of abortions are committed every year around the world, and justified under the pretext that they will reduce the economic burden on single mothers and forestall the apocalypse of world hunger due to overpopulation. We don’t eat our aborted babies, of course, but we’ve found a myriad of other altruistic uses for their body parts.
Let me close this literary obituary with two recent examples of social phenomena whose absurdity no satirist could improve upon.
In a scholarly article in the eminent-sounding Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, one Dr. Donald Moss calls “whiteness … a malignant, parasitic-like condition to which ‘white’ people have a particular susceptibility.” He explains, “Parasitic whiteness renders its hosts’ appetites voracious, insatiable, and perverse. These deformed appetites particularly target nonwhite peoples.”
At the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies in New York, Dr. Moss teaches students how to treat this appalling condition:
Effective treatment consists of a combination of psychic and social-historical interventions. Such interventions can reasonably aim only to reshape Whiteness’s infiltrated appetites — to reduce their intensity, redistribute their aims, and occasionally turn those aims toward the work of reparation. When remembered and represented, the ravages wreaked by the chronic condition can function either as warning (“never again”) or as temptation (“great again”).
Now, if you were writing a take-off on the current progressive dogmas of “critical race theory,” “systemic racism,” “white privilege” (and the Trump Nazis who are exclusively responsible for these ills), would it be possible for even Swift to do better than the above?
As an erstwhile aspirant to Swift’s mantle, some time ago I began to compose a parody on the recruitment of children by homosexual and transgender activists in our public schools, government propaganda, and the ubiquitous corporate advertising for such annual celebrations as Pride Week, which has now become Holy Week in the liturgical calendar of progressives. Such campaigns of homosexual indoctrination struck me as especially ironic in the context of the bill recently passed in the House of Commons making “conversion” of children from “alternative lifestyles” to normalcy (i.e., any attempt to counsel gender dysphoric children by doctors, priests, or even their own parents) illegal in Canada, while conversion from normalcy to deviancy is the official policy of the State. (Leave aside the clerical sex-abuse scandal which, involving men loving boys, might well have something to do with homosexuality, and thus fathers upon the word “conversion” a double meaning.)
I set out accordingly to satirically “exaggerate” such homosexual evangelism by depicting an oleaginous television preacher merchandising the promise of salvation through sex reassignment on the argument of the homoousios formula, punctuated by rousing hymns sung by the hundred-voice Sodom Tabernacle Choir. My assumption was that since Christian proselytism is so repugnant to moderns, homosexual missionizing, especially amongst children, ought to be equally repellent. Then, into my inbox came a YouTube video that I shall attempt to describe to readers with iron stomachs.
It opens with a soloist from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, thumbnails of whose boy-next-door visages are tiled across the screen, singing the following catchy lyrics set to music so insipidly hummable it might have been composed by Andrew Lloyd-Webber:
You think we’re sinful,
You fight against our rights,
You say we all lead lives you can’t respect.
But you’re just frightened,
You think that we’ll corrupt your kids, if our agenda goes unchecked.
It’s funny, just this once you’re correct.
We’ll convert your children.
Happens bit by bit, quietly and subtly,
And you will barely notice it.
You can keep him from disco,
Warn about San Francisco,
Make him wear pleated pants, we don’t care.
We’ll convert your children …
And so it goes, with admonitory boasts that intolerant parents who “worry” that their kids might “change their group of friends,” be exposed to child pornography online, or go places at night they “won’t approve,” might as well throw in the towel. Then it ends in a rousing full-choir refrain:
We’ll convert your children, yes we will, reaching one and all.
There’s really no escaping it….
We’re coming for them,
We’re coming for you children,
We’re coming for your children.
Congratulations to YouTube, by the way, for not de-platforming this inspiring summons to pedophilia (and also for not de-platforming the recruitment propaganda of the Taliban, whose children I hope the SF Gay Men’s Chorus will try to convert), but for removing noxious videos of criticisms of Dr. Fauci.
And stay tuned for the Chorus’ upcoming YouTube video featuring their other popular gay gospel hits, “Unto Us Your Child is Given,” “Go Tell It in the Schoolyard,” and “How Great Lot Art,” plus the Broadway classics “Somewhere Over the Rainbow Flag” and “Don’t Cry for My Pedophilia,” and that favorite of transitioning toddlers, “LGBT, EFG, Now I Know My ABCs.”