Writing satire in today’s age is kind of a trip. I’ve found that no matter how hard I push, I sometimes cannot out-crazy the right-wing. Here’s just one example of how I wrote something thinking that I had written standard satirical material, and then lo and behold, reality mimics satire.
Now, admittedly my piece was a take on the old joke about going to a boxing match and a hockey game breaking out in the middle of it, but at the time that I wrote my piece, the stories about how horribly people of color and Muslims were being treated at Trump rallies, and I just figured my piece was a simple, satirical allusion to the fact that Trump was firing up white nationalists. Then, two months after my piece runs, you see a black man physically removed from a Trump speech while someone throws a goddamned Nazi salute at them.
So tell me again how satire is irrelevant in this day and age when it seems like it has some kind of predictive qualities. But maybe you’re still not convinced. So here’s yet another example.
My piece was a based on an homage to the Illinois Nazis in The Blues Brothers, of course, but how could I have imagined that an actual Neo-Nazi would come out in support of Trump’s anti-Muslim policy ideas? I mean, of course Neo-Nazis would like any idea that treats brown people badly (because in their minds only brown people are Muslims, remember), but since I didn’t grow up during the days of Jim Crow, I grew up when anti-minority rhetoric has had to be couched in dog whistle references to fly. See: Willie Horton in 1988. So the fact that a Neo-Nazi group will just proudly and boldly come out in support of a politician’s ideas — and more importantly that politician’s polling numbers go up and instead of down — and that this development can come after some Internet Satirista pens a piece about roughly the same idea surely means that satire isn’t a dead art form right?
Critics of course could be right. Maybe me making up fake stories — even in an attempt at humor — is just adding to the white noise of far-right rhetoric that’s drowning out a lot of reality. Climate change, for instance, may never be solved while I’m also giving conservatives shit for not acknowledging it in my own satirical way, is the argument I can guess they are making. I cannot tell you how many times I’m told my art isn’t necessary because the GOP is crazy enough, so is it that people just don’t need satire when the Republican version of reality is satirical enough to be seen from space?
No. Fuck that. We need satire more than ever right now.
We need it as an art form to remind us that as balls-on crazy as things are right now, they could be far worse. We need satire right now to show us the absurdity of religious discrimination, whether it’s against Puritanical pilgrims seeking a new life in the New World, or Muslim refugees seeking asylum on that very same continent. It’s never “funny” when you have to break down or defend comedy, so in the interest of a joke, please picture Sarah Palin’s brain cell furiously bouncing around her skull as she delivered that endorsement speech of hers. Holy fuck, huh?
And lastly, I have to just say it — I know a lot of people say they don’t like satire because they don’t get it. That’s not to say when people tell me I’m not funny that it’s because they didn’t get the joke. Comedy is subjective, sure, but if I don’t deliver a joke the right way, it falls flat, and it’s not the audience’s fault. But when I say that people tell me that they don’t like satire and I say it’s because they don’t get it, I mean to say that it’s fairly obvious it tricked them, and here’s a memo to everyone out there reading this now: Satire is supposed to trick people.
The key to satire is that it tricks you at first, and then you think about it. Then you process your reality against the reality presented in the piece of satirical fiction, and you realize, “Oh, LOL, it was a joke, and now I see what the author was saying!” It’s okay to be fooled by satire, just like it’s okay to see it coming a mile away in a cab. Just don’t tell an artist their work sucks exactly because it did what it was intended to do. A little bit of satirical trickery is good for you, and it’s good for humanity. So just stop carping, read it, and then decide if it’s funny or effective or not.
So why do I keep writing satirical stuff at a time when satire is reality? I have a mental disorder called “comedian” first of all. Secondly, it’s vital that we keep mocking those in power. Lastly, because I fucking want to. I know, very mature way to end it, but remember that mental illness I just mentioned? Well…