Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oh, Three or Four

The death of Stan Freberg marks the passing of a performer who knew the difference between satire and plain mockery, a distinction not always known or practiced by some who claim the name today. Freberg was also the voice of Pete the Puma, who could never figure out why his head ached after Bugs Bunny asked him how many lumps of sugar he wanted in his tea.

Satire is mockery with a point -- it aims to ridicule for the purpose of sparking discussion or even change. Christopher Buckley, for example, satirized the inside-the-beltway power trip mentality in The White House Mess. Jim Geraghty went after similar targets in The Weed Agency. The makers of Animal House satirized both the snobby elitism of upper-class privilege and the party-until-death mentality that passes for higher education in most colleges.

Many modern-day folks who take the label "satirist" sometimes achieve actual satire, but most of the time they're just making fun to get laughs. There's nothing really wrong with that, but unlike the satirist who might want to see things change or see a problem issue resolved, the mocker is just as happy if it keeps going because it keeps him or her supplied with material.

Freberg's dry wit and sometimes esoteric sense of humor would probably not fly on modern comedy television, but the fault of that does not lie with him.

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