November 26, 2023

Humor we Love to Hate.

A friend posted a Matt Rife meme the other day likening him to some character with a green face and joker-esque smile.

Matt does have a Jack Nicholson joker-esque smile sometimes. But I think it adds to his charm. I commented on the meme with a gif of Jim Carrey as the Mask. Same vibe. I followed that up with something about him being hilarious and hot. I do like his boyish, good looks and he cracks me up, so that makes him even more attractive to me. I like funny guys.

Well, someone followed up my comment, not directly speaking to me (though maybe indirectly), about how Rife is disgusting and his jokes are disrespectful—mean. Referencing how he makes fun of domestic violence and people with special needs (that’s my nice way of saying it though there are other more socially and academically correct ways to describe people with intellectual disabilities).

I get it. I get why people find him over-hyped, rude, and crass. I asked myself whether I should check my moral compass if I find such a person so hilarious. I mean, I almost spit out my food watching his Netflix special. The part where he talks about crystals…I love my crystals and astrology (by the way, Saturn has rings, not Jupiter, unless I’ve misunderstood something in astronomy). In fairness, Pluto was a full planet when I was in school. Now it’s been demoted to a dwarf planet, but the energetic impact of Pluto is not comparable to its size or status.

I guess I make allowances for humor. I don’t mind being made fun of—sometimes. I mean there is a time and place and level of appropriateness where that kind of joking is hurtful. But as a human, with all of my flaws and stupid sh*t I’ve done (and still do), I find sometimes I have to laugh at myself.

We are silly creatures. We’re so smart and yet we make ridiculous, irresponsible, selfish, hurtful, disgusting, destructive decisions all the time. We have to laugh at ourselves. Sometimes it’s sheer madness walking through life with all the different personalities and opinions and perspectives. How else should we reconcile ourselves? I guess we haven’t learned yet that going to war with ourselves (and each other) isn’t a productive solution.

But I digress…

Crass comedy isn’t a new concept. Plenty of famous comedians made a name for themselves at someone else’s expense. In college, I had a mix CD that I played on road trips (yes, a mix CD…can you believe that was 20 years ago?). Anyway, I would laugh so hard listening to Robin Williams make fun of himself, but also cocaine addicts, alcoholics, and rock bottom moments, and then I would follow that up with Chris Rock or George Carlin. Sometimes I would forget I was driving and that people could see me cracking the hell up, by myself, in my car.

They say laughter is the best medicine, and scientifically, laughing has been shown to have many positive physiological effects—meaning, it changes brain functioning and body chemistry. Not only does laughter increase your heart rate and lower your risk of heart attack, making it (arguably) an aerobic exercise, it increases air into the lungs and strengthens core muscles. Ever laugh so hard your stomach hurts? That’s the best until it really does hurt and you’re laughing so hard you’re crying. I’m so grateful to have had moments like that in my life. That intense laughter is so good for you.

Laughing fosters a sense of relaxation and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. It also releases dopamine and increases endorphins. Laughing also increases pain tolerance, so next time you’re giving birth, ladies, make sure you watch some comedy. Likewise, laughter therapy has been shown to increase self-esteem and boost mood in cancer patients. The list goes on and on.

Because laughter is the best medicine. And it’s free and accessible to almost anyone, except for the price of admission if you’re attending an event or watching it on Netflix.

I laugh at my cat almost every day. I laugh at (and with) my kids. I laugh at things in nature like crazy squirrels or silly dog videos. I laugh at myself!

Which brings me back to Matt Rife. I’ve watched his reels and TikToks and there is hardly a group he doesn’t talk sh*t about. Sometimes it’s a little cringey. Like when he was joking about how much he loooooves old people, almost to the point of portraying a fetish. But if you pay attention, there are moments when his sincerity shines through. Or maybe I’m projecting, but I sense he has great respect for old people and their stories—their lived experiences. I think he meant it when he said it causes him to reflect on his own life and the legacy he wants to leave behind.

I identify with his love-hate relationship with social media, though he described his with more hate than love. But the bigger message, again, which seems to come from a sincere heartfelt place, is to be who you are unapologetically. Create your content. Your content is your art. And don’t give a sh*t whether others like it or not. Do it for you. What you create is your passion project. It takes courage to put yourself out there, and if some hater “internet troll” wants to come along and drop shade on your post they can f*ck off. And I say that with love and peaceful well wishes. You don’t need and will never get everyone’s approval. We would all do well to seek less external validation and do more of what feels genuine to our true essence.

I won’t go as far as Rife to suggest that the world would be better off without these people. In fact, I find these experiences provide much-needed contrast. Often our most powerful teachers are the people we observe who express behaviors we find revolting. Disdain will teach you more about what you don’t want to be than someone describing it to you. How many of us have experienced something that felt awful and decided we would never be like that or live that way or act like that? (Raises hand.)

What one person finds amusing, another person will find disgraceful. I think that’s okay. It’s okay to have opposing views and find humor in different ways. We go too far when we start judging each other’s moral character based on what we find funny. Just because I laugh at jokes about crystals and astrology doesn’t mean I don’t take energy healing seriously or find the study of astrology to be a simple-minded endeavor.

Quite the contrary, astrology is highly scientific and connected to philosophy, mythology, astronomy, and so much more. It’s not the end-all be-all method for prophesizing, and Rife is right in saying that people use it as scapegoat rather than taking accountability for their choices. Not everything is Mercury’s fault. Retrogrades are not always negative. Instead, it’s a potential blueprint to better understanding yourself. Not unlike the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, the Enneagram, Human Design and Gene Keys…all of these are tools to gain a higher degree of self-awareness.

And, I must say it, even though it makes me shift in my seat, just because I laugh at a joke about a hostess in Baltimore having a black eye and not being a good cook does not mean I think domestic violence is at all funny. Nor does it make me a terrible, apathetic person. Can we not separate the two?

Can we not laugh at life’s follies and mishaps, and yes, sometimes even its cruelty, without being demonized? We love to hate. Though we don’t have to. We can become aware of our judgements and how we tear each other down and choose to reconcile these things within ourselves. I don’t have to comment on every post I disagree with. I don’t have to throw shade at someone I think is spouting utter nonsense. I can keep scrolling. I was on Twitter for a few years when I was a political activist. I have done my share of tweeting passive-aggressive bullsh*t to candidates I loathed (MTG being one of them). But I’ll tell you, it didn’t make me feel better. Maybe a little self-righteous, but it didn’t change anything.

Wanna know what I’ve found that really makes a difference? Rather than meeting hate with more hate, it’s meeting hate with love, compassion, sympathy, and understanding. People who throw hate around willy-nilly are most likely hurting and hiding a bunch of insecurities. And instead of dealing with their psychological and emotional sh*t, they’d rather project it outward onto someone else. It’s twisted, I know, but teens do it all the time. Most adults who act this way are like teenagers with trauma acting out in an adult body.

But that’s a post for another day.

Have you had a good laugh lately? If not, I highly recommend a funny dog or cat video, or funny animals in general, but I also recommend Matt Rife’s Netflix comedy show. Maybe some Jimmy Fallon too. We need to laugh more. Laughter begets laughter. Let’s not lose our collective sense of humor or we’ll all go insane.


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