Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laughing Matters: Humor in an Unfunny World (2605)

Everyone and welcome. This session is called The Importance of Humor
in an Unfunny World. We have three distinguished
panelists with us and I would like to ask them, I’ve asked each one of them
to introduce themselves. Just a thumbnail of who
they are, what they do, but then also, why they think
they ended up on this panel. [audience laughing] Well, my name is Lizz Winstead. I am the co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show. [audience cheering] Thank you. And now I run an abortion
rights reproductive rights and justice nonprofit called
Lady Parts Justice League. [audience clapping] And I can’t imagine why I was
asked to be on this panel. No, no idea. If anybody wants to gimme
a clue, that’d be helpful. Hi, my name is Ellen Sweets. I’m a former reporter
with The Denver Post. I left eight years ago and I
was a food writer at the time. And I’m here because I was
looking for the ladies room and somebody pointed me this direction. [audience laughing] So, I’m Piper Davis and I’m sort of the
longest shot on this panel. I am a partner in a
multi-unit bakery business in Portland and Seattle
called Grand Central Bakery. And I am also the board chair
of the chef’s collaborative which is a national nonprofit which educates, inspires
and celebrates chefs who are trying to build
a better food system. And I am here to be on the food track. So the only reason I could think that I was put on this panel was that I said in my interest survey that I am an irreverent loud mouth. [audience laughing] So that’s all I can come up with. That qualifies you. Okay, so this is one of the
examples of an actual class that’s a part of the CU curriculum hosting one of these panels. So I’m the instructor of record. My name is Beth Osnes. And I’m a Theater Professor, co-rostered with Environmental Studies. I do a lot of work involved
in climate change and comedy. And through an initiative
that I co-founded called Inside The Greenhouse. So today we have with us,
I’m actually co-hosting this, co-moderating this with my
students who are from a class that’s called Comedy: A Performance Study. They’re upper division,
upper whatever they are, upper level undergraduate students and then there’s one graduate
student in this group as well. And we are gonna be sharing with you some of the things we
explored throughout our class. We’re gonna be inviting our
panelists to comment on this. We’re gonna be getting a
little bit of input from you, but a lot of this is
gonna get into the body because that’s where
comedy resides in part. Not entirely, but should be in part. So, I’m gonna just hand it
over to my students now. We’re gonna start the ball rolling. [audience applauding] Hello. First of all, I would like to establish that the world is, indeed, unfunny. So, given the average age of our students involved in this class, we have described the modern world as 1995 to present. So… [audience laughing] BETH: Well, it works
for all of you, right? [audience laughing] So, we would like to ask all of you to give some examples of unfunny things that have happened in
the world since 1995. We’re gonna start off
with our three panelists and then get three more
suggestions from the audience. BETH: And we’re gonna ask our panelists to write them down and then show it to us. HOST: Yes. Our panelists will be writing those down and holding them up. [audience laughing]
The time begins now. Just one? ELLEN: ’95? HOST: Just one. You need one unfunny thing. ELLEN: ’95. BETH: You can give an example. HOST: So one of the examples
we used in class was 9/11. Seems like a very unfunny thing although there are some jokes about it. Do we have some examples? Lizz doesn’t know how to write
anything that’s not funny. HOST: Mitch McConnell. [audience laughing] W. Bannon. Let’s just take all three of
them out in one fell swoop. Bannon. For the win. HOST: All right, can we
get some more examples from the audience? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Trump! [Host Trump, all right. WOMAN: Sandy Hook. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Carrot
Top’s whole career. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah! HOST: Alright, I heard Sandy
Hook, I’m gonna make that a little more general
and say school shootings. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Katrina. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh, Katrina. HOST: Alright, and I
heard Hurricane Katrina so I’m gonna make that more general again and say natural disasters. WOMAN: Chemical weapons. MAN: Colonoscopies. [laughing] HOST: Alright, so now we have six examples that we will recall
later in our performance. MAN: ISIS! HOST: Alright now I’m gonna
hand it off to Austin. [audience applauding] That was very cordial, I wasn’t
expecting that, thank you. Well now, I was hoping that, you know, that was a little bit of the priming. I was hoping that more
claps would come later. Subliminal messaging. Anyhow, now taking all of
these things into account, all of these awful,
unfunny things that have filled our world from 95 until present, we know everything on this list is not entirely our fault per se. Though the millennial
generation certainly does get a good heft of the blame. And so through this material
that we’re working with, we wanna offer you a apology. And more so specifically,
we wanna offer you a formal apology and a photo opportunity. If our panelist could hold
up these unfunny things for us, it would be much appreciated. [audience chatting] And so we would like to stand before you as a formal, entire apology
for an unfunny world. This is the photo opportunity. [audience chuckling] Alright, that was enough dead space. [audience laughing] Alright, now rolling up on
next, I’d like to invite our next classmate, Danny,
to take over the microphone. [audience applauding] Oh, this is gonna be fun. Alright. We also stand before you
as people who believe in the importance of humor
in this unfunny world. We would also like to stand before you as veritable athletes in
the effort to bring humor to this unfunny world. [audience laughing] [audience shouting] [audience laughing] I also like to invite our next speaker, the man of the stage, Garret Absolutely. [audience applauding] I had a terrifying dream last night. [audience laughing] That I had to stand in front of a audience in just my skivvies. [audience laughing] Alright. So, in this class, we’ve
been studying quite a lot about comedy. But even then, that only
scratches the surface of everything there is and
everything that’s funny. Naked people are funny, for instance. So, we’d like to take
this moment to kind of talk about what we’ve
explored with our panelists and with you and give you
something you would like to comment on. Pardon. We’d like to give you something that we’ve been exploring in
class that you can discuss with the panelists and with yourselves and make the group out of it. The next person I’d like to introduce is Beth, once again, for this exercise. Thank you. So we really started out
