Can "sick" humor be politically subversive?

If “sick” humor can break down social taboos, maybe it could take down some repressive social attitudes along with it.

“Lenny Bruce”


What’s up with all the Victorian styles in the Adams Family?

What’s up with the intensely 1950s ambience in Twin Peaks?

Q: What’s the difference between a truckload of bowling balls and a truckload of dead babies?

A: A truckload of bowling balls is politically irrelevant except as it relates to the proletariat’s narcotized inattention to social issues and the bourgeoisie’s success in mystification and in restricting the proles’ daily interests to pointless pseudo-athletic pastimes. A truckload of dead babies reflects the capitalist system’s callous disregard for the lives of the economically nonproductive. Oh, and you can’t unload a truckload of bowling balls with a pitchfork! :slight_smile:

  1. Any humor can be perceived to be politically subversive. Under Stalin, some incredibly tame humor landed its creators in the gulag. All it had to do was show the spark of inividual spirit to a system devoted to stamping out all such sparks.

It can be effectively subversive, but not reliably so. Through the 1970’s, the right wing in the US was out of favor politically, largely because they were derided as uptight white guys in suits. However, the left failed to provide a workable alternative, and for the last quarter-century the right has been ascendant.

  1. Although the Adams Family appeared on TV in the 1960’s, its creator, Charles Adams was a product of the Jazz Age, during which the Victorian Era was seen as pretty mouldy and glum. Some great examples of the are by the artist Max Ernst, who took old 19th centruy engravings and cut them into creepy collages. Also, look at the morose tones of Naturalist writers like Stephen Crane and Eugene O’Neil on the 19th century. This was an era when people’s babies died like flies, and who reacted to this by dressing the dead babies up in lace and photographing them.

  2. Speaking as a survivor of both eras, the late 50’s & early (pre-hippie) 1960’s were full of references in the 1980’s & early (pre-grunge) 1990’s. People of the latter era were overly self-congratulatory for being so different from those “Leave it to Beaver” era folks (Lenny Bruce excepted). Actually, most lives in the 1950’s resembled the Beaver’s no more than 1980’s lives resembled Steve Urkel’s. (Except for those 1980’s ascendant right wingers who recreated an artificial 1950’s)

“History is a bag of tricks we play upon the dead” - Voltaire

This threw me for a second.

“Mommy! Mommy! What’s economic exploitation?”

“Shut up and put on that teddy for the next trick.”

That’s the spirit, Brain Glutton! Let’s have some more!

:slight_smile: Glad to oblige . . .

“When I die, I hope I go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, and not screaming in terror like the workers in his sweatshop where they locked all the fire exits to keep them from sneaking athletic shoes out the back.”

– Lev Davidovich Handey

“So fuck Ronald Reagan! Ronald Reagan is more responsible for the spread of AIDS than any other person on this planet, fuck him! I spit in his eye, I dance on his grave, I - fist - his - wife!!

  • Lea Delaria

Not exactly “sick,” but marginally relevant:
How many supply-side economists does it take to change a light bulb?

None! The darkness will cause the light bulb to change itself!
How many Marxists does it take to change a light bulb?

None! The light bulb contains the seeds of its own revolution?
How many Maoists does it take to change a light bulb?

100! One to screw in the bulb, and 99 to chant, “Fight darkness!”