Andrew Clark has a cool article about comedians’ commentary on empire over at the Walrus. The article explores comedians from pre-Petronius to post-Bill Hicks. I found this anecdote intriguing:
Petronius, like Bruce, was obsessed by the notion of obscenity and led a life of hedonistic excess. His book is a blow not against sexual dalliance, but against bad taste and hypocrisy, an ironic twist considering his audience—Nero—was a man known for his vulgarity. Ultimately, Petronius fell out of favour and Nero ordered him to commit suicide. Even so, the Arbiter of Elegance did not lose his composure. He ran a bath, slit his wrists, and slowly bled to death. Periodically he stopped up his wounds and did some writing. By the time he was finished, Petronius had composed a volume detailing all of Nero’s bisexual encounters, making special effort to cite the names of each and every partner. He sent a copy to the emperor. “There is nothing more insincere than people’s silly convictions,” he wrote prophetically in the Satyricon, “or more silly than their sham morality.”
That particular episode reminded me of Bill Hicks’s “Kill yourself!” Except he was advising advertising execs, and instead of the emperor ordering suicide, it was the comedian.