in our class exploration of looking at humor as
it resides in the body. So we wanted to introduce to some expert that we were able to bring along. I know there are a lot of
distinguished people here at this event, but we brought
along Dr. Scientifico, who’s going to come and join
us in center stage here. Dr. Scientifico, please. Can we bring him center stage, please? Doctor. Doctor, Doctor. [audience applauding] [audience chatting] This is embarrassing. [audience laughing] OK, Doctor. Dr. Scientifico, I would
like to introduce you to the stage to help us
really examine the body, the human body. Specimen, you can get
on the table over here. [audience laughing] [loud banging] [audience laughing] First of all. Where does it make noises? Where does it make noises? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The mouth. [Specimen moaning] There’s the mouth. Where else? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Fingers Fingers. Yes, where else? His stomach. [Specimen moaning] Kind off, where else? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The butt. The butt. [mimicking flatulence] I concur. Where else? [audience laughing] So there is where it makes noises. So now. Oh, good one. [Specimen laughing] It had to be a surprise. He does the mouth too, though. But if I do this. That’s good stuff. Now, where does it smell? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Mouth. Does it smell in they mouth? I agree. Where else? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Under arms. Under the arms. That is true. [audience laughing] Where else? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The feet. The feet. Ah-ha. Continue, the butt. [audience laughing] Yes, I’ll give it to you. Where else? [audience laughing] AUDIENCE MEMBER: Belly button. Mm-hm. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The hair. The hair. The hair is good, it smells good. Anywhere else? [audience laughing] AUDIENCE MEMBER: The crotch. What? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The crotch. The crotch. Primo. Where does it protrude? [audience laughing] AUDIENCE MEMBER: The noise. The noise? The noise protrude, where else? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The ears. The ears, they protrude. Continue. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The tongue. The tongue, protrudes. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The crotch. The crotch, it protrudes. What else? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The feet. The feet, they protrude. Little tootsies, they protrude. The nipples, they protrude, what else. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Kneecaps. Kneecap. Elbow, shoulder. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The butt. The… protrusion! This kind of forehead thing going on. The chin. Alright. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The nose. The nose. Where do its appetite reside? Where is it hungry? AUDIENCE MEMBER: Everywhere. Everywhere. Right here and right here. Does it have any other
appetites besides the food and sustenance? Any other appetites you can think of? [audience laughing] AUDIENCE MEMBER: The crotch. The crotch! Anything else? The heart? The heart needs love. SPECIMEN: Broken. He’s a broken heart. Where does it leak? [audience laughing] AUDIENCE MEMBER: The eyes. The eyes. Broken heart, leaking eyes. Where else leaks? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The nose. The nose, it leaks. The sweat, it pours. CAMERA WOMAN: Oh dear. Don’t cause more leakage
than necessary, sir. [audience laughing] I’m trying. Anywhere else, any leakage? The ears, they leak, the pours, they leak. This stuff down here,
the nethers, they leak. Where is the human most vulnerable. SPECIMEN: What will kill me? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The abdomen. The abdomen. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The neck. The neck. [Specimen grunting] The ribs? The crotch? AUDIENCE MEMBER: The eyes. The eyes. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The head. The head. The heart. It’s already broken. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The knees. The knees, breakable knees. AUDIENCE MEMBER: The toes. The toes. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Testicles. The testicles. The fingers, they break. The nose, it is broken. Since we’re all forced
to reside in our bodies, we all have anxieties
over the vulnerability, [belching] smells, noises, and vulnerabilities and the foolishness
associated with the body. Releasing that anxiety [belching] through humor can be very liberating and can lighten [belching] our load. [audience applauding] Thank you Dr. Scientifico for your service and your human specimen,
you guys did a great job. [audience applauding] Now, I’d like to turn a
question to the panelists, what do you guys think about
the nature and importance of physical humor, physical comedy, things interacting with the
body in an unfunny world. [audience laughing] Do you see what’s happening to Ellen here? Ellen’s having a breakdown. [audience laughing] I would have to say that
in an unfunny world, finding humor within that space and trying to look at, I’m a believer that
you can take any topic, any of the topics that we
said, there are bad people who’ve created a situation
that you can satirize and make fun of. How you pick your targets
are super important. So I would actually say
that verbal communication in an unfunny time to expose the hypocrisy of the people creating the unfunny times is more important than the physical. [audience applauding] I love absurdity. My favorite photograph
for the month of April, May, June, July, August and September, and I hope some of you have
saw it and if you haven’t, find it, it’s a picture of Jared Kushner in the Middle East, wearing
a blue blazer, khaki pants and a bulletproof vest. [audience laughing] Yeah, you can’t write it better than that. You can’t un-see that. And he’s surrounded by
military men in full camouflage and all I can think of
is that the were probably stifling what was just happening to me a little bit ago. They had to have been
amused as all get out. [audience laughing] Yeah, I’m a big fan of all sorts of humor and I think there is
something about the complexity of the times. Since 1994, all sorts of
bad things have happened, but there’s something sort
dark about today, for me. And where ever I can
find humor, I want to. I think that what is, I
like all kinds of humor but the think about the physical
humor that is kind of fun is that it’s really base
and it’s really emotional and it’s not as complicated as satire. It’s also an escapism. There’s responding to the
dark times and the negativity and then there’s taking a
break from it through absurdism and physical humor. So, that’s also super important. So it depends on how
you wanna deal with it is what your drug of choice
living in these times. I’ve taking to associating
the people I dislike most intensely with the characters I like most. And I think of Sean Spicer
and I think of Elmer Fudd. [audience laughing] And I think of Steve Bannon
