If you’re playing the drinking game where you drink every time I write a blog post where I put the word Freemason in the title, STOP! You’re probably almost dead.
Freemasonry is an ancient order that traces it’s history 6013 years to when the Light of God created this word that we live in today. What I specifically mean is tangental to the topic today. We’re an ancient institution, with prestige, order, civility, complexity, and purpose.
We’re also a bunch of guys in aprons who essentially have a no girls allowed club where we secretly try to figure out what the fuck a gavel might mean to us. Uh…maybe we use it to hit things?
So today I am going to talk about the lighter side to Freemasonry. Get it. Lighter. I tell jokes. I’m a punny guy.
Seriously though, as serious, existential, and meditative as Freemasonry is, we’re also a Fraternity. We have our share of wise guys who are well aware of how ridiculous we look sometimes. Ok, all the time. But if you make fun of us, we’ll make you disappear! We will find you and make you vanish! After the Lakers game though, and then the Dodgers game…
Fair enough. Masonry can be funny and Freemasons have a long history of comedic geniuses among the ranks. Many of them have been influenced by Freemasonry and in turn their careers and the things they have done have influenced us Masons. Here’s a list of a few Masonic comedy gurus for your pleasure.
Moe and Curly of The Three Stooges
So that’s quite a list there for a Fraternity the represents 0.07% of the world population.
So why are there so many Freemason funny men and why is it so conducive to comedy? Let’s take a look at what the comedian experience is like.
Comedians are a well known self-destructive lot. Drug use, dysfunctional sex habits, social disorder, introversion, you name it. Bruce Clarke even talks about how so many comedians are depressed. Being a comedian is an unstable lot in life with little money, failure and listlessness. You would think comedy and Freemasonry go together like oil and water. But Freemasonry actually holds many benefits for the comic mind.
1. People need structure to maintain order and focus, but not too much where it becomes constricting on your cutting edge creativity. That’s where Freemasonry comes in. Because of the speculative nature of Freemasonry, the tools that are presented during the ritual and what they mean in your life are up to your interpretation. As such, it helps give you guide posts, codifies reality, and creates specific elements for you to focus on. So Freemasonry could work on multiple spectrums. It could work for the Jerry Seinfelds of the world all the way over to the Doug Stanhopes and Jack Blacks. Whatever their lines in the sand are to keep their shit together, the Masonic tools gives you the ability to now create lines and create a system of structure that works for each individual. So you may still be a mess, but now it’s your mess for your system and you have real things that are helping to define why it is that way for you.
2. Comedians like to think outside the box. Good comedy, great comedy, is pushing the envelope of what is socially acceptable. When you are in lodge, in an environment of people who know how to keep a secret and are inclined to talk about esoteric and unconventional matters, you can gather some great cutting edge material. I have done some stand up work for this blog post and I can safely say that there are parts of my set that have absolutely been influenced and guided by my conversations with my Masonic brethren. Fresh and new is always the key and when you are surrounded by supportive people who are used to hearing crazy things, it can be a very conducive place to get that new bit for the next show. Also dick jokes. Yes…they happen a fair amount in the Fraternity. Hey…some people can’t stop thinking about their “other” “working” “tool”.
3. Social disorder. These are the guys who have the great material, but their heads are too screwed up to make it work. Freemasonry isn’t a “self-help” place or a place to deal with real serious problems. It’s the place you go after you have fixed those problems. But for some who have fixed their problems, they’ll always be a bit wacky in the head. Freemasonry allows you to be in an environment where you can talk to people often, in a safe/supportive/secretive way, which will allow you to learn, grow, and adjust to social situations. Same goes for introverts. Many of the above Masonic comedians were probably introverts. New Scientist ran an article about this. Masonry helps introverted men have the opportunity to to learn be extroverted as well. Now it doesn’t take away that introversion unless you allow it. Masonry can be very much an individual journey where you do the degrees and proficiencies and then vanish off into the world. But it gives you the ability to learn to socially adjust in your own way.
4. Masonry also helps prevent major failure. It’s known throughout the world that Masons look out for each other, the specifics though people are still ignorant on. What I can say, is that Freemasonry is designed to prevent good men from failing. The obligations, ritual and fraternity create this system and it’s been a major reason why many brothers have joined throughout history. For comedians though, this is particularly useful in that it is a profession of little money in the beginning with job prospects that are extremely volatile. There are times that our brother comedians would find themselves unable to pay rent or buy food, and the danger of the street and what it entails could destroy them. Yet Masons look out for each other. Good Masons would make sure that a falling brother is given a place to stay while he gets on his feet, emotional and psychological support, and contacts to help him weather the storm. Another thing that is helpful about this is knowing that you will largely avoid major failure and that can be a real foundational confidence builder. You won’t go into each day or set wondering if this is it, and everything will soon collapse. Instead you’ll understand that the journey is long and sometimes rocky and you’ll figure it out. You will still have some degree of concern, or sometimes fear of failure. You will still be inspired by staring into the abyss. But Masons look out for their good brothers and would make sure you don’t fall into it.
5. The Masonic network. The worldwide brotherhood is real, but in a sense. Masons don’t all know each other, that’s why they need grips and signs to recognize other Masons. But Masons do recognize each other, they do have a level of trust for each other that in many cases is stronger then for non-Masons. There is a shared history, a shared experience that you can draw on when you meet other Masons. That brotherhood allows many comedians to meet people that will help give them perspective on their material, to give them a viewpoints into other lives that they wouldn’t easily access on their own. Also Masons generally support each other. We like to see other members of the fraternity do well and your fellow Masons will come out to your shows, give you moral and emotional support, and cheer you forward. And heck, there are some Masons in top positions who will give you an extra look because you’re a brother. Sometimes that one opportunity is all you need.
So while the above post applied directly to comedians, in many ways it applies to all creative types. While that is a seperate blog post in itself, specifically what Masonry means in the creative community, the above concepts are potentially reasons why Masons have been so successful in comedy even with their minuscule numbers.
Also, last but not least, Masonry itself is kind of funny. In the age of cell phones, social networks, global connections, fast paced lives, TV, video games, movies, culture wars, and unlimited capitalism, Masonry presents this funny artifact from the past that still persists on in an era when it’s all about out with the old and in with the new. A group of 10-50 guys meeting in a building with no windows, to practice some super secret rituals while many people worry that they are plotting to take over the world is ripe with material. Yes, we’re well aware of Masonry’s funny nature and trust us, we absolutely make sure to now and then score a few funny points at Masonry’s expense. You can never take things too seriously. So I’ll leave you with this one joke.
It would be sad if a fraternity could be torn apart by something as simple as wild dogs.
Wait, where did everybody go?