Last night I had an experience which made me ask, for the thousandth time: Is all comedy "funny" or is some of it just hostility poorly disguised by jokes? Does my strong political agenda keep me from appreciating the humor of those with whom I disagree? I did my best to keep an open mind during a standup set by Caroline Picard
, a Louisiana comic who did not go on tour until she was in her forties.
Picard was appearing as part of the "Now I Can Vote" comedy tour, a title that hints rather strongly at feminism. The other two comics on the bill were Louisiana native Amanda Hebert, a heavily regional comic of minimal talent, and headliner Jodi Borrello
, whose appearance was the reason I went to the show.
Picard is a foul-mouthed, gravel-voiced, beer-toting 54-year-old woman who uses her anger to fuel her comedy. She is angry that people these days are "retarded." That kind of anger could make for a great routine; I share some of her sentiments. Picard attacked the over-indulgence of many contemporary parents, and the resulting product: lazy, out-of-shape kids with no imagination.
Her solutions, however, left me cold. Throughout her routine, she longed for the good old days when parents hit their children, sometimes repeatedly. She also disavowed the existence of ADD, which many people do when they are ranting that American children are over-medicated. I happen to agree that American children are over-medicated, but why is it so hard to grasp the fact that that doesn't mean there is no such thing as ADD
? And why is it so hard to grasp the fact that having lax parenting skills doesn't mean that the solution is whacking your kids
?Come on, Diane--it's a comedy act. Lighten up. You yourself believe that anything is fair game in standup comedy.
I kept telling myself that, and I do support Picard's right to do standup about any damned thing she likes, but there is a difference between doing one joke about hitting children and making it an obvious theme in your routine. The first is utilizing a comedy opportunity; the second is delivering a message.
One of Picard's other themes was that women could get a man and hold on to a man if they would just "shut up and leave him alone." The assumption behind this part of her routine, of course, is that a woman is desperate to find a man. The other assumption is that a woman is so desperate for a man that she should shut her mouth, cook, have sex, and just let him be "masculine."
Which brings me to a major flaw in Picard's rhetoric: She went on a rant about metrosexuals. Now, had she gone on a rant about the word
"metrosexual," I would have enjoyed it, since I so loathe that word. But her rant was about men who cared about their clothing and who used cologne, etc. Now, not all women like men who who care about fashion and haircuts. There are also women who don't wish to be with men who don't
care about those things. Something for everyone.
By now, dear reader, you have already guessed what she thinks about so-called metrosexual men--that they are gay. This, of course, is an American obsession (all you need to do is check the tennis boards to see how many Americans think Roger Federer must be gay because he is fashion-conscious). Obviously, such an opinion is idiotic. But in Picard's case, it is also deeply hypocritical. Picard wears "unfeminine" clothes, drags around a bottle of beer, curses constantly, and has a deep, gruff voice. By her own definition
, she must be a lesbian.
By the way, whose fault is it that American men have been "feminized"? Why, Gloria Steinem's, of course. Picard fantasized about causing physical harm to Steinem. Since Steinem is the person I admire most of anyone in American life, it became harder and harder for me to "lighten up."
And now, for Picard's gem: "I voted for George W. Bush, and he is the greatest president we could have because he's a man and he acts like a man."
Then she said we should bomb the entire Middle East. Sadly, a number of people applauded. And at that point, Picard gave a new meaning to the term "standup." I stood up and walked out.