Video: Wise Fools — Exploring the Buddhism-and-comedy connection

OK Karma, the only album released during Mike DeStefano's lifetime.

Talk of spirituality and humor, together, seems to be in the air: Louis CK’s latest Buddhism-confluent bit has, like the one before it (see below), gone viral; CBS News has a new special called What’s So Funny About Religion?”; and, the Shambhala Sun‘s Rod Meade Sperry has looked at the Buddhism-and-comedy connection for a feature our November 2013 magazine (available on newsstands now). Here, from that article, he shares some bits and video that reflect, explicitly or implicitly, a Buddhist take on comedy. Honest, insightful, poignant, or just plain funny, they all bring us some sort of deeper truth. After all, as the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said, “If there were no humor, it wouldn’t be Buddhism.”

Oh, and just a warning: Explicit language ahead!

Mike DeStefano: “The Junkie and the Monk,” as told on The Moth podcast

I’m not gonna lie. My oldest friends would tell you that I’ve not only partaken in but also invented some of the most vivid and creative cursing in human history. And yet even I find a lot of Mikey D’s act, as captured on his live CD OK Karma, pretty nasty at times. Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a lot of it. But it doesn’t capture the depth and breadth of DeStefano’s heart and mind like “The Junkie and the Monk,” his heart-wrenching retelling of the loss of his wife. He also speaks about dipping his toe into Buddhist practice and tonglen meditation, his drug use, and suicidal ideation—and manages to wring laughs from it all. Note: A DeStefano documentary is in production now. Learn more and pitch in at mikedestfanodoc.com.

Louis C.K.: “Everything is Amazing, and Nobody’s Happy”

This 2009 bit, as told on Conan, went viral quickly—perhaps because it nails down that sense of unsatisfactoriness we know all too well but rarely put words to. Mocking how spoiled we’ve become, C.K rails: “People come back from flights, and they tell you their story: ‘They made us sit there, on the runway, for forty minutes!’ Oh, really? What happened next? Did you FLY, through THE AIR, incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight? You’re sitting in a chair, IN THE SKY.”

Tig Notaro: Live

Not enough can be said about this incredibly frank and funny post-cancer-diagnosis performance. Seek it out. And to hear Tig and the rest of her Professor Blastoff crew discuss enlightenment, catty Buddhists, and more, visit earwolf.com/episode/enlightenment.

Arj Barker: “The Sickest Buddhist”

This parody music video, shot at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, replaces your typical, commercial hip-hop bling-and- party vibe with clever (though not always spot-on) jabs at spiritual materialists. A sample couplet: “I look so serene when I bust a lotus, but I don’t have an ego so I wouldn’t even notice.”

Portlandia: “Meditation Crush”

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein have offered a seemingly endless parade of lovingly-rendered semi-stereotypes on their widely-enjoyed IFC show. So it was only a matter of time before they got to meditators. This look at how easily we can be carried away by our thoughts while on the cushion will ring true for many of us—whether we’ll admit it or not.

Pete Holmes: “Google and Not Knowing,” from his album, Impregnated with Wonder

In this brilliant bit, Holmes, whose work is at turns observational and absurd, gets right to the heart of the difficulties that our so-called conveniences bring us: “Having Google on your phone is like having a drunk know-it-all in your pocket. There’s no time for mystery, or wonder… The time between knowing and not-knowing is so brief that knowing feels exactly like not-knowing… So life is meaningless!”

…Also recommended: Garry Shandling and crew’s Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show DVD set and Sarah Silverman’s autobiography, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.

Don’t miss the November 2013 Shambhala Sun magazine for “Wise Fools,” Rod Meade Sperry’s feature on the Buddhism-and-comedy connection, featuring Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, Mike DeStefano, Garry Shandling, Sarah Silverman, and more.

And more, online from the Shambhala Sun (links open in new windows):

Margaret Cho: “The Funniest Thing is a Great Truth”

Cartoonist Dan Piraro asks, “What do we want?”

Goodbye, The Goodwin Games…. We hardly knew ye

It’s Groundhog Day — for Buddhist film buffs, a day that keeps giving

“Welcome to meditation, Liz Lemon!”

….and much more, all here.