oh no

Abraham Riesman for New York Magazine

It turns out that the progress of the counterculture is like pushing a canoe away from a pier; you generate movement until you run out of leg, and then you’re too far from the foundation to generate force, and you’re just drifting and directionless. The truth is that, even in the heady make believe of ye olden days when a man was a man and boys all had crew cuts, the school jocks and the prom queens were always outnumbered. Either way: today it’s no contest. No one today would admit to being the prom queen in a million years. Everyone is the outsider, now. San Diego Comic Con, jam packed with throngs of thousands, each convinced that they are most alone boys and girls to ever walk the blacktop. And with no inside to be outside of, all that’s left is jokers and their pose, this absurd posture of rebelling against that authority which is no authority at all.

Jokes are a horror story now, the banal, stuttering emptiness of a culture of class clowns and no teachers. Desperately, desperately invested in crafting a persona of disaffection and unconcern, endlessly A/B testing their zingers, trying to convince everyone else that somehow an entire new species has been born of people who have no internal life save for feelings of condescension and being self-impressed. They sell it all by misnaming it irony, an indispensable tool for life that’s been leeched of all of its vitality, all in service of the fear of those who cannot bear to betray emotion to the people whose approval they seek with white-knuckled intensity.

When I lived in Chicago I would go to parties with my buddy who was in the comedy world there. He did standup and improv and sketch. He’d take me to these parties and I’d meet others in that scene, people all trying to make it in comedy. And a lot of them were lovely people. But I’d come home from those parties and just feel exhausted. It was a consequence of being on the receiving end of everybody’s material for hours.  And there’s the future, for you, the exhaustion of people proving that they’re not trying by trying very hard, a dystopia of amateur comedians, and a nation of people trying to sit at the back of the class who can’t seem to find where the front is. Why are you doing it? Who is it for? And can you take yourself seriously long enough to ask if you even really want to do this anymore?