Guys, I hate to be the one to say this, but we as a collective race need to get our act together. As I’m sure you’re probably aware, the last few months have been particularly insufferable in terms of the long-standing disparaging of funny females. Of course, this is nothing new. The concept that women can’t be funny and that men are supposedly the reigning dictators of laughter has been around since the dawn of time, purported by a grab bag of people like Jerry Lewis, Daniel Tosh and Christopher Hitchens; all ostensibly dudes who have never been submitted to an episode of Entourage.
Recently, however, with Jerry Lewis’ statements at Cannes that ladies performing comedy “bothers him” (sorry everybody, give up your dreams and promising standup careers, because you’re making the star of The Disorderly Orderly a little uncomfortable) things seem to have come to a head. We’ve gotten brilliant and hilarious satirical pieces from the likes of The Office’s Ellie Kemper in response, but we’ve also gotten massive waves of fiery twitter feuds and a lot of general simmering contempt across gender lines. And this is where the problem lies.
Now, of course there is no biological disposition that makes one gender more funny than the other; that’s crazy talk; but even if there was it doesn’t matter. Yeah, you heard us.
IT. DOESN’T. MATTER.
Why? Because, quite frankly, we’ve lost sight of the big picture that pretty much all other animals are funnier than us. We’re somewhere at the bottom of the rankings, right next to all birds that don’t fly into windows, and cicadas (cicadas are admittedly probably the worst given that they have seventeen years to think of new material). Think of your pet. If it isn’t funnier than you, and I can guarantee you that it is, then you have a boring pet and should probably get a new one. If you and your dog were both participating in some sort of inter-animal kingdom gym class of comedy, your dog would be picked well before you. So why are we even bothering to argue which sex is funnier when we, as a species, are sorely losing when compared to pretty much everything else with a beating heart?
In order to gain some stature in the harrowing, daunting world of inter-species comedy, we need to have full gender collaboration. Once united, we should look towards a number of other species that are masters of the craft to take a closer look at the areas in which we are lacking. Some noted examples of comedic role models:
You know the kind of “alternative, anti” comedy that’s been going around Twitter lately? Yeah, well, be ashamed, hipsters, because goats b(l)eat you to that years ago. Much like “Weird Twitter,” which revels in poor spelling and grammar and emphatic non-sequiturs, goats also realized the niche of ironically dumbing down their act, delivering most of their material with their tongues both firmly in cheek and hanging out of the side of their mouth. This “material,” if you could call something so primitively visceral that, is usually just screaming loudly like an idiot for extended periods of time. It’s definitely effective, but let’s go deeper.
For instance, look at the title of the afore-linked YouTube video; “Goats Yelling Like Humans.” All of the humans in this video are laughing hysterically. But do they even realize that they’re the butt of the joke? These goats are imitating us. They are the bovine version of Parks and Recs Orin and his human zoo, holding a fun house mirror to societal norms and allowing us a glimpse of our own pitiful ridiculousness. If you don’t get it, then you probably never will (to put it in twitter terms: “@goats “RT BAAAAAAH.” uhm, what even is this and why do u have so many followers?”). But goats are conniving satirists who are brilliantly in tune with the dissonance and nihilism of the world we live in, and what they’re satirizing is the human race.
Even among us humans, it seems to be universally decided that no two bodily functions are more funny than farting (you can see Louis CK give a pinpoint breakdown of what exactly makes farts so funny of The Daily Show here) and sex, specifically earnest, awkward, terrible sex. Elephant seals, bless them, have managed to find a way to combine the two by making their genetically hard-coded mating call a type of bizarre roar that sounds exactly like undiluted flatulence. When these monstrous, slightly terrifying, and very lazy beasts get horny, they open their goofy snouts and bellow fart sounds. And then proceed to get it on in the middle of the beach, surrounded by fellow elephant seals, all of which are too large and lazy to bother moving.
See how committed these guys are to their comedic craft?? They’ve built their entire life cycles (procreation! the miracle of life!) around one insanely intricate and perverse low-brow joke. Bumbling, furiously temperamental, but well intentioned, even at its worst an elephant seal could be the comedic equivalent of a combination of a John Candy/Chris Farley physical comedian type and the goofy-footed, raging psychosexual angst of Adam from Girls. If you don’t believe me, there’s plenty of video evidence to back this up. YouTube is literally filled with elephant seal porn, all of which is cringe-inducingly awkward, filled with those trademark fart sounds, and features cameos from plenty of unwilling third parties (penguins, humans, etc). Yes, elephant seals have even mastered the art of the porn parody.
The Honey Badger
Ever since he first came on the scene in early 2011 in this three-minute nature short, the titular Honey Badger—choosing to remain nameless, presumably in an attempt to capture the spirit of the “Everyman” when burrowing in the dirt and comingling with stinging bees—is the kind of newcomer we’ve been waiting for. The honey badger is bold and brash, he’s edgy, he brings the carnage; put simply, as the narrator asserts multiple times, “The honey badger don’t give a shit.”
