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Comedy: From ego to we-go

By Richard Feldman
Boggs Center

Last week, Ray Lesser and Sue Wolpert, publishers of Funny Times, came from Cleveland to visit the Boggs Center. Ray and Sue have been publishing for more than two decades. Today, their 24-page tabloid has more than 65,000 subscribers from across the globe. It is filled with cartoons, comic strips and stories readers have sent to them.

During the day, they got a sense of our changing city by visiting the Packard plant, Poletown, Feedom Freedom Growers, Earth Works and the Heidelberg Project.

In the evening we talked about how comedy and humor help us look in the mirror and see our own contradictions.

“The best thing about humor is that it shows people that they are not alone,” according to Sid Caesar, 20th century comedian. Victor Borge has said that laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

Barbara Jones, an activist in Detroit’s Restorative Justice movement, put it this way:

“When society is on the edge and so stressed out, with all the challenges such as the economy, jobs, culture, politics, families doing more with less disposable incomes, crime, violence and the lack of educational opportunities, just to name a few, people tend to turn to comedy for relief.

“I use comic relief to free myself and deprogram myself and I really try to find humor to gain a different perspective when faced with challenges. I also use comedy as a way of handling change.

“What I have also learned is that comedy gives me an opportunity to relate to situations that cause me to laugh at myself. I also use comedy to blend together old outdated methods and introduce new and fresh ideas.”

During our discussion, Sue used the phrase “from ego to we-go” and recognized that during safe conversations and humorous moments, we relax, become more open to each other, less guarded, hear more clearly and thus create more authentic relationships and connections. These connections allow us to work together and feel the need to gain support from each other as well.

While individuality and ego are part of being human, individualism and egoism have created the foundations of greed.

Essential to creating the world anew is turning to each other, living more simply so that others can simply live, looking in the mirror, acknowledging our weaknesses and differences and working together with a commitment to becoming interdependent. In the process, we transform ourselves from me-go to we-go.

As a nation built upon the massacre of native Americans, enslavement of African Americans through the 17-19th centuries and as an empire in the 20th century, we need to look in the mirror and be self-critical of our history.

Comedy, humor and satire help us expand our humanity.

Historically, comedy began at about the same time as tragedy; they represent alternative attitudes toward basic issues in life. Comedy celebrates mental flexibility and a realistic acceptance of the limitations of being human. The comic vision of life, in short, embodies a good deal of wisdom.

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