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Whiskey & Wry

29. Speaking Laughter to Power

To the state, political humor is no laughing matter. Lenny Bruce rendered politics and social mores absurd through his piercing stand-up comedy routines. Of the left, he said, “The liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them.” Of the right, he stated, “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks.” In 1966, Bruce allegedly died of a drug overdose; he actually died of censorship, arrest, and obscenity trials.Laughter is under attack everywhere as 'hate speech,' including in supposed Western bastions of free speech: A Canadian comedian...

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28. George Carlin on Voting

“If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it.”— Mark Twain, or Emma Goldman, or Philip Berrigan ... Take your pick!  What do Mark Twain and the anarchists have in common? Apart from being credited with the same quote, they knew the electoral process was a rigged circus. Because he passionately blended stand-up with anti-voting, comedian George Carlin was called a closet anarchist ... which would explain why he dressed in black. With a choice of “Donald v. Hillary,” non-voting is poised to soar and non-voters will be excoriated once again as "irresponsible." They need the Carlin Defense....

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27. Monkeying around with H.L. Mencken

On February 3, 1931, the Arkansas legislature passed a motion to hold a group prayer to save the soul of the journalist H.L. Mencken. The proximate cause were three columns by Mencken in the Baltimore Evening Sun in January. Describing Arkansas as “perhaps the most shiftless and backward state in the whole galaxy,” he dubbed it “the apex of moronia.” Mencken shrugged off the prayer session, saying, “I didn’t make Arkansas the butt of ridicule. God did.”Mencken was especially harsh on the religious southeastern and south-central states, coining the phrase “Bible Belt” to describe them. There, aggressive evangelicals often used government to...

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26. Has Hillary met her Boss Tweed Moment?

Boss Tweed (1823–1878) and his NY political machine, Tammany Hall, epitomized corruption through which the Boss gorged on taxpayer money and graft. More than anything else, he feared being ridiculed because there was no defense against weaponized wit. Thomas Nast – called the "Father of the American Cartoon” – made Tweed the brunt of relentless laughter through wildly popular caricatures of Tweed's bloated body amid sacks of cash. Bribery and threats could not deter Nash. Eventually, a weakened Tweed was indicted and fled to Spain; there, he was recognized from a Nast cartoon and extradited back to face jail. The...

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25. On Rothbard, Twain, and cake ... oh my!

When Murray Rothbard's wife Joey (Josephine) put her husband on a strict diet, she admonished the staff of an upcoming conference to watch his food intake. With the words “Free at last, free at last, Thank God almighty, I am free at last!” Murray cut himself a huge slab of cake at the first dinner. An intern respectfully requested he pass on the plateful for the sake of his health. Murray stabbed the cake and waved the dessert-filled fork above his head. “Every calorie says YES to life,” he proclaimed. Mark Twain had a similar attitude toward ideas. Every idea...

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