On Anger


Post by Auntie Vice

There is a great TED Talk about the importance of anger in the world (see here). The basic idea of this talk, and several of the sources its author draws on, is that anger is useful in identifying grave wrongs and motivating change.

In the United States, we are terrified of anger and supposed to repress it. One of the largest issues President Obama has faced in much of his speaking is not coming off as an “angry Black man.” Honestly, the crap that has happened in the United States in the last eight years should make most people incredibly angry. But as a Black man, his anger is seen as threatening and dangerous. The closest he has come in being visibly angry at a press conference was one after the OCC mass shooting (see here). His anger is powerful, justified, and panned by most reporters.

We teach kids to suppress their anger, to swallow those feeling and to love their enemies. We prize a false peace over open expressions of anger. The only point where anger and outbursts are valuable is in reality television. And those outbursts are generally only allowed in women fighting over something like a man or a weave. Anger is something we now mock and something that generates click-throughs to vines for people to laugh at.

However, in recent years, I have seen a few comics harness anger in a powerful way. Lewis Black is the prime example of this. His acerbic style of comedy that attacks political corruption and social harm. His commentary is very smart and he has incorporated anger into his style. However, this also has Black relegated to the “angry old Jew” category and not too many people take his commentary as deeply serious.

John Oliver has a more tempered anger and I think his British accent soothes most Americans into accepting his commentary in a way they can’t with Lewis Black. Oliver’s commentary on police shootings (see here) is a brilliant example of taking something he is incredibly upset – to the point of anger – and turned into a comedy bit that is a wall of power I have seen matched by few.

I think anger has a place in comedy. When done right, it can increase the power of a comedy bit. As a new comic, I have a difficult time writing about things that make me deeply angry for the stage. It is one of the stumbling blocks I have in developing my political bits. Honestly, my knowledge of politics and the way that world operates is pretty deep (I have a grad degree in Poli Sci and worked in it for years). I would love do to commentary about a lot of what is going on politically in the United States. However, when I start to write, I want to just yell at people, “How the fuck don’t you see what is going on? How can you give these motherf%^* voice and legitimacy? Do you not see they are literally killing people to get you vote?”

Several non-comic friends have made the statement to me, “You must love the Trump run for presidency. So much material!!!” No, I don’t think this is great. He is literally using the moves out of the 1935-38 playbook from the Nazi party to create a society that is comfortable with depriving rights of minorities and allowing mass killing. Doubt this? Please read Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.

I am not sure how to get past this hump. I would like to develop a political voice on stage, but I start writing and just want to scream.