Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 People Of The Year: Part 2 - Kate McKinnon & Dan Savage

[click here for part 1]

8. Kate McKinnon
If all comedians did was make us laugh, they would have an essential role to play in our society, but they do so much more than that. This year, comics continued the tradition of social commentary that great comics like George Carlin pioneered.

In the same way that Batman brings justice to Gotham City in a way that the police cannot, comedians push past the boundaries of journalism asking essential questions, bringing to light overlooked experiences and issues and entertaining audiences at the same time.

This year Amy Schumer kept at it. Her show, Inside Amy Schumer, continued to bring up issues, some would rather not admit are real and absurdities that are too often overlooked.  Her book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, revealed incredible depth. Schumer went deep into her personal history and spoke candidly about her experiences with abuse, the challenges of being a woman and many other pervasive issues that we far too often ignore.

Then there was Ali Wong, whose Netflix special, Baby Cobra, was um . . . well., check out this clip:


Revelation works as a word to describe this special. Asian-Americans are underrepresented in comedy and we got a lot of stuff that we need to work out by laughing about it. Ali Wong is out there helping us and helping everyone understand a little about what is fantastic, ridiculous and awesome about being Asian.

The comedian that brought me the most laughter this year and got me through some of the most difficult times this year Kate McKinnon.

Every week, when the election seemed more confusing, more absurd and more hopeless, she got out there on Saturday Night Live and as Hillary Clinton, helped us all process what was happening in the country. In addition, she played other characters that reminded us that it was okay to laugh.

The week after the election, she appeared at the start of the show as Secretary Hillary Clinton, and performed the late Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, “Hallelujah.”

McKinnon sang as Secretary Clinton and for Secretary Clinton. She was able to say thing that Hillary could not. At moments she let the mask down and she was one of us trying to figure out the mixture of emotions we were feeling in the face of a loss that we did not and could not understand. The courage of McKinnon to sing in such an exposed and vulnerable way reflected Secretary Clinton’s bravery and dignity in the face of such unjustified and irrational hatred.

After completing the song, McKinnon stated, “I’m not giving up and neither should you.” Her voice shook slightly as she spoke for herself and for all of us. We didn’t need her in that moment to be stronger for us, we just needed her to let us know that we aren’t alone and there is always hope.

Hope is exactly what McKinnon gave us that evening.  

7. Dan Savage
The world can be difficult to understand. We need people to help us process events and see through our own lack of perspective. One of the most important voices in my life who does this for me is the sex advice columnist, author, and podcast host, Dan Savage.

Every Tuesday morning Savage starts his podcast with a “rant,” as he calls it. During this opening, he addresses a range of topics including current events. Savage is incredibly witty and his rants are humorous, thought-provoking, and deeply insightful. On June 14th, 2006, his opening rant was heartbreaking (Click here).

Savage did what he often did and addressed a current event, but this event was different, he talked about the Orlando massacre at the Pulse nightclub. In this opening, Savage embraced the burden of having to explain to majority, a minority experience.

Many minorities, including myself, find the burden of explaining our lived experiences to people who are not part that minority group exhausting and annoying at times. Why should I have to spend my day explaining to people who are not Asian what it’s like to be Asian? This is not something that we should expect out of minorities of any kind but Savage has leaned into this burden and made it his responsibility. Because of this, thousands of other people who read Savage’s words and hear his voice are more understanding of other people and themselves.

I will not try to paraphrase Savage’s words, but know that while they will make you cry, they paint a story, a history of Gay nightclub culture that has been a beacon of hope for a group of people who faced unimaginable intolerance perpetrated by bigotry and hate. There is one point that I will highlight and is important to remember. In 1969, during the Stonewall riots, the police were fighting against the rights of homosexuals. During the Pulse nightclub shooting, the police were putting their lives on the line, some in the direct line of fire to protect the lives of people who are LGBT and their allies.

Dan Savage talks about sex on his podcast, but more than that, he talks about acceptance, embracing the plurality of human expression and how to love yourself and others. Savage is not always right, but he tries. Savage’s words have saved relationships, gotten people away from abusive partners and spread empathy to his listeners and beyond.

If we all took Savage’s advice, we would be a lot happier, having more sex and most importantly embracing the beautiful plurality of the human experience . . . and we’d also probably be swearing more and smoking more pot.

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