Is political polarization killing comedy in America? Comedian Owen Benjamin thinks so.
Comedy only works when we agree on certain realities.
Take this joke. “Why do you always go fishing with at least two Baptists? Because if you only take one, he’ll drink all your beer.”
The reason this gets a laugh is because most of us recognize that many religious people are a little more religious around other religious people. That hypocrisy is funny because everybody can relate to it on some level. We’re all a little hypocritical now and then. The problem is that today, fewer and fewer people seem to agree on the basics. You know—shared assumptions.
I recently did a joke on stage: “People keep comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. He’s nothing like Hitler… Hitler would’ve never let CNN talk like that. Anderson Cooper wouldn’t have made it through the Night of Long Knives.”
There are people that don’t understand that joke. And the reason is, that joke requires us all to agree—and, stick with me here—that Hitler was a bad, bad man, and that the Night of Long Knives was a bad, bad thing, and that President Trump—whether you like him or not—isn’t anything like that bad, bad man who did that bad, bad thing. And I wouldn’t want him to be!
But, since we now live in a world where some stupid people like Hitler, and some other stupid people think Trump is Hitler—well, we just can’t agree that this obviously absurd joke is funny. We can’t even agree that it’s obviously absurd.
Watch the whole video and see what you think.