One of the major reasons for my growing disillusionment with contemporary American drama criticism and practice – I’m one short step away from saying “I don’t care any more” — arises from the recognition of the extent to which contemporary marketing and advertising techniques affect the promotion and production of new theatre pieces in America. It’s more than the fact that much of this is the extraordinary importance laid on Twitter “tweeting” or Facebook “liking” to the converted, and I’m aware that these techniques affect far more than theatre, extending even to our individual behavior and self-presentation. There’s something insidious about the triviality, condescension, and manipulation that these techniques introduce into the pleasures of art. It’s hard to resist, these days, when these practices are so widespread; but resistance remains essential to the integrity of the self and the form.
Are “marketing” and “advertising” dirty words? I don’t know. But you’ll find these and several other unequivocally dirty words in the below routine from the comedian Bill Hicks, maybe the greatest of the post-Richard-Pryor generation of stand-up comedians, from the late 1980s or early 1990s. (A documentary about the comedian, American: The Bill Hicks Story, is now available for instant streaming on Netflix.) Hilariously, he demonstrates both the importance of resistance and the impossibility of successful resistance at the same time.