Comedy and freedom of speech

Free speech is the best tool we have for doing human error correction. What kind of human error? All problems involving ideas. As Dr. Norman Doidge author of “The Brain That Changes Itself” points out, “Human history is filled with error; error coming from authority, faith, religion, political claims, science, ideologues, augury prophecy, common sense.” If you limit speech, you limit a society’s capability to correct these errors. It might be that it’s only an error from a certain point of view, in which case comedy is usually the first to point it out. Comedy is an extremely important art form. It’s also an art from that can’t truly exist without absolute free speech.

The reason error correction starts in comedy is that comedy is less confrontational than pure arguments. It can be explained away as just a joke, but if the joke had something to it, people will remember. Then the joke can evolve from comedy into actual arguments. The person in the old British kingdoms with the most freedom was the fool. The fool could point and laugh at all the absurdities because that was the fools job. The fool could even joke about the king. Even when the king was present and in front of a crowd.

The best jokes are the one that exposes people’s flaws. A winner in comedy is to make fun of your own deficiencies and have it structured so the audience can project their own similar deficiencies onto the joke. That creates a connection between the audience and the comedian. Stand-up comedians often talk about how they can go into a state of flow when they are doing a show. It’s when they experience a deep connection with the audience. It means there is something more to their material then just pure comedy. Some form of truth has emerged.

When you’re talking to someone you make jokes in a probing way. You can use comedy in its free form to make sense of the person you’re talking to. It’s incredibly effective at showing values people hold. If you tell a joke that doesn’t sit well with someone they will immediately show it. You will immediately pick up on that, but because it was told in a comedic format you can explain it away as a bad joke. Then the conversation might continue. Even if the person you’re engaging with had a bad reaction, it was a bad reaction to a joke and that is easier to recover from.

Looking back at the fool. The fool could be the most honest person in the room. Everyone think he is joking all the time. Which is why it’s problematic to get angry when the fool points out something about you that you don’t like. If you attack the fool, you are reduced to the fool’s level and you are in danger of losing the respect of others. That is why the fool could tell edgy jokes about the king. If the king gets mad at the joke, he acknowledges that the fool is right. That either means the fool is not a fool, or it means that the fool is a fool, and that makes the king a fool too.