Naked Comedy: Wild Ducks Fly Backward in D.C.

Vs. adored, adorned activism.

For a silly article this piece runs quite deep. Let's call a spade a Diamond when it shines, ok? (Pause)

Comedy is deemed -inferior to tragedy,- according to Tom (-Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas-) Robbins-because there's a social prevalence of narcissistic pathology.


He clarifies, citing Norman N Holland's Laughing: A Psychology of Humor:

-In other words, people who are too self-important to laugh at their own frequently ridiculous behavior have a vested interest in gravity because it supports their illusions of grandiosity.-

Those are Robbins' words, not Holland's. I'm convoluting here intentionally to make a point. ALMOST EVERYONE in the activist arena today –regardless of their (consciously) pure motives and/or the worthiness of their cause, sincerity– is taking themselves much too seriously. Are being too well-ordered with their too-predictable, albeit (generally) laudable agendas. Laughable? Too intolerant of inspired Art fluttering in their midst. (1) Weighed down by windowless Watchtower Syndrome. And -chosen- people.

That's said with the full acknowledgement that urgency is of the utmost importance -with continuation of Life on Planet Earth at stake. Said with respect for those on the frontlines. With respect for all well-intentioned plans to set Left the Universe. Right.

That said, however, I am here to underscore the need to -write the other way- when ruled paper is handed out.

And it's in that spirit that I am giving birth to Naked Comedy. (2)

There's something outrageous about crowds of (basically good) people (or anyone, for that matter) groveling at the feet, applauding The Emperor With No Clothes. But there's HUGE humor inherent in the scene too. In equal doses. That's what's being neglected.

That's what's sorely needed.

Robbins, in his 2004 Harper's piece, -In Defiance of Gravity,- (3) makes a crucially important point in quoting Professor Donald Kuspit:

-Capitalism encourages the pathologically grandiose self because it encourages the conspicuous consumption of possessions which symbolize one's grandiosity.-

Grandiosity –let's not forget– is not just found in the purchase of an SUV or diamond. Being published, being paid to lecture, etc. falls within the ken of the Grand Den, under the Umbrella of Ur-Importante. Getting acknowledged personally for one's efforts/accomplishments –which often is contingent upon leading the pack to some extent– commonly includes -illusions of grandiosity.-

Enter the endless pleas for subscription $, donations-to keep a particular organization going, headed by (WE HOPE!) You-Know-Who. Me, Head of My Huge Outfit.

Let's strip it all down-with some reverence for The Mysterious, the end/beginning we all face. Let's HOWL out loud and wake the neighbors. Unconscious and Compassionate alike. Let's pull our finger out from the dike and let the waters flood over us, bathing us in our residue, cleansing us of Certainty. Permitting Humility a foot in the door.

If we take the Avarice, Angst and Apathy at face value, and not pretend that there's more to work with than what's actually at hand*, perhaps we'll glean something worthwhile from the masses. Instruct/Educate vis-Ã -vis our Laughing Stock. Come up with something original that'll work these days.

*An example –begging to be cited as this juncture– is the notable Daniel Ellsberg (as per pleading with concerned citizens to follow old models. Preaching to the numbed-down, deaf choir to follow in the footsteps of activist ancestors will produce too little too late. Obviously. Almost all leftists must be disrobed along with The King-so that we can all stand naked together. That includes getting rid of the notion that enough people READ to make a difference by layering them in page after page.

Wage a different war, please.

I submit that we get the bellies of one and all rolling in the aisles with laughter a la a Full Monty show-based on bad jokes (instead of a song)-to reach people. (4) Without such dependence upon the Written Word. Details upon request-nationwide. Via the phone.

Repitolo those last seven words seven times, por favor.

Once mouths are wide open with laughter, maybe we can drop something down ears that'll be socially-conscious. Drowning out the Voices of Habit. Inspiring creativity among activist addicts.

Seems to me that that's all we have left for the Alleged Left. For the Foursquare footsteps employed in the incessant, inefficacious Protest Dances aren't working.

Or-we can just continue marching in circles, talking down Capitalism and cheering up Socialism (5) and/or writing funny articles to spotlight ourselves via The Officially Scandalous. Officious fools offering obsolete tools.

Don't make me laugh.

Funny Bone Notes:

(1) Robbins cites Freud's -wit is the denial of suffering- at one point. He goes on to say –he wasn't implying that the witty among us deny the existence of suffering-but, rather, that armed with a playful attitude-we can deny suffering dominion over our lives, we can refrain from buying shares in the company.- I submit that leftists aren't aware of the extent to which they buy shares in the Misery Company. In lieu of having a real impact. Subscriptions, anyone?

(2) With the invaluable help of midwiferous funny friends from North Bay to San Jose. Naked Comedy will present new entertainers in a road show that'll slip in political insights, as the performers literally slip out of their clothing-whilst making ha-ha. The agenda will include moving the audience to action following new paradigms.

(3) Without which I could not possibly have written this article. I came across it in his Wild Ducks Flying Backward-put out by Bantam Books in 2005.

(4) Not talking about Rev. Billy-like stints here-which are essentially the Establishment turned upside down, no wild creativity with leaps unbounded. Nor am I talking about a simple regurgitation of a Mort Sahl routine without clothes. Or even a bare-assed Pryor delivering no-holds barred zingers. Rather, I'm talking a single drummer doing the obligatory rolls a la burlesque-with many organs supplementing tailor-made –forgive the expression!– Commie-like comedy. Commie-like as in rad, not acad(emic). And very timely.

(5) One doesn't have to talk ideological theory to death and/or make plans for specific alternatives to say -yes- to such brilliance found in the Guardian article (online at) The only thing I'd add to that Robert Newman piece is that we must not think in such grand terms as working within the system as it presently stands, but rather humbly labor in very small, very local realms-starting by bonding deeply with others on a one-on-one basis. Moving toward greater solidarity, but not prematurely. And yet-much, much faster than what's involved in typical grassroots organizing, bent on planting electoral seeds that will never sprout. Out of the Very Square Circle they've got us in we must step. Up The Convolution!!!

Richard Oxman,, is President of the AMCL, the Anti-Marching in Circles League, and Honorary Member of the AMCL, the All for Messing and Convoluting Literati.