Friday, August 17, 2007

I have a dream! That pro-life and pro-choice people can laugh together over the Verboten Comedy Routine


Great Idea # 589 - construct a stand-up comedy act around the silly arguments old-time feminists use for abortion.

Would it work? It did in a dream just now. A dream woman -- an archeo-typical middle-aged feminist from the abortion wars of the 70's -- came up to me asking me what criteria I was using to decide a presidential candidate. I looked her right in the face and answered, knowing it would get her goat, "Pro-life or pro-abortion. That's my only criteria." In real life, I have other criteria, but in the dream it felt wonderfully freeing to state this right up front to a dream interlocutor who obviously wanted to begin a nuanced conversation about politics, one that didn't include abortion as an issue at all.

She said, "So you are pro-life? Well, what if..."

And I went off on a whole riff about the inanity of the "what if" argument.

"I'm against capital punishment"

"But what if your daughter got kidnapped by a band of scurvy pirates, made to swab their decks during the day and service them sexually at night, and then they finally cut her up into little pieces and threw her out to sea. And then you caught them. What if that happened, huh, huh, wouldn't you want to see them hanged?"

It was great fun, in the dream, taking the absurd arguments people use for abortion and turning them into Denis Leary-type angry riffs on their hypocrisy, pointing out oh so cleverly through comedy what you can't get across through reasoned discourse.

It's sort of counter to Maisie Ward's rule for the Catholic Evidence Guild that you never insult your interlocutor, never get laughs from the audience by putting them down. But in street-corner apologetics, the interlocutor is real. In comedy it is just the straw man you create as a premise on which to base your comedy routine. Why not attack that guy? Straw men are low blows in a rational argument, but in stand-up comedy the comic returns time and again to the Well of the Straw Man for the raw material (the waters, if you will) out of which he or she creates the dark, rich, heady wine of comedy.

Would it work? Can dreams come true? .... now all I need is to find someone who can write a comedy routine. In my dream, I saw my son Mike dressed in the kind of perfectly tailored suit some large comedians wear on stage. He could do it, he's the wittiest person in the family. But in the dream, I started to tell him about my idea with great enthusiasm, and he completely lost the train of thought of something he'd been working on himself, because I interrupted him. He collapsed in a heap of deflating energy, and I told myself, "Dang, Rae, remember to pay attention to what your kids are doing before you start bombarding them with your enthusiasms." And I woke up.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
Ah, the fertility of the dream-world.

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