Comedy is powerful. And while the drug war is not a laughing matter, comedians are often able to capture the absurdity and insanity better than policy papers and traditional journalism.
Below are five humorous clips that allow us to laugh, so we don't have to cry.
Chris Rock: The Government Wants Us to "Just Say No"... Unless They Are Legal Drugs!
Chris Rock highlights the hypocrisy of the government's "Just Say No" to drugs message. While the government arrests 1.5 million people each year for illicit drugs, we are inundated with non-stop commercials pushing legal drugs. Rock ridicules these commercials that can "help" you for a range of "symptoms": Do you ever feel lonely, sad, hot, cold... ? Then we have the drug for you! (watch clip until 1:20)
Bill Hicks: I Have Taken Drugs, Had a Good Time and Had No Problems
While propaganda implies that most drug use is bad and will lead to terrible things, Bill Hicks reminds us that not all drug use is problematic. He used drugs, had a good time. He never robbed anyone, raped anyone and never lost a job. Different people have different relationships with different drugs. The majority of people who do use drugs, from alcohol to marijuana to caffeine, are able to do so without causing themselves harm.
The Daily Show: Hypocrisy of Lawmakers Drug Testing the Poor for Benefits
The Daily Show did the best reporting to date on the growing trend of opportunistic lawmakers introducing legislation to drug test people who receive unemployment benefits. Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi did a humorous segment that features politicians, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, hypocritically forcing poor people to pee in a cup in exchange for money to feed their children, but refusing to take the urine test themselves.
The segment successfully counters stereotypes and misinformation (by showing that people who receive benefits do not use drugs more than the general public) and the myth that these tests are about saving taxpayer money (these programs actually cost much more money than they save).
The Chappelle Show: Tron Carter's Law & Order
Segment description on Chappelle Show website: "In an alternate universe, drug dealer Tron Carter switches places with a white man convicted of the same crime." This skit reminds us how quick the war on drugs would end if white people were arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated the way black and Latino people are under the war on drugs. White and black people use and sell drugs at similar rates, but black people go to jail 13 times more often than white people. In New York, 84 percent of those arrested on marijuana possession charges are black and Latino, despite the fact that white people smoke at similar rates.
The Daily Show: NJ Gov. Christie's Hypocrisy; Supports States Rights When It Comes to Gambling, Not When It Comes to Marijuana
The Daily Show beautifully highlights the hypocrisy of Gov. Christie, who is all about state's rights when it comes to challenging the Federal Government with regards to legal gambling in New Jersey, but is opposed to decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana because it goes against federal law. Watch what happens when Jon Stewart shows clips of Christie speaking on both issues.
Bonus: Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann on The Colbert Report
Leave it to Stephen Colbert to make a conversation with the Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann both humorous and informative! There is a reason that so many people get their news from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
You gotta love the comics. They can say things that others are afraid to say. I hoped you enjoyed these clips. I know this is just the tip of the humor iceberg. Please post your favorite clips or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance.