Auggie Smith and the Subtle Dangers of Censorship
Written by J.T. Ryder
There are comedians who carpet bomb the audience in the statistical hope that most of their hurled bon mots and humorous bits land on target with an explosion and not a fizzle. Auggie Smith does not succumb to this temptation, instead relying on his rapid-fire delivery, spewed forth in a breathless scream of consciousness that leaves the audience no quarter.
Aug is more of a consummate storyteller, weaving reality with the absurd so flawlessly as to draw the audience into a world of his own design. There are no “jokes” or “bits”, just an unpretentiously intelligent torrent of guttural humor and angst that rises and falls, peaking at precisely the right moments. The reaction from the audience range from apoplectic laughter to a shocked indignation, as if they had just received a Cheney scatter shot to the face. One walks away from the performance not remembering a single line verbatim, just a different viewpoint and an afterglow of a cathartic release.
His comedic fodder is comprised of broad political satire and a repertoire of staccato rants ranging from the oppressive fear being foisted on the American public to Barbie getting raw dogged by G.I. Joe while he suffers a ‘Nam flashback. He draws from the world at large, but he doesn’t feel the need to use the stage for his own political agenda.
“Personally, I may have particular views and vote for particular people and I don’t care, you know, that I don’t expect people to have my political opinions when I’m on stage.” Auggie said during a recent phone interview. “I’m not trying to change minds, I’m trying to make people laugh.”
Freedom of speech is of paramount importance to Auggie, as it is the structure on which his craft is based, but also on a personal level that all people should be attuned to.
“Yeah, well, people’s view of what freedom of speech is completely messed up now.” he said. “Freedom of speech means that you might get your feelings hurt, and that’s exactly what it means. It doesn’t mean we don’t offend anybody. Freedom of speech is that people will be offended and that’s the point of it, and when you take that away, we’re, we’re done.”
The political and social sensitivity welling in this country and the ease in which people in general have the uncanny knack of finding offenses where none truly exist, seems to make the comedic landscape a minefield waiting for a big ol’ clown shoe to come along.
“Yeah, yeah….maybe they shouldn’t leave the house if they’re going to be offended by other people’s words. It’s probably best that you never come into contact with anybody else.” Auggie stated, somewhat perturbed. “That’s probably the best game plan for them…and what it is, is people have to be morally superior over others and they decide ‘Well, morally, I’m better than you so I can decide what you can and cannot say and what’s morally objectionable’ and here’s the thing; it doesn’t offend me. So is there something wrong with me? Am I a bad person for not being offended by that? You know, because that’s the way the logic has to go.”
It seems that the current political atmosphere is so devoid of humor that one is loath to joke about the powers that be for fear of risking a heated confrontation. It used to be that anyone could make a joke about Clinton’s indiscretions or Dan Quayle’s complete ineptitude, and there would be a laugh, regardless of any affiliations. Now it is like a simple satirical jest can get you labeled as being anti-American.
“The problem, you…you’re talking about a couple of different issues here. If you’re talking specifically about the current administration here, yeah. I think there are people who have forgotten that it is our job to be anti-establishment.” Auggie went on to state that, “It is the comedian’s job to, uh, comment on the government and it is a comedian’s job to have a problem with the powers that be. We’ve become so aligned with our various political parties, uh, that we do not see the humor in them anymore. That is true. Um, and the fact that this, this turf war that we have going between Democrats and Republicans, and so one political party has your best interest at heart, yeah, right, for Christ’s sake! Like they’re not just a collection of millionaires that are designed to further people’s political careers, and instead are… for you, the common man. That bothers me, that people are under that assumption.”
When Auggie Smith takes the stage, he is not there to entertain you; he is not there to tell you a couple of amusing little jokes. He shall rise to become your personal, self-proclaimed Sherpa, shepherding you through life’s mysterious and often frightening landscape. Give your life over to the Aug Man and he will guide and protect you from all of the sharks, senior citizen NASCAR drivers and violently voracious vending machines that besiege you on your chosen path. Praise be to Aug.
( Originally published in the Dayton City Paper on April 25, 2007)