and I think of Pig Pen from Peanuts and so on. I think of Mitch McConnel
and Yertle the turtle. Apologies to… [audience laughing] Well, also just as we were
filing into this panel, speaking of humor in a unfunny world, Sean Spicer, if you haven’t seen it, just gave a press
conference and actually said at least Hitler didn’t use gas on people. [audience groaning] I am not kidding you! I tried to actually say
it out loud to a fellow panelist and I was laughing
so hard because it was like, dumb times 150, about like I don’t know what he thinks is happening, but I’m not sure anybody was thinking there was a kinder, gentler
genocide in Germany. Oh my God. So this panel is very
apropos of the ever changing landscape of our ever unfunny world. The unfunny of the word. It’s hard to top that. I know! I’m like seriously thinking I might be unemployed momentarily. STUDENT: Amazing, thank you guys. LIZZ: Unbelievable. Oh, sorry. So we also studied various
theories about comedy. One is the release theory, which I think is like the most common, when you’re like nervous somewhere, and like you get this giggly humor, maybe it’s an awkward
time, at like a movie, and it would be really
inappropriate to laugh, but then you start doing it, yeah. I’m kind of a culprit of that one. But, that’s release theory basically, when anything gets tense
or anything like that, then you release laughter, and then Beth is going to
help us with an exercise that will explore this theory. So this idea of cleansing out our system, from built up tensions is
something that has been explored, we’d like to explore this
by going back to the list that we created at the
very beginning together. And I’m gonna to offer
it up to our panelists, if they’d like to participate in this, and if not I have my team
of students back here, so it’d be wonderful to
hear from all of you though. We’d like to pick one of
our topics that is unfunny, and then we’d like someone, we’d like to offer it up
first to our panelists, to just speak a rant on that
subject for one minute, OK? I need somebody from the
audience who has a second hand. Do you have a second hand on that watch? Can you time it in seconds? PIPER: I don’t mind. OK great, thank you, thank you, great. So we’re gonna have someone, if you wouldn’t mind holding
up some of the things that we showed. And does anyone from our panel, want to rant for one minute, on any one of these topics? Did you just volunteer Ellen? PIPER: I’m volunteering Ellen, and Liz will knock it out of the park. OK great. So what I’m gonna ask you to do, so Ellen do you have one
that you’d like to choose, or would you like to see
the list that we created? ELLEN: Natural disasters. Natural disasters. And you’re just, your challenge is just to
talk about it as a rant, for one minute. Do you have one chosen? ELLEN: I would go with Katrina. BETH: Great, and are you timing it? As soon as she starts. BETH: And go. I cannot believe that friggin’
Army Corps of Engineers, I can not believe, come
on, all this time I’ve been going to church, and
getting down on my knees, and saying, hey man,
upstairs, they say they don’t believe in you, I believe in you man, and do something about this storm. Come on, enough already. And where the hell is the ladder? Wait a minute, does
anybody know how to get up on this goddamn roof? What do you mean, what
do you mean we never had to get up on the roof before? We gotta get up on the
top of the roof by now. Uh oh, there’s a guy, there’s a guy, and he’s coming by, and
he says, hey, hey, hey, can I help you. Uh, the storm is coming,
the water is rising, you better get in my boat. You know and I’m thinking, I don’t know you man,
I don’t need your boat, I’m counting on God,
God’s got this covered, we got a thing going on here. Pretty soon, pretty soon, the
water gets a little bit higher and this little bit higher,
and finally get the ladder, and I’m up on the roof, and the
guy comes by in a helicopter and he says hey! There’s your minute. [audience applauding] [audience laughing] For those of you who are
familiar with improvisational comedy, this is a classic improv game. I will now like to ask
Liz, if she would take, not a opposing, but a different
perspective point of view, on the same topic, and rant
on it also, for one minute. But a very different
perspective approach from what Ellen took. Um, I think that we all know that, storms are God’s way of
punishing our Godless, Lesbian worshiping country. [audience laughing] And maybe, if we would all
come back to loving people that don’t make sense at all, and hating people who
love those who they love, we wouldn’t have these rising
storms that happen constantly and why on Earth does anybody
think that a God that is loving would want people
to love each other. I mean that is the most un-Christian thing I have ever heard in my entire life. So those of you living
near water, around water, and need water and use
water in your daily lives, maybe you should reevaluate your life, and look to the hate
the Lord has given you. [audience laughing] Whoa, 54 seconds. [audience applauding] PIPER: She’s a pro. One of the things that
we explored in the class, is that comedy often holds
kind of a double meaning. A pun is a pun because
it has a double meaning. We just did an exercise that
brought out two different meanings on something
that was very serious, and very consequential,
and yet there was comedy within our consideration of this event. I’d like to turn it over to our panelists, and just try to help us unpack this. How can this be? What is the nature of comedy
that it allows us to kind of, crack open something and
see it in a different way? I mean, for me, I just
did a classic example of what I said earlier, which is, who are the people that
are just the bad actors in a time that is really horrible? And anybody who would
blame gay folks or Muslims, or anything for a natural
disaster because it doesn’t fall into a world view that makes sense, I believe you can tap that,
narrow it down with ridicule. And then I think if you break it down, it seems nonsensical when
you actually use, often, I think everything I
said was said by someone who was held in esteem
of a group of people. So, I think that, you
know, we’re lucky enough to be able to now live in a
world where there some really great people who are doing
some really great work breaking some of this stuff down, but, sadly we have a media and a bunch of people who look at
ratings as a way to promote like this alternative
defective world that can create a lot of this really harmful stuff. Well, having been black all my life, let me tell you that we
have survived on humor. We, I think, are among
the most resilient people in the world anywhere, because we can laugh at almost anything. And if it hadn’t been for humor, all through slavery, post
slavery, and God knows now, we just couldn’t make it. And so for a lot of us, we, you know a lot of our white friends, are going oh my God, oh my
God, what we’re going to do, Trump is going to, and we’re going, yeah? [audience laughing] Uh huh. Ain’t new to us. It’s new to you. And the wonderful thing about that is, there has come out of it a unity. Those of us who were involved
