No one on either side of the political spectrum would disagree with the notion that, in these tough economic times, a nation has to pull together. To what extent, and whether that solidarity should foment publicly, or privately, is of course a matter of contention.
Keep in mind that homeowners and union labor aren't the only ones hit hard by the recent downturn. In fact, according to a preponderance of experts, the comedy bubble burst even before the housing and .com markets crumbled. In the wake of the crash, comedians bonded together, joining arms and standing tall for each other.
Which all added up to very little.
This is due, say a growing number of activists, to the fact that no amount of solidarity can come to any sort of fruition without a framework of policy set up by a proactive government.
With new legislation recently passed by congress and signed by the president, comedians and citizens everywhere can look forward to a new dawn of egalitarian prosperity.
The historic Keith Lowell Jensen Prosperity Joke Redistribution Plan (KeLJePJoRP) revamps the comedy industry and levels a playing field that has marginalized countless millions of unfunny individuals.
Named in honor of journeyman stand-up impresario Keith Lowell Jensen, a very funny man who generously shared his solidly hilarious laugh lines with those in need (even when it mean cutting his own set short), KeLJePJoRP sanctions the newly created Bureau of Comedic Affairs, authorizing them to confiscate jokes from prolific and funny comedians, and redistribute them to those with inferior comedic talents. The bracketed system allows the most successful comedians to keep 60% of their jokes. Above average comics will have the privilege of involuntarily sharing 20% of their humor. Marginally talented and less prolific comics will only have to give up 10%. The appropriated jokes will subsidize the careers and (more likely) the social interactions of people who dream of comedy, but who lack the insight or timing to be truly funny. It further extends a hand to those who may well be very funny, but who are unable to put in the hard work required to create solid material.
"This is great," says an early beneficiary of the program, "I was ready to throw in the towel. Writing jokes is so hard, and since my cannabis prescription ran out I've had trouble focusing. When I got the first batch of jokes, and people laughed at them, I thought, 'thank God people care enough to vote for people who will create an agency to give me someone elses jokes!' No matter how unfunny I am, I have hope for the future now." The above mentioned unfunny person (who requested anonymity) is currently doing 1 to 2 shows a week, and getting good laughs, almost completely with material from other comics. "I put in one of my own into my set the other day, and it didn't get much of a laugh. I think I'll stick with stuff from the program for the time being. I'm flat out killing. Being funny is awesome."
Some comedians have referred to recipients of the program as "welfare comics," a turn of phrase that participant Jake Rubenstein calls "hurtful, and dismissive." He explains further, "Most of those so-called 'funny' people inherited their sense of humor anyway. It's not like they earned it. Just because you have funny parents doesn't mean you are better than me, or anyone else." He mostly uses the laugh lines he receives to "break the ice" with women. "Before I was funny, I used to bomb with the ladies. Since I got in the program, and with the extra delivery coaching from the comedy counseling unit, I'm scoring twice the chicks."
Opponents of the program maintain that the Constitution makes no provision for the confiscation of intellectual property (i.e. jokes). But they have also pointed out that it contains no language authorizing the confiscation of income at gunpoint--a practice that has been carried out at the federal level since Lincoln. They attempt to bolster their point claiming that large amounts of really great comedy are eaten up in bureaucratic waste. Phillip Smooot, founder of government watch dog group Citizens for Responsible Administrative Policy, recently stated (on NPR's Fresh Air) that "for every 20 jokes sent to Washington, only 5 reach the intended recipients. The rest are petered away in the endlessly churning bureaucratic Rube Goldberg machine that is the Federal Government. These are the same people who are currently feeding soldiers into a sausage grinder in the Middle East. Do you really want them in charge of our nation's comedic reserves?" Other opponents wonder if a country with trillions of dollars of crippling debt has the means to maintain yet another expensive agency.
"Absolutely," responds Amy Douglas, spokesperson for the Keith Lowell Jensen Foundation (the advocacy group that lobbied for the legislation). "Reaching out to the comically challenged is the responsibility of everyone blessed with a sense of humor. It breaks my heart to think of people telling bad jokes, and passing them on for generations. We can break that chain. Everyone should have a chance to be humorous. Telling funny jokes is a right. We cannot deny it to people and still call ourselves a compassionate society." Other advocates maintain the position (as did a recent blogger on the Huffington Post) that comedy is a precious national resource that "merits management." If for no other reason than to prevent downturns in comedic institutions like Saturday Night Live. "When that show hits a bad stretch," said the blogger, "it takes the whole country to a very dark place." They point out that if we can get a greater percentage of the populace to be funny, we will no longer need to import such large quantities of humor from countries where socialized comedy has been prospering for years.
Most polls indicate that the American people in general, eager for a laugh, have adopted a "wait and see" approach. The next few years will set a critical precedent, and we may see an already polarized electorate take sides in disturbing numbers. Or perhaps, as some predict, expanded possibilities for laughter will bring people together. This much is clear: With the law set to expire halfway into the next president's term, the debate is far from over. Insert punchline here. I couldn't think of one, and I didn't qualify for the program.