On Thursday, April 13 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Center for Spiritual Wisdom will host another installment of its monthly discussion series called A Little About A Lot. The series engages the community in discussions around topics of social, religious, and spiritual interest using short formats like podcasts, web posts, short books, and videos curated from around the digital world.

The April 13 installment of A Little About A Lot is entitled “Comedy as Prophecy: Laughing and Learning in the Culture Wars.” We will convene on Zoom from 7:00 to 9:00pm.

“Comedy as Prophecy” refers to the provocative aspects of comedic prophets that reveal wisdom by speaking truth to power. The aim of this session is for participants to examine the tension that the most prophetic comics create to make us laugh and to make us think about our own biases, so that we may rise above them and counter the cultural forces that repress or marginalize. At its best, comedy can disarm and diffuse our defenses, allowing deeper insights to seep in and even transform our outlook so that we engage the world with deeper and uplifted spirits.

For this ALAAL discussion, Center Associate Terry Decker has curated a few comic sketches and stand-up monologues from the 60s and 70s up to the more recent revealing–and controversial–bits from contemporary comics. These are examples of comic artists plying their prophetic trade.

Terry offers this disclaimer: “I must acknowledge my privilege as a curator at least three times: I’m white; I’m male; I’m straight. Any offense is unintended and ignorant, and I hope to be corrected.”

Terry also notes, “It’s remarkable that with just a few changes in names and places, the comedy of the 60s and 70s could be replayed today and still provide relevant criticism of the state of play in American society.” Whether the context is race, gender, sexual orientation, social justice, or class, the essence of prophetic comedy employs an appeal to human empathy and dignity as the framing for the “joke”, as if to release through laughter what may be repressed in unwept tears or unspoken anger. Whether it be through a graphic jolt of language, a satirical portrayal of bigotry or irony, or through a personal anecdote packed with lived experience, the comic material below provokes a response. “The best art does that!”

Warning: You may find that the language and subject matter sometimes crosses lines of obscenity and may offend. It would not be suitable for children or nearby workmates to hear.

Please consume the following content prior to attending the discussion on April 13th:

1. Pat Paulsen “Editorials” (9:56) / From the 1967/68 Smothers Brothers Variety Show, Paulsen takes on the subjects of Social Security, Gun Control, and Health Care.

2. All in the Family was a sitcom created and written by Norman Lear (among other writers) that ran for 9 years in the 70s. In these three clips, resident patriarch and bigot Archie Bunker– with self-righteous indignity– breaks down his views on:

A. Dodging the Draft and the sanctity of the LAW (5:14)

B. Homosexuals and Effeminate Men (2:15)

C. The Democratic Party (2:27)

3. Dave Chappelle Responds to LGBT+ Community (13:48) Chappelle once said “Comedians have a responsibility to speak recklessly.” Chappelle was contracted for three Netflix comedy specials across about 4 years in which he owned this “responsibility” fully. In the second of these three shows– entitled “Sticks and Stones” (2019)– Chappelle ranted on transgender politics and was excoriated in the Twitterverse by the transgender community and also received public rebuke by employees of Netflix who threatened to quit if his third special was streamed. Netflix did not relent and allowed Chappelle to deliver his third installment (“The Closer” – 2021). In this one, he responded to the criticism he had received by recounting–in mike-dropping fashion– his friendship with transgender comedian Daphne Dorman.

4. The most riveting of these curated selections come from Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby. The first clip below gives you a dose of her more comedic schtick. In the second clip, a more renowned Gadsby unloads on and engages with her Sydney Opera House audience with a narrative of her life growing up as a “homophobic lesbian”. (You can find additional material from Gadsby on Netflix as well.)

A. Men Name Female Body Parts (6:05)

B. Being a Woman in a Man’s World (9:13)

About A Little About A Lot:

Rather than using feature-length films as the “foggy mirror” into our souls, A Little About A Lot brings shorter formats like podcasts, web logs, and short books, and videos, curated from around the digital world. The series is spearheaded by CSW Associates Terry Decker and Brandon Cook. The series will target different facilitators and topics each month.

The Center will lead and host the 2-hour discussion electronically through Zoom. Participants are asked to consume the curated material (included below and via email after registering) prior to the discussion on April 13. A link to the Zoom session will come to registrants’ inbox in advance of the session.

There is no fee for this event. However, donations to Center for Spiritual Wisdom, a non-profit 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization, will be gratefully accepted. A suggested donation of $5 or more per discussion will help us continue to offer this and similar events.

A Little About A Lot is held the 3rd Thursday of each month. Please mark your calendars accordingly.