Apr 122011
Authors: Matt Miller

Let me tell you a joke.

A couple weeks into my freshmen year of college I sat in History 150 frantically taking notes.

In the midst of my excited scribbling I managed to fling my pencil to the ground on the right side of the desk.
Now, to set the scene, I was sitting in the front row of Eddy 100 (because that’s what freshmen are encouraged to do).

As you may know, that classroom has those freestanding desks that are made for someone right-handed or someone left-handed (and no, this isn’t a joke about the unfair ratio of right-handed to left-handed desks). I sat in one of the right-handed desks that only allow movement out of the left side.

My pencil sat on the floor to my right about 6 inches out of my reach, and this was my mindset:

1) I need to keep taking notes or I’ll fail the class –– remember, I was a freshmen.

2) I don’t want to bother the person next to me, who must be too engrossed in his college course, to grab my pencil.

So I decided acrobatics was the best possible solution.

I began to lean toward the pencil, balancing on the two right legs of my desk. My hand was getting closer and it was one of those “grab my hand, I’ll pull you to safety” moments from an action movie –– but with a pencil.

The tips of my fingers were touching the pencil just enough so I could roll it around.

I thought I had done it.

But then gravity struck and me, my desk and my dignity toppled to the side. As I made contact with the student next to me I knew I had learned something.

I, and everyone who was laughing at me, learned how I should have dealt with the situation.

Stop taking notes, get another pencil or just don’t go to class at all.

No teacher could have taught me or anyone else in the classroom that lesson. A lesson best expressed through comedy.

Poking fun at our mistakes as individuals, as a country and as a society is a way to step back and learn.

Whether it’s through TV, books, movies or even newspapers like The Onion, comedy provides a lighthearted and insightful look at who we are and where we are going.

David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” and pretty much anything by Kurt Vonnegut are prime examples of satire that delve deep into hilarity of humanity.

More recently television has been a medium through which the most popular comedians share their social commentary. On Sunday April 10 Comedy Central aired the first ever Comedy Awards, which drew in about 2.8 million viewers.

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, who were at the award show, have been making constant headlines through their Comedy Central shows. And political affiliation aside, their brand of satire and parody is a way to expose their demographic of 18 to 34 year old men to current events and issues.

This is a demographic that has in recent years been declining in newspaper readership and news consumption. Yes, both of the TV hosts have a pronounced political standing, but they point out the mistakes and the ridiculousness that our politicians and political structure have.

Used from either side of the aisle, comedy is an easy access point into issues that we face as a country.

There is that old saying about comedy and medicine, but comedy is really more of a social steroid. It is easy to inject and has quick results.

Connecting through the masses through laughter is much easier than through abrasive comments, insults and bickering.

There is a reason that commentary and satire are protected versions of speech. Our founding fathers new that more than 200 years ago.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller is a junior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to verve@collegian.com.

Check this out:

Continuing the theme of comedy throughout the week The Collegian entertainment section will have a feature on Fort Collins comedians in Thursday’s Verve section, and on Friday columnists Kate Bennis and Nic Turiciano bring you Never Have I Ever … done stand up comedy.

 Posted by at 4:47 pm

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