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Lions Roar : November 2013
WHAT IS IT ABOUT COMEDIANS and Buddhism? They sure love to joke about it. Last week alone, between late-night spots and satellite radio, I heard six different comics make jokes with Buddha references—and not one of them about smoking weed. Keep listening, and it becomes clear: there are tons of these jokes, and some are best left untold. (If fat jokes are lazy, then ones that feature the Buddha, who wasn’t fat, are just plain lame.) And even when these jokes are sort of clever, they don’t kill. Which, of course, sounds very Buddhist, but means something quite differ- ent in comedian-speak. So why do these jokes fall flat? There are a few comedians who actually are Buddhists. But Buddhists often heed counsel to not talk too much about their practice, so this means Buddhist comics rarely make explicitly Buddhist jokes. On the other hand, your average non-Buddhist comedian doesn’t know shit from Shinola when it comes to Buddhism, and a joke without a proper setup will suffer out there. To wit: two comedians’ lines I heard last week—via Myq Kaplan’s Conan set and Sarah Silverman’s Twitter feed—were about the kooky notion of Buddhist militants, as if such a thing could never exist. Unfortunately, at exactly the same time, a group of self-identifying but horribly misguided Buddhists in Burma were aggressively tormenting local Muslims. This was full-on international news, and still is. Oops. Unflinching honesty. Insightful observation. Outside-the-box thinking. Today’s great comedians may not know much about Buddhism but they practice some of its most important principles. ROD MEADE SPERRY takes a look at today’s comics of merit. Wise Fools PHOTOBYGABRIELELOPEZ/MILLENNIUMIMAGES,U.K. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 59