David R. Montague is a native of Billings, Montana. He holds a Masterís degree in English from Indiana University and a bachelorís degree from the University of Montana. He lives with his wife, Mary Silkwood, in the Garnet Mountains of Western Montana.
He has this to say about satire:
I recently decided that it was time for me to come out of the closet. I now freely admit to the world that I am bihumoral.
For years, I have lived a double life, pretending to find complete satisfaction in wisecracks and one-liners, the kind of things that make careers for stand-up comics. I just never felt that I was very good at it. I came to the conclusion that I needed something with more bite. I finally admitted to myself that I had always been attracted to satire. This was not an easy admission to swallow. At first I was ashamed. Then confused. I thought about moving to Sweden to have surgery. They can reorient your wit over there in two or three operations, and you can afford the hospitals.
Then the American Dream collided with two historic events. Enron, the darling of corporate America, collapsed into a nasty pile of dirt. And, in the wake of 911, President George W. Bush advised us to arm ourselves with credit cards and shop. He also admonished us to buy duct tape so we could seal our windows against evil. At that moment I realized that I had been living a lie. Even a good wisecrack cannot stand up to real events and real admonitions whose absurdity exceeds anything the imagination can devise. America had entered an age of absurdity Ė and thus an age of satire. I knew then that I had to come out of the closet and stay out.
You need to understand that I did not choose satire. Satire chose me. A satirist is not like a sodomite, who abandons decency, family values, and puppies and then chooses to live a vile and immoral life of dissipation because he likes giving in to evil and because he wants to incur his fatherís hatred, suffer societyís scorn, wear pink ties, and burn in hell forever. No, the satirist is a moral person and moral people never wear pink ties. The satirist is just mixed up at first. At an early age, every satirist believes that the stork either dropped him onto the wrong planet, or placed his wit in the wrong mind. He never feels at home with the way things are, and he delights in watching an inflated idea, institution, or person get stuck with a pin so it can fly around the room like a crazed balloon and then plop onto the floor, just another blob of fluff left behind after the party is over.
Satirists are not exactly reformers. Putting a satirist on a soapbox would be comparable to putting a prosecutor on a bench. Our popular culture offers examples. Michael Moore, for instance, shows a little satire in his films, books, and public appearances, but he is at heart an advocate journalist. A reformer. A judge. Stephen Colbert, on the other hand, is a pure satirist. He might show a little reform now and then, but his first choice is always to poke the balloon with a pin. Heís a prosecutor. Jon Stewart is somewhere in between, around 85.81% satirist and 14.19% reformer. Make sense?
All satirists live off the absurdity others inflict on the world. They are outraged to the point of laughter, which is just a polite way to bare your teeth, because an absurdity exists and because others donít seem to notice it or care. The satirist therefore magnifies people, institutions, ideas, and events to clarify the absurd and bring it into focus. Of course, when the satirist inflicts absurdity on the world itís okay because he canít help himself. He was, youíll remember, victimized by a bad stork.
So what is the essence of satire and what good does it do? At heart, satire tries to redefine perspectives so truth will underscore itself. What happens after that depends on whose perspectives got altered and how badly they were warped.