Why isn’t this funny?
There’s a lot of things to apply one’s weak investigative journalism skills, but after reading about Doug Stanhope’s new project at Skepchick, I decided to dig into this to find out if Stanhope is trying to parody pro-choicers or if he’s sending up the religious right. Why? Because he’s got a new site up called Saving Bristol, where he’s ostensibly trying to raise $25,000 to help get Bristol Palin an abortion and get her set up so she neither has to live with her religious zealot parents or get married to her high school boyfriend. Unfortunately, the site fails to be funny, which I think is probably due more to Doug Stanhope’s long career of missing the mark more than, as the blogger at Skepchick argued, the very idea that using Bristol Palin as an entrance point to mock the religious right, shotgun marriages, or theatrical opposition to abortion.
But really, reading some of it, I had a moment of wondering if Stanhope was actually trying to parody pro-choicers, or anti-choicers’ idea of what pro-choicers are like. Evidence for this:
1) He was on “The Man Show”, which was largely dedicated to the idea that misogyny is fun, and also had the Biggest Tool In The World on it, Adam Carolla.
2) He appears to think you can get an abortion on demand when you’re five months pregnant, which is something only the loony anti-choicers and people who are very badly educated on this subject think.
So, is this overwrought language the attempts at comedic flourish for a message that’s overall anti-wingnut, or is he parodying pro-choicers?
Rather than sit back and impotently bemoan Bristol’s tragic, lonely circumstance, it is time for us – the silent majority – to unite behind this poor, imprisoned woman and save her from both a tyrannical household as well as the horrible nightmare of a forced childbirth.
So, as a service to the public, I decided to do some research and actually watched some Doug Stanhope stand-up comedy on the subject of abortion. You don’t have to thank me, but if you’re feeling generous, I’m going to concur with Stanhope that you should give your money to the Lilith Fund, which gives financial help to low income women seeking abortion. (You can guess where this is going now, I suppose.) Stanhope actually spends a lot of time dwelling on the subject for a comedian, since I found not one, but two pieces on the subject. Life experience probably left him attached to the subject, as he explains at Saving Bristol:
I was once in a similar situation where I’d accidentally impregnated a girl and she had to make that same fateful decision that now faces you. It was easy for her – she didn’t have a fascist, oligarch parent, the entire Republican Party or the sneering eyes of the Christian Right to contend with, much less a daft, puppet boyfriend who’s just waiting for the cameras to stop rolling so he can bolt like a gazelle.
We made the right choice and rather than end up bitter rivals in court battles over custody or support, we are great friends who high-five over our decision and have all the free time and disposable income that young mothers never know. I now pay it forward and offer some of that money to you.
And he’s directing all money this drive raises to the Lilith Fund, unless of course Bristol takes him up on the offer, which seems unlikely and, at this point in time, illegal. So, his heart is in the right place, as much as it amazes me to say that about anyone attached to “The Man Show”.
So I ask unto you Pandagonians: Does Saving Bristol fail to be funny because the concept itself is somehow off-limits to humor, or is it that Stanhope’s brand of humor is just off somehow? I’m inclined to think it’s more the latter, because in the right hands, almost anything can be funny, and frankly, there’s a lot to laugh at in the train wreck of religious right nuttery that is the Palin family. And certainly there’s a place for even outrageous humor to highlight the plight of teenage girls born to wingnut families who think they actually own their women. I could, for instance, see Twisty Faster demolishing this one. I get the impression that Stanhope is trying to get at that outlandish, eccentric, angry political comedy that Bill Hicks perfected, but I think his problem is he just yells through a lot of stuff, where Hicks knew how to transition between fury and dry humor.
But I do have to take issue with Elyse at Skepchick getting ruffled because Stanhope has fun with the fact that it was easy for him and his girlfriend to do this. Half the reason a lot of women struggle with it is this kind of scolding, where they’re led to feel it’s shameful unless you feel like a bad person. (Of course, other reasons for mixed feelings are that the relationship is tumultuous, your feelings about parenthood are tumultuous, or you feel weird about a contraception mishap. But some women don’t feel guilt or confusion, and that’s legitimate.) That you should pay tribute to anti-sex goons by feeling guilty about your sexual choices as payment for getting to make those choices. I say fuck that. I’m glad that Doug Stanhope’s girlfriend apparently feels no shame, guilt, or emotional wrenching. She didn’t do anything wrong and shouldn’t have to suffer. Not that Elyse is saying she should, but still, it’s exerting pressure to be uncomfortable with women who shrug it off.