Truth in Comedy


The phrase is “Truth in Comedy.” 

What this means is that, to get a laugh, a comedian must connect with the audience. They do this by saying or establishing something as true. For example, in a comedy routine, the comedian may pretend to step on a Lego and react in a certain way. Audience members who have also stepped on Legos, and have reacted in a similar way, would then laugh in recognition. “Yes! That’s exactly what happens! That happened to me!” 

That then becomes the “truth.” 

It’s not a fact, but it is a “truth” that the audience has recognized and agreed upon. 

And keep in mind that the comedian did not speak the truth in the sense that they did not lie.
Entertainment is a lie; it just so happens that the audience is in on it. 

As a result, the “truth” gets slippery when comedians discuss subjective matters, whether that’s public or foreign policy, politicians, or cultural problems. It’s not in the comedian’s job description to tell you the facts; it’s their job to help you recognize a “truth” in order to get the laugh. And more often than not, they do this by lying to you. 

For example, consider a Pro-Hillary or Pro-Democratic Party comedian vs. a Pro-Trump or Pro-Conservative comedian. Each caters to a different audience. A Pro-Trump audience would not necessarily laugh at Pro-Hillary jokes; whereas a Pro-Democratic Party audience would not necessarily laugh at Pro-Republican Party jokes. Why? Because these audiences share different "truths." 

And these "truths" are extremely subjective. 

For example, the man who founded Lego may not appreciate the Lego joke. That truth is not necessarily his truth. 

But a fact is this: Lego is a Danish company. 

Or this: Hillary Clinton was named the 2016 Democratic Nominee for President. 

Or this: Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America. 

Those are facts. 

They are indisputable. 

A “truth” can be disputed. 

For instance, Lego’s motto is: "Only the best is good enough.”
That is a “truth” because it is not a factual statement.
It is a belief, an opinion, a perspective - not a fact. 

The trouble is distinguishing the two, especially when sentences or subjects get more complicated. And to further muddy the waters, comedians have ventured into this game by telling their audiences certain facts while arguing for “the truth.” Late Night Comedians have made a living doing this in recent years, across a wide number of platforms. However, a “truth" - a shared opinion, perspective, and sense of humor - is not a fact.

Yet facts, when presented correctly, can reveal an absolute truth. 

And that’s something worth sharing.