The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 14. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.
TABLE of CONTENTS
Letter from the Editors
The indispensable premise of The Daily Show’s humor was that its anchor and its audience were on the same side—the side of the sober, the rational, the scientifically literate—in a cultural and political war against a group of people portrayed sometimes as malicious, sometimes as ignorant and sometimes as insane.
n. justice at the level of a society or state as regards the possession of wealth, commodities, opportunities and privileges (see also: distributive justice)
The neoreactionary looks upon this world incredulously, as an increasingly strange and disturbing spectacle, careening toward disaster. Democracy is “not merely doomed,” Land writes, “it is doom itself.” As the actors seal their fate in this tragedy by their very attempts to avert it, only one option remains: get out. But if the problem with this world is that it is a collective fantasy, what could they be imagining in its place?
The climbing of the world’s tallest and most treacherous mountains is a mine for a kind of simple, but powerfully elemental, drama. Usually it goes like this: the mountain threatens. One person wants to go up. The other wants to go down. A decision gets made. It’s terrible, senseless. But like marriage or war or any true commitment, it’s a real crossroads. Those are rare. And when the stakes are life and death, I find it almost impossible to look away.
It’s a Circle
From its very inception, which was coeval with this country’s inception, the American circus has been the imaginative grounds of American politics; its touring circuits became campaign circuits; its audiences became constituencies; its capacities for fame became convertible to power. And so the fact of its folding, especially now, can seem like a tragedy: equivalent to the tragedy of Trump, or even entwined.
Symposium: What is comedy for?
Bart was a very particular kind of modern protagonist: one whose antagonists are bureaucratically diffuse, whose kryptonite is boredom, whose prison is discipline and normalcy. His meteoric arrival on the pop-culture landscape demonstrates the extent to which he was performing an affect that had been accumulating like electrical charge under the surface of both American youth and the ambiently oppressed American population at large.
[Dawn Herrera Helphand]
Hosted by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart—a comedian and the fourth-most trusted media figure in the United States—The Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear) drew upwards of 215,000 people. As I walked among the attendees on that crisp afternoon taking in the costumes, and giggling at the funnier signs, a sense of disorientation, and a vague embarrassment crept over me. What, exactly, had we shown up here to do?
The Audacity of Jokes
Unlike Chappelle, Trevor Noah’s comedy is characteristically risk-averse. This may well be the quality that has allowed him to rise to the heights of the liberal comedy world. But that very comfort can too easily become a kind of smugness, one that allows viewers to surf over superficial encounters with racial antagonism and injustice, rather than burrowing down to make its ugliness visceral, relevant and complicated.
[Justin E. H. Smith]
Trump’s electoral victory amounts to a conquest of reality by satire, and so by forces that naturally and fittingly ought to be confined to the playing fields of the human imagination. Trump is a joke, in other words, but to the extent that he is being taken as something else, as “president,” he is truly, literally, not funny.
[Michael J. Knowles]
Brevity is the soul of wit, as I learned this spring when the almost entirely blank book I self-published became the number one bestseller in the world for eleven consecutive days, earning a lucrative book deal with a major publishing house and an endorsement from the president of the United States, who called my tome Reasons To Vote For Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide “a great book for your reading pleasure.”
Shock and Ow
Over the course of fourteen days in January, I binge-watched all of Jackass alone in my room, my laptop growing warm in my lap, the internal fan of the computer wheezing and purring under the oppressive heat of hours and hours of YouTube videos of men doing terrible things to their bodies.
Sheila: Why do you think when a person goes to a comedy club, they don’t often think, I’m seeing art?
David: Well… because I think it’s an incredibly low form of art. Just in terms of the spaces in which it takes place—they’re often dark, and in basements, and it’s cheap to get in, and they’re trying to sell you drinks. You don’t get that when you go to an art gallery.
Sheila: But you do get that when you see a band.
David: But it’s not like there’s a two-drink minimum.
Sheila: They have that in comedy shows?
David: Oh yeah. And everyone tells jokes. The audience is like, This person just does a little bit better what I could do if I tried to do that.
“The Anatomy of a Humorless Science: No Laughing Matter”
“Contextualization of Canned Jokes in Discourse”
When Radi exclaimed, “I’ll vote FN! I’ll vote FN!” I didn’t know whether to take it literally or see it as his way of signaling his exasperation. “Why would anyone who lives here vote FN?” I asked. “Ras-le-bol,” was the answer, which is on the lips of many French today. “Fed up.”
The Google Bus
[Min Li Chan]
Once, a taxi driver asked if I was “one of those intelligent San Francisco techies.” It was neither a benign question nor a compliment. “Techie” had become a dirty word, a way to flatten the identity of one’s presumed foe. While I was standing in the tech-bus queue at 8th and Market one Monday morning, a wiry man with wisps of gray hair stopped a few paces away and hollered, “Good morning, kids! How is Satan, your owner, today?”
Over the past year, this “middle England” mindset has come under the microscope. Critics of The Archers would say that it presents a village of provincial white people quibbling over middle-class issues. And listening in the summer of 2016, it was hard not to think: Is this the kind of society “Brexiters” cherish?
For Susan Howe, to read a poem aloud entails more than conveying what music or buoyancy it already has in print. It means incarnating the words in question within a body that suffers strains, quaverings and shortnesses of breath. Stored in the archive, she suggests, texts are brittle inorganic matter, energy sources held in reserve.
A few months after the polluter-in-chief announced that he stands with the people of “Pittsburgh, not Paris,” comes the suitably titled Endgame, in which there is no Pittsburgh and no Paris, only a boat-like vessel bearing four figures across humanity’s watery grave—a condition where, as the character named Clov puts it at the beginning, everything is “finished, nearly finished.”
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This annotated TOC is a preview of what’s
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