Friday, May 18, 2007

Hipster Comedy: The sound of charitable laughter.

I have recently begun to listen to the radio show and podcast The Sound of Young America, and it has allowed me to put together a lot of disparate ideas I've had for a while about contemporary comedy, 'hipster comedy', and Adult Swim comedy. I have gone on in this blog many times before about the distinction between comedy for actual amusement and comedy for comedy's sake, comedy for purely social reason where the jokes function as a series of cultural shibboleths allowing people to figure out who's cool and who's not. "Oh my God, you laughed at a joke on blue collar comedy? You're an idiot.", "Hey, I totally forced myself to sit through that whole 'Patience' episode of Wonder Showzen, let me in the tree fort now please." and of course "I don't make distinctions between high and low comedy, I just like what I like. Mostly because I'm a college senior and I'm about four months from not being peer pressured into saying that David Cross's stand-up is funny and two years from completely abandoning all that junk and just laughing at whatever's on TV."
And as I have said my main exposure to this social comedy in recent years has been here in Korea, where it is the dominant form of comedy. Now perhaps in the U.S. social comedy thrives because it is a minority passion, but that masks the fact that it's mostly hoo-ha and almost all hype. A comic like Eugene Mirman becomes such a huge 'celebrity' in such a scene because he is one of the few people in the scene who makes an actual effort to be funny. Most of the hipstery 'alternative comics' that I've heard make much more of an effort to be smugly likeable, affably insecure or ironically fun than they ever do to be funny. Those are all great and they really make people feel like they are sharing some special experience with the people around them, but they are not a replacement for actual funniness. They feel good though, and sometimes that's better than laughter, the thinking seems to go.