This past Sunday while working out some new material at Austin's Cap City Comedy Club open mic, I had the good fortune of running into comedian John Tole.
Every meeting I have with Tole is like reading a new chapter in his life. When I first met him he was a married, fat financial operator out of Boston working the Howard Stern Cringe Comedy circuit. Later he became a divorced shroom-inhaling truth seeker performing hardcore metal between comedy gigs. Finally (this weekend): I met a much thinner, clean-cut, 40-year-old, newly married, juice dieter.
He's also become a marketing machine who perfectly represents the new "social media comedian."
You see, John Tole is part of the new crop of comedians who consider Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, etc. as part of their acts. They live by the smartphone, and constantly generate bite-sized opinions, building name recognition without ever having to wear pants.
Some people reject these comedians, dismissing their hustle as just another way of masking their "mediocre" acts. I am not one of these people. To me funny is not limited to one person, one mic, on one stage — no — it evolves according to the medium.
But what happens when the medium changes the society? While I do have the Twitter, the Facebook, etc., I am extremely leery of how these things affect the overall quality of communication.
Even text messaging to me seems like an escape from the free exchange of ideas mass communication was supposed to offer. Do we really talk to each other anymore — or do we just talk at?
Right now there is an app specifically designed to hear your voice and translate/send as a text to another. Is this what we've been reduced to? We're too lazy to type and too afraid to talk as human beings?
From the beginnings of cinema, films have explored the idea of humanity at war with the machines. Always warning us of a future where the robots rise against their creators. I say that will never happen. Like newborn blind puppies, we've suckled up to the tit of technology — feeding on the narcissism it enables in all of us. No longer participants in tangible reality, but fluttering egos in a reality we shape to our own tunneled ideas of who we think we actually are. From the guy in the restaurant loudly bragging about his new conquest —to the girl in the front row texting while I try to make this whole premise funny at the comedy club — we've disengaged to ourselves from a quarter of what makes us human.
Star Trek: the Next Generation dealt with this theme by exploring the android character Data's deep desire to become a human being. Who knew our future would be the other way around?
As I write this I know I'm trapped in this new world as well. This blog, my Facebook page, my Twitter posts — all compensate well to hide the fact I'm too lazy or even selfish to relent to forming real friendships. But I do know that as society further goes down technology's rabbit hole, I will eventually be left behind solely to the fact that my phone ... still ... flips.
And that's as far as I'm willing to go.
To hear my conversation with John Tole on this as well as our opinions on Illusion, Twilight, 2012, aliens, conspiracy, and the hypocrisy of Indiana Jones hit the play button below.John Tole's America Ep4 by John Tole
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