Monday, December 10, 2012

In Regards to the Oatmeal

I'm almost certain no one reads this and I don't much care. I maintain domain over my small corner of the internet and as pathetic as it may be, it is the only soapbox I have available. Someday this might be seen by "TENS" of people.

It appears an interent war is brewing between one of our beloved satirists and comedy icons, Matthew Inman and one Jack Stuef, a no-talent hack. Jack is in the process of learning a valuable lesson in the world of comedy, don't heckle the man with the microphone. (However in this instance, heckling should probably be replaced with, don't defame the character of the man with the microphone solely for personal gain.)  Instead of telling you why this Struef character deserves everything that will doubtlessly come his way, I'd like to instead expostulate for a moment on why the world needs artists like Matthew Inman and comics like The Oatmeal.

The main reason is that people as a whole don't like change. This aversion to change is so engrained that the average inconsiderate citizen has developed a huge blind spot when it comes to their own behavior. We've all seen people yell at other people's kids to quiet down, yet do NOTHING to silence their own. Idiots sit on their cell phones, let their dogs shit wherever they please, and are in general, horrible. What comic artists can achieve through humor is to effectively open the doors to laugh and criticize this behavior openly, adding a public awareness which removes the blind spot.  The world reacts about a comic depicting rude people on planes or ridiculous parents, and society is suddenly allowed to laugh at them. They have a point of reference they can snicker about. It even gives people who demonstrate these behaviors the necessary "out" to laugh at themselves, or at the very least, become ashamed of their behavior.

This notion of modifying the behavior of society is a powerful tool, and only great comedians have been able to wield it wisely.  George Carlin comes to mind. His style of standup shocked and dismayed audiences with its edgy delivery, but overall had an arguably positive effect on the world.  For example. his line, "Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity." puts a clever spin on the pointlessness of war, in a way that one can both laugh and think about the issues day to day.

Comedy is one of the most powerful methods of persuasion every invented. It entertains, yes, but it also keeps us grounded, keeps us in check. It prevents our egos from over-inflating. However most important of all, it is an amazingly effective vehicle for introducing closed minds to new ideas.  People listen to comedy; they want to feel included, they don't want to miss the joke.  And as any teacher will tell you, having someone's attention is a very significant thing.

But how does this apply to the Oatmeal? I'm getting to that, calm down. The Oatmeal is one of the most popular examples of independent "uncensored" creative content on the internet. It's jokes, comics, and blogs are wrenched from the mind of one person and are not beholding to any particular corporation, business, or agenda (other than to be funny, and stay online).  As a reader I find this refreshing and call me sentimental, but I believe the internet does as well; as a collective we can sense when someone's heart is in the right place.

To illustrate the significance of this, let's take for example a comic titled "How to take INCREDIBLE photos of your friends." Written in clever satire it outlines all the behaviors that annoy and frustrate the world about having friends, camera phones, or both.  Its brilliant. The hope being that people who don't do this will find it funny, and people who do exhibit these behaviors might take a moment and think about how annoying they're being... if they don't they'll be laughed at by people who read the Oatmeal. Either way, problem solved.  Without things like this, people go on behaving like idiots and every passerby who tells them "You should stop doing that!" will only get them mired deeper behind their own blinders. In short, we need comics, humor, and comedians to help change the world (though any comedian worth his salt doesn't ever dream of doing that when he starts out.)

In closing I'd like to say. Thanks for sticking in there and putting up with us Matthew, the world needs you.

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