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The Government Shutdown Survival Guide: Why Laughter Always Wins


By Ryan Honick


If you’re not laughing at the government shutdown, you’re doing it wrong.

Yes. I said it.

Some of you will no doubt disagree with me outright that with our federal government shut down and costing our economy an estimated $300 million per day, now is not the time for jokes. Except that humor heals. Humor should overtake baseball as our national pastime. To paraphrase Chandler Bing, funny is all we have. Laughter is the best medicine. Unless of course, you die of laughter. Then, as Joey Tribbiani might remind us, the point is moo.

I digress.

Let’s get real for a second. There’s absolutely nothing funny about 800,000 federal employees being furloughed as a result of the government shutdown. As President Obama pointed out, this shutdown did not need to happen, but it did. Why? Because Republicans suck at math and seem to lack a basic understanding of how laws work. Despite not having the votes in the Senate to do so, they tied their cooperation on passing a Continuing Resolution to the defunding of Obamacare which was a non-starter for Democrats, setting the stage for our nation’s first government shutdown since 1995. If I may borrow a segment from my favorite podcast, Too Beautiful To Live, it’s time to “Shut It Down, America.”

Once the clock struck midnight, my Twitter feed became a barrage of all things shutdown related. “BREAKING: The United States of America” read a tweet from political columnist Sarah Kenzior. The comedy floodgates were open. Comedians (both established and aspiring) began basking in the glistening comedic sun political brinksmanship bestowed upon us—and that—is something that I can enthusiastically get behind.

Ahead of the House of Cards mockup that became the front page of Tuesday morning’s New York Daily News, the fictional Twitter account of Francis J. Underwood reminded us all about the importance of breathing. Buzzfeed took us through the mind of every federal employee gracing us with a message from Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Andrew Siciliano of DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel alerted us that the government was officially listed as ‘questionable’ for Sunday.

Jon Stewart took to the airwaves Monday night likening the Republican threat of a shutdown over Obamcare to the New York Giants threatening to shut down the NFL if they didn’t get 25 additional points following their 31-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

“They didn’t do that. What I am saying is, wouldn’t it be nice if the United States Congress aspired to the maturity and problem-solving capacity of football players?” Stewart said.

Much to the chagrin of Republicans, October 1 saw the on-time launch of the long-awaited health insurance marketplaces open for business as promised, just with a few more glitches than expected. Both President Obama, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius downplayed the challenges to the user-experience as par for the course given the increase in traffic to Obama’s analogy comparing it to the launch of iOS 7 was a bit of a reach, though. Sure, nobody told Apple to stop making the iPhone due to a few bugs, but unlike Obamacare, Americans have a choice to opt out of the iPhone if they don’t like it (without a penalty, I might add), and at least iPhone 5S has a fingerprint scanner. Your move, Obamacare.

I can’t rag too much on Obamacare. After all, I spent two years at HHS educating and informing the public on its key provisions and promoting the healthcare exchanges. That’s why watching Jimmy Kimmel confront a very confused public made me laugh and cry simultaneously. What’s better: The Affordable Care Act, Or Obamacare? Spoiler alert: it’s the same piece of legislation. Worse still, while many agreed that an informed citizenry was an essential part of our democracy, it seems many Kimmel interviewed were in fact, not. Clearly the ACA still has a branding problem.

NPR even had some fun providing single people inside the Beltway with eight can’t miss pickup lines sure to separate the wheat from the chaff in the dating world. “Hey baby, do you not have health insurance? Because you have ’fine’ written all over you.” Zing.

Our friends over at Fox news are living in an entirely different universe altogether, not even acknowledging that the shutdown itself is real. The government isn’t shut down according to Fox, it’s just losing weight, and Sean Hannity is treating the shutdown like Californians treat earthquakes; he just doesn’t quite feel it impacting him, he’s not quite sure what the big deal is, and he’s going about his day as planned.

Nobody can say with any certainty how long the shutdown will last, and while everything that is happening is absolute lunacy, you’ll be much better served by taking the advice of Kevin Spacey’s political alter ego and remembering to breathe normally and appreciate the humor.

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