in the Civil Rights Movement, in the ’60s and ’70s are
joined with the people who are not, who never
thought this sort of thing could happen to them, and I think together we’re
gonna make a difference. God knows I hope we are in 2018. [audience applauding] I’m gonna come at this
from a little different perspective, when you
think about, sort of like, why we crave humor or
why humor is important, I don’t know if you
wanna call it important during dark times. I almost wonder if it has
something to do with our deficit of being able to
really handle the complexities that are involved in those dark times. And the way to like tease,
the way to tease around the issue is by making fun of it. And that while I’m a big
believer in the making fun of it, I also do think
that there’s room in our society that might, it might
be something to think about is, how do we really get down
and process this stuff? I mean, it’s kind of, the Daily
Show kind of did it for us where it went from comedy to serious, or, I stopped watching the
news and started watching the Daily Show, but there’s still, it’s still an interesting
thing to me that we can’t, we kind of don’t know, it’s like, it’s kind of like how we
don’t know how to talk about divorce to our children and
we don’t know how to talk about how grim the world
is in a meaningful way. So our, if you haven’t
noticed our protocol here is, we’re doing a few exercises
to spur on the conversation. So the next exercise that we’d like to do, that we think will really bear
witness to the class process that we’ve gone through, and also bring out more
conversation with our panelists, is a game that we created. So we looked at political comedy, and we read the play by Dario Fo, that is called The Accidental
Death of an Anarchist. And it’s about an actual event
that occurred in the ’70s where an anarchist was,
supposedly, committed suicide out a window of a police station, and all the evidence goes
that he was pushed out of the window and actually killed. But it’s put forth as an accidental death. And so Dario Fo, he won
the Nobel Prize from Italy, in Literature. Wonderful, commedia
dell’arte style comedian. Very physical, very
witty, very language based in his comedy as well. But, we read that play, and
we wanted to come up with a comedic game that would
get at a lot of the things that were in this play, and in the subject of physical comedy. So we came up with a game
that is called the tyrant, the free and the shackle. And I’d like to invite the class, I wonder, I think sight
lines might be best if you go over here. You might want to go
over there if you want. And Colin you might be
able to see for this. Just saying. Colin, can I stop you there. So, you know actually we should do Danny. Danny? I mean, Susan, yeah Danny. Danny is going to start out as, well no I’m going have
Nolan be the tyrant, he looks like one. OK, come here. Nolan come here, we’re going
to put this in the back of your thing right here. This scarf that I have
here, represents the hypocrisy, the corruption,
the thing that Nolan as the tyrant does not
want to have exposed, OK? Nolan go join your group please. And you go too Danny, sorry. OK, so the object of this
game is for the free, everyone else is the free. I’d like to have two free
people volunteer from the audience as well so we
have audience participation. It gets a little physical,
so if you want to do this, just know that you’re up for it. I need two volunteers
who want to be the free. Anyone? Come, come be the free,
you’re ready to be the free. Your colors work with
the core of the group, so that’s really good. One more person want to be the free? Actually, that’s kind of, that’s good. Will you guys move that mic
out of there so you don’t get in the way there, OK great. So, Great. The way that this group
works is Nolan is the tyrant, he’s going to physically not
be able to move his neck, he only has a limited vision
because he’s a tyrant. His movements are very restricted, so show us how you can move
Nolan, so that only your arms can go up. His movements as far as
movement, he can’t run, or anything like that, he
can kind of move like a squatty thing, he’s very restricted. Great. He’s going to get, the
rest of you are the free. Your goal is to take, and I might actually ask a few
of the students to step out, we might have too many people. The goal for you is to try to take, expose the tyrant, OK? If he touches you with his hand, you become shackled. Will you guys, Morgan will you
show us what shackled means? So you get shackled, great. So if he tries to just put
his back against the wall, you can try to hold a revolution, if you try to count to five
while his back is against the wall then you’ve
succeeded in your revolution. So we’re gonna just do the
game to see how it goes. So you can see this as a
physical representation of political comedy of this play. So go. So Morgan was able to get it. Well done. We might need to take a few people out. [audience applauding] Did we just have one of the
shackled get the, expose him? That’s fantastic, great. Everyone is back to being the free, Let’s have Nolan will
you be the tyrant again. Set him up again. Great, this time when you expose him, will you please all try to throw this, the thing that you’ve exposed this hanky, back and forth without him
being able to catch it, and to really flaunt this exposure. OK, and go. She wanted Gary. Ah, great. So then in the course of the
game, Colin will then need to be the tyrant next, he
would be made the tyrant. OK, great. So one of the things behind this idea, thank you so much you guys, thank you. [audience applauding] One of the things in terms
of pedagogy was to really physicalize this exploration
of political comedy. What is it trying to get at,
what is it trying to expose, what’s it trying to communicate. So we use this participatory
game in order to try and do that. We’d like to hand it over
to our panelists now, and ask all of you, what
do you think of this idea of trying this relationship
between the physical comedy, and then the more intellectual,
the play that is written, a piece a play, a piece of literature, a comedy show like the Daily
Show or something like that, where is that relationship
between the physicalization of it, that manifestation,
and then the more complex deep meanings behind them. Cookies? [audience laughing] BETH: I think the question was worded– I can go but I feel like I’m
just doing all the talking. So for me, it depends
on how the physicality, does the physicality
or the physical comedy manifest itself into helping
you learn something more about that persons horrible policies. You know it’s like I can’t help but think in the modern world when we’re
talking about appearance, what we take on for somebody, what happened in this last
election, we had so much sexism, so much about Hillary,
what does she look like, and we all know Donald Trump is orange, but what does that tell you
about Donald Trump, you know? John Boehner was also
