Friday, June 8, 2012

Five top books on political satire

Lee Camp is an American comedian, writer and activist. His latest book is Moment of Clarity.

With Eve Gerber of The Browser, he discussed five top books on political satire, including:
Love All the People
by Bill Hicks

A collection of writing by Bill Hicks, a comic you’re frequently compared to, is your next selection. One poll of contemporary comedians ranked him as one of the top comics ever. Please tell us about Hicks and Love All the People: Letters, Lyrics, Routines.

He was a brilliant comedian. Although he was only moderately known in the US when he died, he’s become a cult figure and he was always better known in the UK, where they still worship him as one of the best comedians who ever lived and who did a lot of great satire and political comedy – very cutting stuff about war and America and commercialism.

Like Catch 22, some of his stuff seems so prophetic. If you watch the clips of the bits he did on the first Iraq war, they apply equally to the second Iraq war. He died before the second Iraq war but he was making jokes about the military or the US saying that we need to attack Saddam because he had weapons of mass destruction. “How do you know?” “Well, we have the receipts.” You feel like if people watched more Bill Hicks maybe it could have kept us out of the second Iraq war. But instead the things he was ranting about in 1990 just got worse. The book is largely his routines written down. It’s great stuff, dark and equally, if not more, applicable today.

John Lahr, who wrote a profile of Hicks for The New Yorker, called him “a disturber of the peace, a bringer of insight”. Are those two key to successful political comedy?

Yeah, I like those two. I think that’s important. Some might argue you don’t want to disturb the peace just to wreak havoc but when everyone accepts the way things are, when people unquestionably go with the flow, it’s usually not good. I think that being disruptive is useful – it can shock people into seeing the world the way it really is.
Read about the other books Camp tagged at The Browser.

Love All the People is on Will Dean's reading list on stand-up comedy.

--Marshal Zeringue