There's a very literate and analytical essay about Jerry Seinfeld and underground comic Rick Shapiro in Slate. He uses a Dickens metaphor of the two characters from A Tale of Two Cities (yet another Dickens novel I have yet to read-perhaps this wil provide insipiration). The author Ron Rosenbaum mentioned that he is the subjec tof a new book by the intriguing author Adrian Nicole Blanc (author of the moving Random Family that I reviewed a while back):
I asked her why this snarling, foul-mouthed, misogynist, misanthropic, venomously sleazy, Ratso Rizzo-type engaged her interest. Here's what she wrote back:His work implicates you. I doubt you can leave his show unaffected. His rendering of his dynamic and intricate experience of the world will make you laugh, but it requires you, blessedly, to think deeply and feel. As to my idea of a book about standup comedy—contemporary American masculinity—he's grappling dearly with all it means and can mean.
I think the key thing here is "he implicates you." Because for some—not me, of course—he touches a nerve by suggesting there's some of him in you. That horrifying recognition is why you laugh and why it's scary. Adrian's words suggest that it's possible to see Rick Shapiro's stage persona as a character he's playing, knowingly trying to implicate us by acting out our rage against the Seinfeldian hive. That, for instance, he's not misogynist, but about misogyny. He raises some of the questions that Sarah Silverman and Sacha Baron Cohen do in their work, but without any of the knowing winks that in one way or another let them off the hook. He plays on that knife edge of uncertainty: Is this him, can any human go so low, so entertainingly, or is he putting some of it on?