orange, two very different. PIPER: Oranges. Oranges, and political problems. So I think that when we look
at the physical, I think that, is it informing, is it
informing you on the person that you are satirizing and what they do, and their policies. If it’s simply buffoonery, I kind of put that in the
camp of like a late night monologue joke sometimes maybe
will be a little bit more, less in depth, you know,
than it would be a rant from John Oliver let’s say. So, I think that it can
play a role done well, I think done poorly it can
just be a surface-y thing, that’s basically just
an ad hominem attack. One of the thing, and maybe either of you can respond to this, we all thought that Chevy Chase’s pratfalls were hysterical, until he injured himself. And then we had to
re-think finding pratfalls of that nature, amusing. So what makes that happen? I never re-thought that. I’m not a nice person. [audience laughing] I still thought it was really funny. Well I… [panelist laughing] I’m sorry, it’s true. We laugh at, OK, I laugh at, a person’s walking down
the street, and we’ve all, not done it of course,
but we’ve seen it happen, the person whose walking
down the street, texting, and walks into a pole. [audience laughing] That’s funny. [audience laughing] Remember the YouTube video
of the woman in the mall, who was walking through,
and fell into the pond, the fountain, and nobody knew who she was, until she started to sue the mall, and everybody knew who she was. So she was really dumb. I have to put a shout in for, we have a professor on
campus Peter McGraw, who studies the benign
violation theory towards comedy, that it’s funny until, it
has to be benign to be funny, so it’s like, if someone
actually gets hurt, or if there’s actual violation. I mean I can tell you that
one of the greatest moments of that is we launched the
Daily Show in 1996 during the dull Clinton campaign,
and Bob Dole fell off of a platform, do you remember this? And so when the videotape came in, at that point we didn’t
have YouTube or anything, and the videotape came in and
we’re in the writers room, watching the video and we’re like, please don’t be hurt,
please don’t be hurt, please don’t be hurt, wipe out,
and he’s good we can do it! So we’re like literally like… [audience laughing] Comedians are horrible, you
realize we’re terrible people. [laughing] So one of the questions
from the audience is, with Trump in Office, modern
satire seems to be focused heavily on the news of him
and his administration. Has this made the role
of the satirist easier? Or has our realm of
relevant satirical content begun to shrink. Um, I would personally say,
this is the hardest time to write, because when you
can write really strong satire it’s usually based
on like a philosophy of someone’s right? Since Donald Trump seems to
not have any like core values, it’s really hard to
satirize his core values. So you’re satirizing his
weird gaslighting of people, and his just bizarre made up shit, and it comes so fast, that it’s hard to, it used to be that like, I do this big year end review
show every year in Minneapolis and I do a live stream on
it and it’s really fun, and it used to be like
there was 30 great stories, and I could break them
down and it was awesome, and now it’s like tweets
every ten seconds, it’s every person he’s
surrounding himself with, I mean the incompetence is so profound, that, like every single cabinet
person is the last person any sane person would choose
to run a governmental agency. I mean Ben Carson, a brain
surgeon whose performed his own lobotomy, I am nearly positive. [audience laughing] Is running a department that
he was like I don’t believe we should actually have
housing, that is like fair and equitable. I mean… [audience laughing] I mean Betsy DeVos has never
been in a public school, except to hunt grizzlies or
whatever the hell she said. [audience laughing] And Rick Perry is heading
the department that he couldn’t even remember the name
of when he was campaigning. Yes. So I mean, it’s like, endless, but it’s also terrifying. Yeah because they satirize themselves. Yeah. They don’t leave a lot
of wiggle room for people who do it professionally. That’s very true. But then again I find myself
being the serious person on this panel, but the fear of this is
that I myself, I’m just becoming desensitized to it. Like I don’t even take,
I can laugh and not even, I’ve forgotten about
Spicer’s comment already. There’s so much that you
can’t actually process enough, and I, maybe we need
like political curation, needs to be the next
big thing to do for us. I think a million dollar
idea would be a nesting doll of incompetence, and you
just start with Trump, an go down the cabinet. Like it’s Trump, you open
up Pence, you open up it’s Paul Ryan, you open up it’s
Tillerson and you go down the line of like. Because that’s what it is, we
have a nesting doll of awful. It would be a Russian doll. Yes, this is why, exactly. [audience laughing] Crazy. [audience laughing] So a student put forth a question, I will read the question verbatim. I think it’s funny that
no adults in the room, could say anything about crotch. It’s weird that we can talk
about something we all have, and should feel comfortable about. Or is it weird? So that was a question about the– PIPER: Dick. [audience laughing] I just didn’t because in improvisation that’s always the first place you go, it’s like sex humor or dick humor. And so for me, it was interesting
to see how you elevate to the next level. So for me, yeah, the
first thing I thought was, yeah, your dick, whatever. And then I was hoping that
people would say other things, and they did. So it’s not about for me being ashamed, I mean I’m the abortion
comedian for God’s sake, I’m hardly afraid of anything. So I think that, I don’t
know if it was that, as much as it was just, like,
trying to get you guys to, we know there’s a guy, and I think what was
smart about it actually, here’s a guy with just a Speedo on, and let’s talk about a whole
bunch of stuff that’s not the obvious thing in the room. So kudos to not having that
be necessarily the thing we all think off when we
think of someone in a Speedo. I’m not thinking about his
SAT scores quite frankly. I don’t think people are
when someone is standing before you in a Speedo. It’s not like I wonder if that
person is going to help me, has jumper cables. I mean, I don’t know. I wonder how he did on his Physics exam. [panelists laughing] BETH: He’s brains and
beauty I can tell you. No, I believe that’s true. Someone else wrote in and said, I like the phony accents and the routine, and the person said that
they even do that themselves. But they’ve been told
that it’s insensitive. What do we say, do we go for the laughs? Or is it OK to use an Italian
accent, and if not Italian are there others? Hand that to you panelists. As the police of accents. As someone whose not
particularly politically correct it didn’t bother me. [panelists laughing] I think again it’s almost
like it’s offensive if it’s playing on, it’s offensive
and not good humor if it’s playing on the
