Make Do With Grin

Lehrer's real social category is Post-Collegiate Wiseass, and that's the socioethnic content he infuses into the popular song. Some of Lehrer's cynicism is irritating, some of it is funny. Most of the cynicism is meaningless and in fact isn't cynicism at all, just a suspension of real-life moral response in service of making the jokes funny. Even a real-life possibility like nuclear war occurs in this unreal Funnyland. Whereas for someone like Dylan, and punks like the Ramones and Eminem, for example—people who are much greater artists than Sherman or Lehrer and are far funnier when they want to be funny, but who use some of the same strategies, so that like Sherman they take music and infuse it with their own socioethnicity, and like Lehrer they put death and sex and drugs and violence into their lyrics—for these performers, the death and violence in their lyrics point to real possibilities, even when exaggerated or done as jokes. E.g., Eminem: "When I go out I'm a go out shootin'/I don't mean when I die, I mean when I go out to the club, stupid!" He's not going to go shooting (I hope), but someone will—people do. And if not, he's still pointing at something in the psyche. Something in his mind is shooting. For Lehrer, the joke's the thing, whereas Eminem wants to kill the king and rail at all the king's servants, too.

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