By Jamie Benson
Our skin is scorched, peeling off. A set of divisions woven into the founding of a nation, and remnants of a civil war clearly without closure, the friction created by the U.S. melting pot is boiling over once again. A torrent of toxic tribalism splashes down, burning and re-blistering old scars. The most current facade of American altruism is crumbling; a scaffolding built on racism and misogyny unmasked. With painful, high definition clarity, this new-old reality is seen in the rise of modern day white nationalism/nazism and a crushing wave of sexual abuse stories starring some of the world's most visible and powerful men. We can hope that these dirtbag demonstrations are dramatizing a near-final gasp of wasted privilege. We can hope that we live in a world that's -finally- growing too tired to tolerate asshole-ism. I'm personally old enough to know better. Considering this, I'm proposing that those of you reading this, while cussing aloud in solidarity, join me in some creative group therapy.
As a complete and utter comedy nerd, I mourn the recent reveal of Louis C.K.'s predatory history with women as it's a bloody blow to a body of work I deeply respect. In the Variety column I Admired Louis C.K., What a Mistake, TV critic Sonia Saraiya states that FX's Louie is still "responsible for much of half-hour comedy’s innovation over the last several years." Let me be clear, I'm not at all dumbfounded by the Louis C.K. revelations. He's practically king of the bloated boys club that is stand up comedy. He's also proven to be a perceptive purveyor of observed truths, continually acknowledging the depths of his lesser instincts and the heights of his inherited privilege. Harvey Weinstein and the 45th president of the United States are ultimately caricatures of the privileged, high-powered jerk, so these accusations are less surprising. As Saraiya lasers in on her article, "He knew better, and he said so in a thousand different ways over the course of his career. It’s that part of it that stings. Self-awareness is an exacerbating factor, not a mitigating one." If a self-aware wise-guy (in every sense of the word) can't get beyond his own power to treat women with respect, than, crap. Enjoying masturbation in front of a sexual partner is totally fine in and of itself. Cornering women who are working with -and often for- you to act on that impulse would be covered as a no-no in human decency 101.
Over the past couple of years I've slowed down on making work about public restrooms, drunken train people, balls, and orgasms. Usually a choreographer of comedic nonsense (among other things) I'm collecting and concocting more stories that confront the political and social vice-grip we're in.
For instance, in response to the U.S. president's Muslim ban, I and a few frustrated friends made Trump's New Immigration App. In this loosely written, playfully executed video sketch, a Pokemon Go-style app is offered up to those that think xenophobia is a warrior princess (...does that joke work?). With the polarized social trajectory we're currently being torn apart by, there may be no turning back from this politically motivated creation cycle. That's where you come in.
To collectively cope with some of the most pronounced ugliness of our time, let's collaborate on some content. Whether it's in videos, live performance, articles -whatever- let's burn off some of the toxic rage-goo within by presenting things that make us laugh or unveil new insight into old problems.
For obvious reasons, many of the performance ideas I keep circling around going forward are wrestling with women's issues. The wish is to make videos with female heroines that subvert common feminine archetypes (i.e. the ballerina, the crone etc).
Now, I'm just another white guy so is this desire counterintuitive or am I an ally you're rooting for? For all intensive purposes, I'm pretty gay (being catwoman was a life goal at age 10). Perhaps that's why I relate to women, because much of the struggle I've faced as a gay guy is likely spill-over from the bullshit put upon women. Regardless, I have some ideas to unburden us some.
But First: All you smart, open-minded, integrity-drenched, progressive types...
- Be informed (factcheck.org)
- Vote (headcount.org)
- Engage your representatives: (5calls.org)
- Protest (resistandprotest.com)
- Run for political positions (artistcampaignschool.org / sheshouldrun.org )
Now, Have More Fun Working Off That Excess Frustration
Subscribe to the email list and respond to my calls for thoughts, opinions, and performers.
Follow on Social. I'll give you waaaaay too much credit for that one Facebook comment. You'll be able to add our projects to your CV, performance reel, or just impress friends at dinner parties.
Anger is a virtue (but not for long). Yes, we live in a country where people can't grasp the difference between marches for equality and marches to claim superiority. Yes, men once perched on high pedestals are shown to be day-to-day low-lifes. It's infuriating, I'm completely livid. A pivotal 2012 study published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that anger gave people a creative boost. When you're angry, you're less likely to rely on old systems of problem solving - it both charges and frees up the imagination. But, the study also found that anger depletes us quicker over time, and (dunno about you) I'm already fending off political fatigue. So how do we keep the resistance going? Humor may cure the ills of anger. A 2011 study in the Journal of Psychology in Spain notes how laughter reduces stress factors. Interestingly enough, if we use our anger to create humorous junk, we may out last this current crest of American machismo.
Ultimately, anger innovates, creativity solves problems, of which we have many, and comedy is self care, of which we sorely need right now. Let's take back comedy from the likes of Louis CK and work together to topple the patriarchy. Let the spit balls fly at my face and let's cook up some counter-culture cures, likely cackling along the way.