25 Jul



“I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has just put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or banana split.

                                                          -Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

There’s a famous saying about the weather in New England, and that is if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes. The same exact thing can be said about the anger and rage spewing from society today. If we aren’t outraged or upset about something, just wait a minute. And that’s what I did with this article. It was a couple of days since we all decided to be angry, so I held off on writing it and then BOOM, the controversy over comedian Daniel Tosh’s comments last week hit, and angry we were.

From Daniel Tosh, George Lopez, the HBO show Girls, Chick-Fil-A, Adidas, Penn State, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Paraskevi Papachristou, and Nicholas Cage movies, there’s no shortage of sources of outrage in today’s blogosphere. People are mad and they have an opinion to prove it. We even reached an Inception level of anger last week after the popular film site, Rotten Tomatoes had to suspend its comments section after site visitors were attacking reviewer’s reviews over The Dark Night Rises.

The same outrage that we would normally reserve for a fascist dictator or mass murderer is now being used to describe a musician, an actor or a stand-up comedian. Internet commentators treat these people like they have broken into their homes and punched their newborn.  The outbreak of social media has caused us all to be referees in a game that can never be won. And if you’ve played sports you know that if a referee always blows their whistle, eventually you stop taking them seriously.

As a comedian, I witness this every night. Immediately following a show, audience members label comedians as “funny” or “not funny” “good” or “bad” with the same flippancy as flicking a bug off your arm. People dismiss an entire comic’s lifework faster than a sneeze. I know actors and comedians who have spent 100 hours putting together a YouTube video only to have it eviscerated by commenters in six seconds. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have an opinion or preferences, we all have different tastes and that’s great, what I am saying is next time you want to tell someone they’re no good, write a negative blog post, comment on YouTube, start an angry Meetup organization, consider for just a second, is what you’re doing helping anything? Is the most pressing issue facing the world today your opinion on the cinematography in Snow White and the Huntsman? Or your angry blog post about the Real Housewives?

Surrounded by this Internet anger, rage, and venom, last Friday, 12 people were killed in Aurora Colorado during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.  In the days that followed, there was a noticeable hush over the Internet, and probably rightfully so, tragedy tends to hurl perspective. But the aftermath does raise the question, what are our priorities? Why are we more upset at Daniel Tosh than the NRA whose entire mission is to make guns as easy and accessible as possible? I saw two different petitions last week asking comedians to apologize for things they said but none asking politicians to apologize for saying NOTHING about guns since the Clinton administration.

The biggest copout about being critical and being angry is you get to live your life without ever actually believing in anything. You can sit comfortably from your couch and chastise a piece of music, a painting or TV show and by doing that, no one can tell you that you’re no good, that you suck, because there is no risk in it. The hallow shell of negativity is safe but lonely. We also do an even bigger disservice equating criticism with intelligence and coolness, when the most notable people in history have been brilliant believers and doers.

In her second amazing TED talk, University of Houston vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown said that the TED conference should really be called the failure conference because all the featured speakers failed early and failed often.  But these magnificent innovators, teachers, technicians and dreamers had the gall to withstand the thick muddled garbage of naysayers and doubters, to produce some the most significant advancements in modern society.

And the best art and most worthwhile accomplishments are always done when people truly don’t care what anyone else has to say. In the DVD extras of Seinfeld, Jason Alexander recalls a great story about Jerry Seinfeld sitting through a network meeting with NBC, listening for 30 minutes as the execs implored Seinfeld to make the Jerry and Elaine characters fall in love and in-line with proven focus group tested material. Seinfeld nodded his head the entire meeting and at the end said, “Yeah we’re not going to do any of that.” The result was the most successful television show ever.

Last weekend, I went to an all-day concert on the water in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Thousands of people amicably gathered to enjoy an eclectic assortment of bands that stretched every genre. It was 78 degrees on a blameless Sunday morning, and set against a boat-trenched Long Island Sound, Joe Pug, one of my favorite singer/songwriters took the stage. Roughly 40 eager audience members exchanged spirited smiles, and stood, resting in the knowledge that the brutal Northeast heat wave had just subsided. Pug took the microphone and said, “This weather is perfect…let’s hope it doesn’t change.”


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