expected stereotype I think. But if it gives us a different view, and it tells the story more effectively, it doesn’t bother me. I always say to everybody, say whatever you want,
however you want to say it, and then realize that the
second it passes your lips, it’s up for everybody’s interpretation, and so the way that you do it, people are going to
have feelings about it. Can you defend it? Think to yourself, why are you doing it. And just realize that your
intention, the second that it’s out there, sometimes doesn’t matter, and sometimes you don’t get
to explain your intention. So, I’m just like go for it, and if people like resoundingly go, I never want to hear from you again, that’s like part of the deal. But it’s also part of the
excitement and the freedom, and exploring boundaries is what great comedy has been based on. And so do it. And then understand
that it doesn’t make you the best friend to everyone. If we think in utopian terms, and we think about
creating this better world. Where do you think the world of comedy, especially where we find
ourselves right now politically, as mostly Americans in this room, and certainly in America, where do we find the place
of humor in this kind of working toward utopia, how do you think it can be
used to create this better world that we want to create. I subscribe to the notion
that laughter is always the best medicine. I think laughter, I don’t
know enough about psychology or psychiatry, to understand
entirely the dynamics of the release one experiences
through laughter, but, I think there’s always
going to be room for it, there’s always going to be a need for it. Well and it’s a way into, well I’m asking whether or not
we’re not able to talk about complicated things, I also
think it is a way into, I’ve recently gone to a
couple of stand up shows, I’ve never been to a
stand up show in my life, and I was, I can think I’m kind of a fan, and people are able to
say things in a way, and come at a problem through
a different lens sometimes that all of a sudden makes
it, I think it opens it up, it’s like a little crack,
and then it opens it up, and then it’s funny, and then it’s serious
underneath the funny. So I think, I think that it’s, and it also will help, it
helps us all from us being demoralized when you can
see the humor in things, but I think it’s really careful to not, to not let it just be funny, it’s funny because it’s tragic
and it’s tragic because it really is bad. [laughing] And I’m laughing at that. I would also just say, if somebody makes you laugh, laughing is the one thing that
can not be orchestrated by societal norms, sometimes
you can just be like have it drum into your
head about body image, about whatever, like I
guess I like that sweater that everybody’s wearing, I’ll get it. Humor is literally something
that either hits you or it doesn’t, so it’s
the one most organic, natural thing that we have
inside of ourselves as people. So when someone taps into that and that person brings you joy, whether you realize it or
not you like that person. So if you can have humor
or bring joy to people, it might be a crack in
finding common ground, or finding a place that makes sense. My dad was a really,
really, really conservative human being, and it was
like how do I find a way to connect to him, and
we did it through humor, and we did it through
watching Jeopardy together. Because I always say, if
there’s somebody you love, that you have a really hard
time in political discourse, watch Jeopardy. If you’re both smart, you’ll
both get the questions right, and you can’t insult each
other on an intellectual level, then it’s really helpful. My tip to you. And then if they’re awful just leave. But, yeah, so I think that
it’s like crucial as a tool of humanity and it lives
every single place we’re at, every single place. And it’s also a barometer
of, do we still have hope. If you’re laughing, you still have hope. It’s interesting that my
brothers and I still laugh about the fact that my father
never picked you up at 6:30, he picked you up at 6:32, or he picked you up at 5:27, or he would have lunch at 1:12. And growing up, over the
years, we still do that with one another. We’ll say, hey man,
how about if I meet you at Mosley’s Last Stand at 4:23 and a half. [audience laughing] BETH: I’m interested
also in when does comedy go too far. When is it inappropriate,
when is just not funny? LIZZ: That’s not up for anyone to decide. When people try to pose that question, it’s literally a question that enrages me more than anything in the world. BETH: Sorry. No, no, because it’s the same thing. Are women funny, fuck you. Like serious, that conversation happens in some stupid think piece twice a year. Are women funny, yes they are. Have you laughed when
a women said something, then there’s your answer. Bye bye. So that question is
saying that there is a, there’s some universal
offense, or universal humor. Everybody is gonna have there line of what they don’t think and
what they think is funny. And to set those
parameters would mean that there wouldn’t be a Daily Show. Because do you know how many advertisers once a week would try
to get that show pulled because of something
that somebody who bought the soap or the car or
whatever found offense with? You know, we made a shower curtain out of The Shroud of
Turin and we got yanked out of Philadelphia ’cause
somebody complained. You know, there’s always
going to be something that is going to offend people or not. And so I think the point
is, it’s the same with not censoring your enemies. Don’t you wanna who
the biggest racists are who are out there? I wanna know who they are
so I know how to fight back. I don’t wanna silence people because then, I’m at a disadvantage of
knowing who is walking around being my enemy. And it’s the same with comedy. I wanna know everything,
I wanna hear all of it. [audience applauding] I have, I get what
you’re saying but I have a real hard time finding humor in Sandy Hook. It was such a horrific event. I don’t know, oh I said
I have a really hard time finding any way to extract
humor from Sandy Hook. Maybe it’s possible but I don’t know how. I would say, again, the bad
actors around Sandy Hook and there are… This is a story that is real and insane. So, I go home for Christmas this year, battling what all of us
did, which is we just had an election, how do I
deal with the relatives who are, I believe,
completely out of there minds. I have to deal with a
relative who listens to, do you know who Alex Jones is? [audience moaning] Yeah, so, this person
is an Alex Jones devotee and we’re talking about that
I’m a sheep, I’m sheeple and that I don’t understand the profundity of what’s happening. And I said, I don’t know
what you’re talking about. And he said, you know,
you have been fooled by the government’s crisis actors. Anybody with me, crisis actors? So, wing of people who
believe that the government hires actors to pretend that
these situations are fake. He said it happened in 9/11,
he said it was exercised at Sandy Hook. And then he said, even the Boston bombing. And I said, I, your first
two examples are hideous, but I wasn’t at those two