Not yet pigeonholed by an extensive body of work, the honey badger has the luxury of genre-bending, effortlessly segueing from slapstick to snuff film. That being said, the honey badger’s brand of innovative comedy (one part “force to be reckoned with,” one part bumbling idiot) plays well with others: when birds take the honey badger’s prey from right under him, the honey badger allows himself to become the punchline seamlessly. With a penchant for improv and a desire to jump into any comedic situation headfirst, this ingenue is refreshing in his fearlessness—he’s not afraid to simply be comedy, and in doing so has managed to embody everything we want to be and say in life with a riveting, outspoken honesty. The honey badger is an HBO series away from becoming the voice of its generation, not only among badgers but among us too.
Listen, scatological humor has been around forever, but we’ll never turn our nose up at a good poop scoop. Even Chaucer’s fabliaux derive their most hilarious moments from a little downtown expulsion. It’s nothing to fear; in fact, it’s something to embrace. So while the honey badger didn’t give a shit, this next comedic genius totally does. The true payoff in this video comes from Kike’s (pronounced “Kee-kay”) excellent comedic timing. Kike knows the importance of a dramatic introduction: she lets her narrator do most of her dirty work, and she doesn’t shy away from theatrics. Kike bides her time as the music builds momentum and then, when the tension is so thick that Kike could cut it with her thirty razor-sharp teeth—the possibility of danger an added bonus as always—she loses a couple of days’ worth of Masai Mara-region prey all over zoologist Jonathan Scott’s Jeep.
We’re not saying Kike’s a total diva, at least not within earshot of those sharp, sharp teeth, but we do have to commend Kike’s bravado. What Kike thinks is funny, everyone thinks is funny. In a way, it’s political commentary–Kike shows us just how willing we are to take shit from those we perceive as more powerful. She is an activist. While the narrator states that Kike has relieved herself in the Jeep, I beg to differ: Kike has relieved us of society’s chains with her whimsy and her bowels. Kike is not afraid to ask the tough questions, just like she is not afraid to shit into some guy’s Jeep (but seriously, she must know people have guns sometimes, right?). It’s that killer confidence–again, wouldn’t say “killer” within earshot– that makes Kike a rising star in the comedy world.
Even More Goats
Physical humor is one of the cornerstones of widespread comedy–just ask one of the original Three Stooges. Obviously you can’t, because they’re all long dead (pour some out), but the fact that they’re all dead just goes to show: slapstick’s been around forever. It’s timeless. These fainting goats are well aware of that. The fainting goats rely on surefire comedic strategies to entertain the masses: impeccable Kike-grade timing, the element of surprise, and a complete physical commitment to the bit. Look at that follow-through: every time, you know it’s coming…you know it’s coming…and it’s HERE and it’s amazing and HOW DOES IT GET YOU EVERY TIME? Masters, they are. Absolute masters. These fainting goats are demonstrative of the old adage, “If it ain’t broke…it’s probably a genetic predisposition to respond to shock with a complete seizing up of the muscles.”
Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the fact that this classic strain of goat comedy bares a striking resemblance to “planking,” the hipster pose of punkish rebellion that was all the rage that was all the rage way back in 2011. Once again, goats are scoffing and smirking at how behind we are on the surreal, alternative comedy times. Goats Awesome Show, Great Job!
This Pig in Rain Boots
This beguiling little bit of pre-bacon knows how to make us think. There’s no reason a pig should ever need rain boots–they don’t even need to sweat, they’re so low-maintenance–and yet, here these rain boots are. The disparity between the unnecessary and the necessary is so overwhelming that the viewer can’t help but laugh. Henri Bergson’s “Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic” states that, when trying to create comedy, the objective is to “take a set of actions and relations and repeat it as it is, or turn it upside down, or transfer it bodily to another set with which it partially coincides–all these being processes that consist in looking upon life as a repeating mechanism, with reversible action and interchangeable parts.” This little piglet is clearly aware of Bergson’s theory, and is able to achieve comedic grandeur by transferring a certifiably human trait–the wearing of rain boots–onto his chubby little frame. There’s also a veneer of sarcasm over the whole thing: this little piggy’s body moves with alacrity, almost glee, but his eyes say, “Sausage. I know how sausage is made.” Basically, this is the pig version of an ambivalent go-go dancer paying her way through grad school.
We could go on and on – dogs, for example, were able to communicate everyday Seinfeldian “what’s the deal with…?” jokes with nothing more than a cocked head and puffed out ears long before Jerry hit the scene – but you get the point. We, as humans (and especially, ahem, men) immensely overvalue our monopoly on the mastery of comedy. We don’t mean to make you feel tiny and insignificant, but, actually, we do. Consider this a wake-up call. You are the Kenny Banya to your dog’s Seinfeld and all is not gold, Jerry.
Now get off of Twitter and start working on some new material.
Story by Rubi Mora and Mark Lukenbill.
Featured image via.