Hello Everyone, Welcome to the podcast “Close to the Bone.” My name is Carl Vreeland.

This is episode #31, entitled, Satire, Sarcasm, and All That Jazz.

Merriam Webster defines satire as:

  • A literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.
  • trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly.

As far back as 427 BC, satire was first used to mock and ridicule society, families and individuals. Aristophanes, the Greek dramatist, is considered “The Father of Comedy.” He used comedic techniques to add levity to an otherwise harsh and aggressive tone and criticism. The idea was that an audience was more likely to listen to social and political criticism if it made them laugh rather than angry. Still, then and now, satire is not always humorous, but it is infinitely ironic. Yet it was, and continues to be viewed as a high art form used by playwrights, poets, novelists, and cartoonists.

Comedy, on the other hand, is meant to be funny. For better or for worse, it goes for the laugh by any means necessary. Often vulgar and offensive, comedy is considered to be a low art form. Burlesque, stand-up comedians, sketch comedy, and variety shows fall under the umbrella of this genre.

Merriam Webster defines comedy as:

1a medieval narrative that ends happily.

ba literary work written in a comic style or treating a comic theme.

2aa drama of light [and] amusing character and typically with a happy ending.

bthe genre of dramatic literature dealing with the comic or with the serious in a light or satirical manner.

3a ludicrous or farcical event or series of events.

You get the gist. . . .

Indeed, satire has spread far and wide since Athenian times. What was once a literary device used in plays and poems, has since found its expression in novels, television, film, and social media. Satirical cartoonists, satirized news reports, and again, stand-up comedians, sketch comedy, and variety shows have played a major role in bringing satire to the mainstream. So much so, that it has become commonplace. Sadly, it has spilled over into our everyday speech. In the hands of the average, unskilled person, satire or comedy more or less becomes pure sarcasm; meaning, satire without a shred of humor. And unfortunately, this has become the tone of expression in and about the workplace, on the street, and in some homes. Under the cloak of cleverness; pointed, biting, scathing, and stinging speech has become the standard. And the media is setting this standard, giving us permission to be uncivil and disrespectful toward each other. Our mode of communicating has become pervasively derisive, aggressive, and hateful. And it has become widely accepted, for the reason that it is often hidden underneath the mask of satire and the guise of humor. Although, one only has to spend ten minutes on Twitter to find the exception to this observation. For whatever reason, Tweeters have no boundaries whatsoever. Sarcasm abounds, and seldom with skill.

Merriam Webster defines sarcasm as:

  • a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
  • a: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual

Yes, a sarcastic style of speech in comedy clubs or on comedy specials on cable have become common over the past several decades. But today, we are hearing it just about everywhere. Listen to commercial talk radio, watch the talk shows on television, note the ironic tone of the newscasters on the daily news programs, and scroll down the Posts and Comments on social media—sarcasm is widespread. Everyday someone or some group is insulted and caricatured by a comedic media personality, under the relatively safe umbrella of fun. I tend to agree with Psychologist Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., “Sarcasm is really just hostility disguised as humor.”1

Still, we justify our use of sarcasm in many ways. “Well, politicians are corrupt, they need to be uncovered and brought to justice.” Or we might hear, “Some people are incompetent and they need to be made known of that fact.” These claims may be true, but why must we address them in a disrespectful and harsh manner? Why must we be cruel to people when they make an error in judgement? Is it necessary to be condescending? Must we be mockingly sarcastic when someone is being hypocritical? Why must we crassly cut down someone with disagree with? If our opponent is derisive, must we adopt the same attitude?

You might say in response, “Well, if they can say or do something offensive, why can’t I? I have every right to give it right back to them!” Perhaps, but why do we? Is it because we feel they deserve it? More importantly, what are the reasons behind our intention to ‘get back at them?’ What are the motives behind our actions? What is the energy behind it? Is it aggression or love? Is it to enlightened and help others or is it to belittle them?

No one needs to look at their motives more than what we currently

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    • Michelehouston

    • 2 years ago

    I love this post because it makes me reflect on some not so savory things I’ve engaged in on social media that I might not otherwise reflect upon. It is easy to get caught up in a group mentality sometimes or engage in revenge tactics. And not realize you are being grotesque or mean for no good reason. I generally stay off social media but have a bad habit of being anon on Reddit and saying whatever with no care. It will be good to go forward with a better sense of responsibility and awareness. Thank you Carl.

    1. Thank you for your open, honest message. I understand. I’m happy to find that the post helped. We are works in progress.

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