The Role of Comedy in Occupy Wall Street

I mentioned the role of Kickstarter in funding Molly Crabapple’s art in my previous post. Kickstarter has also been beneficial to performance groups such as the Los Angelesbased comedic improv group Laughter Against the Machine. This group in particular has had a unique role in Occupy Wall Street. They’ve visited seven Occupy Wall Street encampments and other political protests while posing the question: what role does comedy play in the revolution? Improv, a fascinating element of street art plays an interesting role in the movement because it is such an organic means of performance. Modern improv utilized in the United States evolved from the classic Italian comedy Commedia dell’Arte. Commedia dell’Arte embodied the first really recorded attempt of using a wide representation of social classes in comedy to battle oppression in Italy. In a way, it was an ancient means of battling the Italian “one-percent.” Improvisation at its core relies on support and individual liberation, and its popularity increases during periods of time when these values are threatened in society. Throughout Laughter Against the Machine’s tour, one of their performers, Nato Green, performed some Occupy Wall Street stand-up.

Green’s comical approach pokes fun at the movement itself, while remaining informative. Humor has continually been used in the movement to garner support. In November of 2011, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog reappeared on Conan O’Brien.

Triumph, a sassy dog puppet, Triumph was used to make fun of bystanders participating in the protests. Additionally, Triumph attempted to disguise himself as a banker and convince them he was on their side. Incorporating the absurd and even ludicrous jokes and humor in regards to Occupy Wall Street lightens the seriousness of the movement in such a way that it serves to benefit the movement by attracting attention to key elements of the movement, and making it memorable through humor. Triumph also made fun of both sides of the movement, giving a neutral, yet scathing perspective of the 1%…and the 99%. Comedic enterprises involved in the movement continue to remind us that if you can make someone laugh, you can make them think.

–Jenny Questell

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One response to “The Role of Comedy in Occupy Wall Street

  1. I completely agree with the premise of this post. Comedy is often times a way to make people listen to something that they normally wouldn’t listen to. The Boondocks (on Adult Swim) is a good example of this. I had no idea that Triumph the puppet dog was part of an Occupy skit, that is interesting. I’m not really sure where this post goes, since its not categorized at the moment, but I do have some ideas for expansion. What are some other things that can make people think? Do you think that things on TV other than comedy also make people think? Overall enjoyable read though. Nice work
    – Justin

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