I was sheltered as a child and never got to see comedy’s geniuses and heroes like George Carlin and Bill Hicks live. George actually did a show in Vancouver the year he passed away in 2008, and I barely knew he existed. At that time, I was still under the thumb of my immediate family (especially my father) politically and socially and both guys would have been off limits for me, both because of their content and because of their profanity (God forbid you curse what deserves to be cursed).
With any luck, I will see the courageous Katt Williams (please leave your firearms at home) and Jimmy Dore live, 2 people who are genuinely not hacks for the establishment and speak truth to power through laughter.
There are a lot of corporate, establishment comedians out there who feign rebellion – Chris Rock comes to mind, who I generally appreciate comedically.
Back in the day, you had the Carlins and the Hickses and the Lenny Bruces: comedians who didn’t just use their talents to make people laugh, but also to make them think and leave the theatre or bar with a sense of having learned something that if they were smart enough, they could investigate for themselves afterward. Dave Chappelle used to be one of those guys, at least in my view. His TV show in the early 2000s was genius and told the truth about the black experience in America. For me, the jury is out on the very talented comedian Jim Jeffries, but Bill Burr is a comedian I also deeply admire for his testicular fortitude.
As I may have mentioned earlier, comedy is and should be about speaking truth to power. Demanding better of those who “rule over us.” That’s why I watch stand up comedy beyond the mindless laughs, anyway. I want to be educated and informed, and in the absence of that from our mainstream media (as opposed to some of the stuff online), I look to stand up comedy. Many others do as well. They’re the only ones speaking truth to power in this day and age not named Colin Kaepernick.