places but I did watch the Boston Marathon and with my own eyes, I watched a man’s legs get blown off. What are you talking about? And he said to me see,
this is why you’re a sheep. That man showed up without
legs and they fitted him for blow off-able legs. [audience moaning in shock] And at that part, I
was like, blow off-able is not a word, A. [audience laughing] PIPER: Alright, there’s a joke. ELLEN: Okay, there it is. PIPER: It takes a pro. And B, see A. So, it’s like picking it. And there are gonna be people that say, where is she going? I’m gonna shut because she’s
brought up something that couldn’t possibly have a
place for me to go with humor. But my job and I think the job of people who are good with satire,
is finding the people who exists in the world that
marginalize and trivialize and ignore the real places of why these things happen, right? So, I think that when
people try to do that for shock value, it’s
almost always the worst, they’re never good at it. But when you can place
it in a cultural context, which we have to talk about our bad shit in a cultural context, you know. James Baldwin said white people never have to look at their shit. White people, we gotta look at our shit and figure out what our
role is in all of it. And I think the comedians are doing a really good service
by saying white people, let’s look at our shit. [audience laughing] I say it all the time. Yeah. [audience laughing] I know. When we look at this challenge of having to look at our shit, when
it comes in the context of comedy, how is that different then a critical analysis? What are the differences. Well I think, again, it’s the access, it can be both more critical
and the access to it. How many people have seen Get Out? Speaking of white people
looking at their shit. I was actually, so a friend of mine saw it and actually witness people
laughing at the wrong time. And I guess this has been
going on with that movie. And so I think you have
to make sure that… The movie is great but
it’s about the issue of kinda finding the, God,
how to relay this idea? It’s gotta be good and
it’s gotta be the right, not the right culture,
how do we even say that? Is there a right cultural context? I don’t know the language
around this topic right now. Because what’s funny in one context is not funny in another. And when people are ready to see that, so go see Get Out and then
figure out what woke means, and then talk about that a little bit. Well, I don’t know how many of you saw Straight Out of Compton but there’s a meme that came out of that movie
that became international. And that was “By Felicia.” Yeah. See? BETH: Yeah, Bye Felicia.” Bye Felicia. And you have to see the movie. You have to see the movie and
you have to see it in context. Now, on its own, it doesn’t mean very much but if you’ve seen the movie
and you know the situation that gave rise to it,
you understand why a lot of times on Facebook and
comedy, you hear the phrase, Bye Felicia. Check it out. I also think too, it’s an awesome way too, if people don’t know, to give
them an introduction into it. When I do my standup, I like to do a lot of story telling with it. It’s like, did you hear about this? This is the thing. Even telling you about Alex Jones, it’s like, if you don’t
know about Alex Jones, I don’t care, I’m just happy that, it’s just really fun to get people engaged about a topic that A,
sometimes you feel like you might suppose to
know and you don’t know all the details or you were busy. So, it’s somebody helping you out, thank you for telling me that so I can google it later and not
making me feel dumb. And I think humor is a really good way to introduce topics and keep
people engage in things that sometimes can be really hard deep dives into stuff. You know, Vox is making a
lot of really great videos that are explainer videos and I think those things are important. I think that people live
lives and they’re busy and people also maybe focus on one issue and they know a lot about that issue and other issues, they don’t know about. And I think humor is a great
way to bring people into filling them in on stuff
so that they feel cool that they’re just learning
about it for the first time. BETH: So one of the
question that came in is what about President Obama? When Obama became president,
it seemed that there were very few jokes about
him for the first year. What is it about this interaction between comedy and respect? Are you kidding, those ears were funny from the moment he was sworn in. The ears. The ears. BETH: Protrude. For me, what I found
was really interesting is that when Obama was elected,
I was interviewed constantly by the press, saying
what are you gonna do now that Obama is elected, how
are you gonna make jokes? And it was such implicit racism. Like, oh there’s a black
president so I can’t make fun of the fact that he picked
fucking Rahm Emanuel? And the fact that he’s already promised he gonna drone people and escalate the troops in Afghanistan? And kept on Tim Geithner and
fucking all the banksters? Yeah, there’s plenty of jokes about Obama and I made them. But he came from a machine that is broken and there were plenty of jobs to make and it was fascinating to
me that people didn’t know how to talk about a president
and were tip toeing around his policies just because
he was a black president. If I were to make jokes
about a black president, that’s an asshole. If I’m to make jokes about a president that came out through a
system and he pushed policies that were crappy, that is my job. [audience applauding] There’s a difference. Yeah. And if there was a lack of comedy around the Obama election, I think
some of it just had to do with us, and I’ll say it, as white people, not knowing how to act
with a black president. Not knowing what’s funny. Not be willing, being
too precious and careful and not understanding it. I mean, I remember when
I was a school teacher, I remember one time some
kidd, an eighth grader said, Ms. Davis, the black
people know they’re black. And I was like oh. Huh. Isn’t that awesome? I was using all this language to avoid any differences between
anybody in the classroom. Yeah, well it’s also too, it’s really, when you look at comedy,
all the things I just listed on Obama, there’s a lot of
sort of big, think hard pieces to right material around. I did but it’s hard, right? Where it’s like, you know,
it’s like the first thing you said was his ears, that’s
the place to go, right? Banner’s orange. But the reaction around Obama
and the racism that America… We knew that there was
just implicit biased but to have a black president and to watch what our black president
couldn’t get away with because of bullshit in
our society, was great. Let me give you an example. In one of his first, I guess it was one of his first press conferences,
or a speech he gave about something, and he walked
out from behind some doors and he walked down to the
podium, and he had that walk. Remember that walk? All my black friends
said hmm, wonder how long he’s gonna be able to keep that up. [audience laughing] And sure enough, sure enough,
he had to modify that walk. If you saw him into the
