CAILTIN JOHNSTONE—Comedy is meant to lampoon power and call bullshit what it is. Today it’s used at best for mindless escapism, and at worst it’s used to sell products and indoctrinate the public into supporting power and accepting bullshit. The most daring thing you’ll ever see most comics do is make fun of Donald Trump, and ooh, oh my, how brave and groundbreaking.
CULTURE & COMEDY
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MARY M THEOBALD—Finding cochineal would have been easier if the English had known what it was. To the naked eye, the dried bits of cochineal look like tiny peppercorns. Some said cochineal was a seed; others said it was an insect or dried worm. Some had it both ways, calling it “wormberry.” In an age when rotten meat was believed to spawn maggots and clams were thought to grow out of sand, spontaneous generation was a reasonable explanation for any mysterious form of life. Cochineal, some said, was a cactus berry that turned into a red worm.
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ROBIN WILLIAMS—Come Inside My Mind treats Robin Williams’ explosive comedy as well as his darker side, but largely ignores the social circumstances in which he matured and worked. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was not possible to be in New York City and San Francisco and not absorb something of the epoch’s radicalism. The receding of that radical, free-spirited wave had consequences for artists like Williams, whether he was aware of them or not. He was somehow stranded, brilliantly isolated, attempting single-handedly through his routines to make up for the increasing coldness and selfishness of the times.
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Lee Camp’s comedy, always packed with political message shows that social comedy is serious business and that while making people laugh is good and probably necessay, it is also important to make them think. In that he follows the model presented by the unique (and prematurely departed) iconoclastic George Carlin. This interview with his daughter, following her father’s traditions, should be of interest to anyone who believes morality belongs in all public commentary.