One of my favorite lessons from the School for Creative Activism is this: fun can be powerful and comedy can be dead serious. The best activism is effective because it hits people at an emotional level – at that gut-level sweet spot where decisions are made before conscious thought. But it’s not an easy spot to reach – you have to disarm people to get there. Our less ethical counterparts (advertisers and certain political entities) do this through fear-mongering or dishonest promise-making – and they do it well. Fortunately, laughter and joy disarm people too.
In an online discussion on the use of humor for New Tactics in Human Rights Lambert shares some of his thoughts on the value of comic personas:
One of the great overlooked strengths of using comedy (and art) is that it allows us to be shape-shifters. We can take on roles and characters to say things that couldn’t otherwise be said. This is the historical role of the Trixter, Joker, Coyote, etc…
As popular as some of these characters and performances become, they often make organizations nervous because they are so incredibly and overtly “off message.” However it’s critical to understand shape-shifting is predominantly a terrain only we can operate on. Representatives of large multi-nationals or governments don’t have the freedom to use different voices. They have one voice (and it’s usually not even their personal voice, it’s the voice of the institution that they must communicate within very strict bounds). While the institutional voice is bound to a script, the joker is free to change forms, messages, and tone.
This brings me to a theory I have been operating with for a few years: you can’t win an argument against a joker.
Read the rest of the discussion here.