second or third year of his presidency, he didn’t
have that super cool swagger that we all thought was so hot. He didn’t have it anymore. And he was told, tone it down bro. And he did. What makes me craziest is
OK, it’s cool that he was our first black president,
it’s cool that, you know, he made mistakes, he did some good stuff, he did some bad stuff,
but he was still just the president. Right! And he was never able to stop being the black president. And that’s what’s crazy making. You know, I have never
said, relating a story, I have never said, there
was this incredible white woman walking down across the street who had on the most
gorgeous turquoise turban. But if you listen to a lot of
white people tell the story, they will say, I saw this incredible black woman walking across the street
in turquoise turban. Does it matter that she
was black or does it matter that the turquoise turban was super cool? Think about it. Or that the white woman was
appropriating the culture. [laughing] But sometimes I’m actually curious what you guys think,
what does the audience think about this? Is that sometimes it’s
critical to the story, so those details, if
they’re part of other, other parts of the whole story, when it appropriate to
talk about someone’s physical attributes and when is it not? Is it, it feels like
maybe it’s a power thing? ‘Cause sometimes it
makes the story better. Sometimes it’s germane,
sometimes it’s relevant, sometimes it’s not. So if it’s germane, then it’s appropriate? Yeah. You do, then other people get to decide. Then again, it goes back to
the, if you decided that, then other people get
to decide whether or not your decision was right, and
that’s why a lot of people just go, I can’t go into this business, it seems really hard. [laughing] But you know, yeah. But I think it’s a very interesting time that we live in with what
it means to have presidents who are not part of the same cloth. Species. Yeah. That we’ve always had and
what that means for all of it. And also, the responsibility
that we put on those people. So yeah. But until we fix the system,
there should be no reason not to talk about anybody
who came up with the system to be president. You know, you took
money, you made promises you’re not gonna keep. It’s all crap and here we are. Unfunny world. BETH: So one of the questions
here is related to this. Is seems to me that the
attention to Trump’s bizarreness in so many ways, just
keeps reinforcing his ego and his importance, am I wrong? Oh, I think he’s the
quintessential narcissist. And I think he probably,
however unconscionably, subscribe to the notion that no attention is bad attention, no
publicity is bad publicity, and it goes right past his head. The fact here he, the fact that here he
is past his 100 days, and he’s still talking
about the bloody election. He’s still talking about Hilary Clinton. He’s still talking about his
crowd at the inauguration. Stop it. He’s a mess! And that’s funny. It is. But I do think that, I do think that it’s I think we’re all in a
place, well I can’t say all, may people voted for Trump, I don’t know, I think those of us who can’t believe people voted for Trump are, you wonder when it’s gonna be the time that people wake up, right? Like, will it be this weird thing? Will it be this weird thing? And so I think, there may
be this thing within us to just keep poking the bear to see, because you want people to wake
up so badly that you’re like make him say something
so awful that then people will wake up. And I don’t know because I feel sometimes I feel like that too. It’s like, what can I do to Donald Trump and I actually don’t know
because I also feel like the people who are not
willing, who are not offended by anything he
does will never be offended by anything he does. And so we are offended but
the larger, weirder question for me about Trump is
really, who are the people that can’t cop to the fact that they voted for somebody who
is that guy and that they’re cosigning on it every single time. I mean, I just feel like, that to me, is that most unfunny thing of the world we live in now. Well, as baffling as that is, I think it makes sense
when you think about the division and the people who are like, oh I’m a moderate, I’m in between. It’s like no, we are so
red and blue right now and people are so conservative. Like this morning, went
for a hike with my friend, I don’t know if Sylvia is here, she was like, when we went
with another neighbor friend and when we left, oh I thought
you where fine, thank God. I didn’t tell you but she’s
our republican friend. And I was told to not, I mean not told to but it
became clear that it would make a socially awkward situation
if I was my general loudmouth liberal self. And I think that is what,
maybe there’s a role for humor to start doing
that because right now, people who aren’t, it would take, if Donald Trump ran as a democrat, it would have been really hard for me to vote for Jeb Bush. It would’ve been, it… I would have trusted still,
because of the division, I would have trusted. Even though I’m so pissed
at the Democratic party right now, I still trust
them, they’re my party. I was raised raised to
be a democrat, you know? And I think that our team
allegiance so strong right now that we’re willing to forgive
anybody on our team anything because they’re on our team. I couldn’t have voted for Donald Trump if he had said Ellen, here’s
half of the money I have. I didn’t say I would’ve voted for Trump. If he had been a democrat, if he had been the embodiment of Clark Gabel. If he had been, no, uh-uh. But there’s just no way that Donald Trump could ever run. I’m sorry, I don’t wanna
interrupt, go ahead. [cross talking] As a democrat, you can’t
not pay your workers, you know there are just things
that people wouldn’t have, you can’t grab somebody by the you know. But the point being
that once you’ve decided and defined yourself about who you are and what part of, what
football team you root for, what party you’re part of, most people, well first of all, less than half of our population didn’t vote,
most people just go down and check what the
democrat party have said and everybody else should get vote by mail like Portland does. BETH: I need to put the, I’m so sorry, I’m being asked to wrap up our amusing, I wanna do a shout out to our panelists for being a part of this. [audience applauding] I also wanna do a shout
out to our students who are students of the
University of Colorado. CAMERA WOMAN: Yeah, good job guys! BETH: This is their campus, thank you for having us here. We thank you. They also wanted to
express their gratitude. One, two, three, grr. That was their grr
attitude, so there we go. We thank you so much, we
do wanna ask everyone, if you can just stay
seated for two seconds. Ellen has a really tight
connection to make, so we’re just gonna quickly allow Ellen to clear a path out, so maybe
use that door over there, if you wouldn’t mind. Thank you so much for joining us. [audience applauding] [audience chatting] CAMERA WOMAN: You guys are great.

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