Retro Relapse: In Defense of Sarcasm

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

I’ve read a few things recently online and in books that have spoke about sarcasm in a negative light. It has been painted as mean-spirited and a low brow form of humor – a quick attempt at a humorous response more often than not used in an effort to shield an emotional blow or to indirectly or passive aggressively pick fun at someone. While I get and understand the point these authors are trying to make, I don’t necessarily agree with it.

One of the books I read is about the subject of “manliness”. It’s author feels that a “man” shouldn’t use this sort of comedic device. Well, I think sarcasm is fine when there is a proper need for it and if it isn’t the only humor discipline that a manly wordsmith employs.

You see, the problem with sarcasm is that it has evolved – poorly. Sarcasm was once a witty and often times intellectually vast form of humor. Only some really smart and clever motherfuckers could use its power and get their audiences’ panties to drop. Anyone could say something funny but it took a lot of thought for someone to drop some really sarcastic pipe bomb.

It wasn’t as common back in the day and that is probably why it has become a comedic discipline that was almost an art form.

I think that the oldest form of sarcasm that I have experienced was expressed from many of the old badass comedic legends of yesteryear. Watching a lot of the old greats with my granmum throughout my childhood gave me a pretty solid understanding of their form, their timing and their delivery – not to mention pure wit.

Two things that really come to mind are the old Dean Martin roasts, which were a thousand times more classy and intelligent than the roasts today, and the old school game shows that always had funny celebrity contestants. One celeb contestant that immediately comes to mind is Charles Nelson Reilly.

Throughout the years however, as can be seen in the evolution of ludeness, crassness and dick jokes galore in modern celebrity roasts and just general mainstream comedy, the utter genius and hilarity of thought provoking comedy gold is pretty much non-existent. And not just through sarcasm but all comedic fronts; being mean and nasty in general is thunderously applauded.

There is still intelligent comedy but even shows like ‘Parks & Recreation’, ‘Party Down’ and ‘Arrested Development’ fall victim to the overabundance of the dense and obtuse witless vulgarness of our modern culture. Comedy in general now is just atrocious and sad. And unfortunately this just bleeds over into the masses. The class clown today is usually just a bully with a laugh track comprised of thirty other students.

You see, it’s a problem when the key to what we find funniest is poking fun at others or just laughing about penises and ass noises. Have we really become that dumb and unrefined? I’m guilty of this too – most of us are and in ways those things can be funny but in our superfast intellectually lethargic culture, they have been put on a pedestal. It’s like we don’t want to think too hard anymore in this Google and Wikipedia-filled world and so we cheer a cheap pop over real genius. We don’t have time to mentally decipher real genius apparently. As a culture, that is what I find frightening.

So no, I don’t see sarcasm as a thing men shouldn’t practice, I just see a form of comedy that has been bastardized by our overwhelming acceptance of low brow culture in general. Luckily there are still a few good comics out there practicing their craft. I mean, there is a reason I watch Dylan Moran over that shitbird shill who calls himself “Carlos Mencia”. There is also a reason why I generally gravitate towards British television over American. The question really is, what are we missing in America that these other countries aren’t? Why does Britain not overwhelmingly accept intellectually void entertainment but we do? Shit to think about, I guess.

As my cousin Cameron once stated, “Sarcasm, it is a tool of ingeniousy!” He was brilliant at 12 years-old.. before the accident (puberty).

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