Columnist Simon Hawk discusses why he writes satire pieces and why satire matters.
Hello! My name is Simon Hawk, Chief Diversionist and newsmonger here at Knozzle, Where the News is a Gas™! This is my column, The Hawk-Eye View.
Maybe you’re wondering, why satire? The easy answer is, “Satire matters.” But the easy answer does little to assuage the curiosity, in large because it answers the wrong question. If an answer must be found a little more digging is required. Let’s take an abbreviated stroll through the history of me. My sense of humor is the product of multiple sources, the first two of which are my parents. I had the fortune to be raised by a couple of oddballs with disparate senses of humor. My mother is a comic genius, whether she knows it or not. When she heard what kind of site I was building, she asked, “What’s satire?” Great stuff, right? Top-shelf irony. Dad, on the other hand, cracked out fart jokes until the day he died.
Beyond Mom and Dad, my young mind found its influences in Mad Magazine‘s madcap lunacy and the subtle wit of Dr. Seuss alongside teachers scattered throughout middle and high school, educators whose names will never escape my memories (especially the awkwardly-spelled ones like Vorderbruegge (“Vord!”) and Satterthwaite), who instructed their students with humor both subtle and overt.
History lesson over. Teachers, parents, irony, comic rags, children’s books, and breaking wind.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with fart jokes, and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with clueless irony, but what happens when the two find a common middle ground? There exists a field of bright poppies, the center of which is the balancing point between irony so sharp a hipster could use it to shave and bodily function humor so raunchy the Three Stooges would blush.
I do not live in that field.
Do I live in the filthy avenues of the human psyche, that otherworld of scornful derision where each denizen mocks the others in an endless tit-for-tat of bad puns and false equivalencies? Is satire the penultimate expression of the deep-seated loathing I possess for myself and this awful, awful world around me?
Dangerous and dark. Doom and gloom. Spinning off into a corner, reading bad poetry and cutting myself, all for a brooding laugh.
Or perhaps I live in a more nonsensical place, an amusement park littered with raucous rides and empty popcorn buckets, children skipping with manic fervor from one line to the next, licking lollipops and chasing twisted balloon animals and tossing their cookies from the apex of the Tilt-O-Whirl’s spin. Am I the carnival barker, selling tickets to the freak show, a nickel a pop, twirling his mustache and doffing his paper hat with each bow?
What a pleasant way to spend the afternoon! It’s all fun and games until too much cotton candy and too much centripetal force rile the stomach up into Hurricane Ralph.
Those of you with the proper advanced degrees should take a moment to determine which answer is correct. The rest of us can just enjoy the moment, taking the site at face value. Knozzle is satire. It’s fun. It’s amusement, entertainment designed to do one thing: paste a smile on the reader’s face.
Even if we have to use superglue and fart jokes. Believe me, flatulatory humor isn’t beneath me.
Unless I’m sitting down.
Here’s the rightest right of it all. The best satire has to wander a little bit of everywhere, from the grimy streets and the dark corners of the mind to the frenzied fervor of the theme park and yes, even the tranquil fields in between. Some of our most notable authors, poets, screenwriters, and actors have employed it with great skill. From Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, and Flannery O’Connor to Weird Al Yankovic, Joan Rivers, Gene Roddenberry, and Mel Brooks, satire is ingrained in the American mindset.
And while I’d never claim to be of their caliber, at least I’m in good company, the company of men and women who understand why satire matters.
Why? Why does satire matter?
Satire matters because absurdity is the soul of change. It’s not until we can laugh at our foibles, our eccentricities, and our mistakes that we can move on to better things. Satire matters because it is the exemplification of the right to free expression. Satire matters because not only is it inherently divisive, but it holds the key to atonement with those who hold views divergent from our own. Satire matters because it brings hypocrisy – that of the satire’s target and its author – to light.
It is through satire we find the freedom to examine the quirks and flaws of the world around us, to drag those contemplations to their extremes, place them in plain view of the public, mock them for their failings and, when the smoke clears, make peace with them. It is catharsis, the purging of anger and frustration opening a door to reconciliation.
Satire matters because it is silly, it is whimsy, and it is madness. The late Robin Williams once said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
Welcome to my madness, fart jokes included.