Zeitgeist humor [Dis–/Infection, Sept2015]


Humor is laughing at what you haven’t got when you ought to have it. – Langston Hughes

The latest brand or style of humor [as well as art] is fascinating in its blunt, in-your-face approach. Not just to the audience but to the travails of the zeitgeist, if such ludicrous terminology makes sense. And how successful it is.

The basic premise is that we North Atlantic folks are incredibly wasteful, ungrateful fuckers, who for the most part cannot see beyond the blinding brilliance of our own ego. This partially apt premise is then condensed into a few entertaining vignettes and flung full-force into the audience face.

The two prime exponents in the comedic area are CK Louis and Bill Burr. They go on endlessly and incisively just about how utterly spoiled and ridiculous we have become in this day and age. They reserve their particular ire for the omnipresent “sense of entitlement”.

A good example is Louise skit about internet-wifi access on planes, one of many amazing technological advances [and which Louise is clearly enjoying] which was taken for granted by a passenger within 10 seconds of even just getting to know it existed. And the malfunction of which the said passenger then instantly bewhines with a patheticality that suggests that WiFi at 30’000 feet and 950 km/h is his birthright, rather than a stupendous, unknowable piece of technology for which we should be abjectly grateful. [CKL bats the punchline out of the ballpark; especially when he comments how we should just be amazed to be “sitting on a chair in the sky”, lowly humans partaking in “the miracle of flight”; Conan just about busts a vein during the monologue].

Louise’s spiel is about how all this tech is wasted on the most ungrateful generation ever. Of course one could sociologically and historically argue the point but the way he hits home one hilarious example after another, always suggesting that every member in the audience is just the kind of fool he is talking about and the audience guffawing nevertheless, is smthng to behold in amazement. How do you keep a couple of thousand peeps laughing while at the same time kind-of insulting them? Burr pulls off the same brilliant trick saying stuff like “why are you even laughing?” and the like.

Why are they? Why are we?

There’s a little loophole for everybody to squeeze through at the same time: they are addressing the audience, not any one single individual. Actually, the spectacle of the later would be cruel and awesome to behold: Louise walking up to a single audience member, some CEO lady in pine-stripes and just going comedic apeshit on her.

And the audience stunned, flabbergasted and, eventually, I suppose, in stitches.

After all it is not them, it is not us, more particularly it’s not me, it’s never me. In the midst of a crowd ever so small or big, I always stand apart as a splendid individual, steely, transformable Optimus Prime Inter Pares. The jokes signify the big Other surrounding me, another at which I feel free to laugh, robotic or not, the weaknesses of which I can appreciate in well-packaged humor, however direct it may be.

And so the blunt, almost cynicism-free, refreshing humor of Louise and Burr are blunt, immediate but allow the audience member to slip the painful blows of self-recognition.

It’s not like reading that Sloterdjik book: You must change your life! Here the guy just straight-up tells you, across all his searching philosophical history and analysis, that you’re underachieving and

had best get a move on. Get off your self-serving butt and do something; let me be your philosophy coach!


With Burr and Louise it seems more like: Hey guys, you’re pathetic, you truly are but a brief laugh should do the trick. Or at least help squeeze a few drops of fun out of your very own drama.



About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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