Daniel Finney writes that comedy is confused in its purpose when it mixes political messages with laughter [Comedy’s missteps are killing the political left, June 8]. That “confusion” is called satire — and it can be traced back through Lenny Bruce, to Mark Twain, and on to Aristophanes.
Comedians have stepped into the shoes of journalists as truth-tellers because comedians have the license to strip away political correctness and lies to expose the heart of the matter.
Two of the three professors Finney quoted, who moonlight as stand-up comics, must certainly be aware that in either role they are vulnerable to political attack. That’s why most of Finney’s article sounded like the cautionary wisdom of those who may be hearing footsteps and anticipating loud bangs on their doors. Lenny Bruce went from straight comedy to performances where he read from law books. His “degree in free speech” was a baptism by fire.
Pity the poor wretch whose speech transgressions become political fodder. For an Iowa example, look up Carl Childress, an English professor at University of Northern Iowa who in 1970 assigned his class to write about selected forbidden words. Chuck Grassley, as I recall, pounced like a cat that had stumbled on a free meal.
— Jamison Lewis, Charles City