Green Acres was the place for me in the sixties, light years ahead of its time as a green comedy. A savvy businessman is fed up with the rat race of the concrete jungle, flees Park Place and whisks his dilettante wife to Hooterville to grow their own food, befriend local yokels like con man Mr. Haney and Arnold the pig and live a simpler, yet more abundant life. It was a hoot. Who in the Camelot era wanted to live with such sacrifices?
Years later, the earnest eco revolution has spawned a new brand of humor (it’s just that hip!) as we parody the seemingly all-consuming agenda, as in the Audi Green Police ad shown during the Super Bowl. It lampooned the campaign for reusable bags, keeping water consumption down and using low energy appliances. I thought it was poignant because we have gone to extremes at times with the monitoring of consumption. It takes extremes to save the planet, and if humor works, make em laugh!
In addition to the Audi ad, eco humor has seeped into various sitcom story lines and entertainment specials. Among my faves: Saturday Night Live’s Chewable Pampers (all great taste and no waste in eco-friendly containers); and F*ck The Earth Day with old coot Jack English: In the spoof ad for celebrating the day after Earth Day in April, he tells us to ignore the hippie alarmists and do what makes us feels good – like leaving the lights on, driving a hummer and pouring oil on a duck.
And then, there is the new breed of stand-up comics, finding unlimited material in the green lane.
Take Bob Hirschfeld, a self-described business satirist-turned eco satirist, who offers his Funny Green Business presentations at corporate conferences held by Forbes, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Cox Communication, Honda, and IBM to name a few.
Bob makes audiences laugh at the inconsistencies woven into the eco agenda pointing to well-intended solutions aimed at lowering our footprints. “I was at a bookstore where I got the book, 100 ways to Save the Planet,” he recalls. “Number one was buy less paper! So I returned the book.” He also takes harmless stabs at LED bulbs (how many dollars does it take to screw in a lightbulb?); the complexities of sorting plastics for recycling and the embarrassment of low-flow potties not really doing the job of flushing waste in just one flush – especially at dinner parties where your hosts question why you’re taking so long. You can watch his spiel here:
Convention Connection in Malibu, CA which books Bob and other acts, says it gets many requests for green speakers for events, and stand-up brand humor is an added bonus. “Any speaker or entertainer tries to look at the trends, and green is certainly in,” observes booking agent, Kiela Hine. “Humor for all times has tried to make light of things that are difficult and that is a good thing.”
Brings to mind the song Smile, Charlie Chaplin’s theme music for his last silent picture, Modern Times about a tramp struggling to live in modern industrialized society. The song asks, what’s the use of crying? If you light up your face with gladness, you will see the sun come shining through. If Chaplin only knew to what extent we have screwed the divine paradise we have been gifted. I can laugh about it here and there, Charlie. But it is hard to hide the sadness and just smile.
Images: Sitcoms Online, Edna Purviance