YOU MAY REMEMBER the song “Mack The Knife,” sung by the street singer in Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s “Three Penny Opera.”

Few people today know that Brecht was one of the great theatrical voices of the 20th Century. I loved Brecht’s theater work, but it was the quotes, plucked from his plays and lectures, that impressed me.

In the dark dawn of the Great Massacre of Truth era we’re living through, this one in particular grabs me: “The man who laughs has simply not yet heard the terrible news.” That always scared me while sitting in the doctor’s office.

Now I think of those words each night when watching our practitioners of free expression: Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah and especially Samantha Bee.

Saturday Night Live in particular has had a season of satirical comedy at Trump’s expense. All these comics have heard the “terrible” news and still they laugh, and often they’re criticized for it. “How could you …” etc., etc. Recently, late-night comic Stephen Colbert got burned for a tasteless Trump joke.

Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.

Of course, we need to laugh, all of us, to keep ourselves from going mad. Comedy in America never had a better season than during the Great Depression when people were hungry, homeless and out of work. But comedy was king.

When our troops were fighting and dying in World War II, Bob Hope and his troupes were on the front lines and in the hospitals making them laugh.

With the rise of Nazism in Germany, cabaret entertainers were risking their lives nightly.

But actors went on entertaining with ribald musicals in the cabarets each evening, while during the day, factories turned out barbed wire, camps were being built, Jewish businesses were shuttered, and darkness fell at noon.

It was laugh or go mad, even when so many were dying.

“Trump sounded like he was fighting off a cold. With cocaine,” said The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert. Viewers howled in the safety of their living rooms, and in the light of a new day we lost a seat on the Supreme Court and Trump fired James Comey, director of the FBI.

Then one day, after a night of laughter, we learned that the EPA is reducing scientists on key panels, downgrading science and elevating business interests, while in another room, a panel of sleepy old white men work on women’s health issues. Comics will find a way to make that funny. It’s what we do.

Colbert on Feb. 3: “We’re just 10 days in and it feels like it’s total chaos at the White House. This is supposed to be the honeymoon. How could Trump blow the honeymoon? He’s had three of them.”

Jimmy Fallon on Feb. 23: “This morning he held a meeting with a group of CEOs at the White House. Trump said he wants to replace robots with human workers. Then Mike Pence says, ‘I’ll show myself out.'”

Vice President Pence is not laughing. Donald Trump is not laughing. But you are.

It was reported that Trump spokesman Sean Spicer hid among the bushes around the White House to avoid reporters. True or not, when SNL’s Melissa McCarthy does it Saturday, you’ll laugh.

Yes, I know, while we’re all laughing and cartooning our wanna-be totalitarians, the storm grows stronger. Each day, a rain of lies floods the news, but still we write jokes, still we laugh. It’s what they did in Germany; it’s what we have to do now. It’s our job.

I love comedy. Comedy has been my life, and not without bumps.

The night my mother died I was 3,000 miles away waiting to go on and do my fifteen minutes of stand up comedy when I was called to the phone. When I hung up, there was the stage, there was the audience. I went on and made people laugh.

Comedians have their best quote: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” There’s crying in death. There’s crying in Trump’s America. There’s no crying in comedy.

Liberty and freedom in America is on life support, and comedy alone won’t stop the bleeding. Hopefully, we elect people to do that. If we win, we go on and make people laugh. If we lose, we still go on.

America is the stage; Americans are the audience.

We just have to take the phone call and go on and make people laugh. “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.”

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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