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JANEANE GAROFALO & THE ROAD TAKEN
Janeane speaks with a huge vocabulary. She’s one of the most serious comedians you’ll experience. She’ll jump from speaking about important social issues to apologizing for how people may perceive her. I first saw her on Comedy Central. She was young. She was taking about being on the phone with a parent and the parent wanting the noise in the background to be turned down. It was R.E.M. She finds this strange and ironic, not thinking of R.E.M. as a loud band. Later in her life she speaks of leaving another alternative band’s show, Weezer, because it was too loud. She repeats, too loud, for comic effect. Her life is a circular joke.
Kim Sun-myung’s (Kim Joong-ki) life was more serious. He was a North Korean soldier, imprisoned for 44 years. The original title of the film is The Choice. Sun-myung could have left the prison and avoided over four decades of mistreatment. His communist beliefs were the only things the South Koreans (and the U.S.) wanted him to denounce. They’re still calling people socialists today. I even call myself a socialist. It’s good to be in my country at this time. Not everyone is this lucky.
Janeane calls herself a peace activist, an atheist and she’s very vocal in the liberal movement. Rarely are comedians non-vocal. Poor mimes. Well anyway, she is one of my first favorites. Her insecurities seem to not get in the way of her getting on stage and being in many successful television shows & films even though her father’s skull is trapped in a bowling ball.
We stay in the cell with Kim Sun-myung and his friends. I enjoy the film because of its rarity. North Korean are usually not portrayed correctly, or just found in spy and war films. They were and are people with lives and dreams, not faceless enemies being shot or sliced with swords. They each get pulled out one by one, once in a while for a chance to change their thoughts and be free. How can you be free if you’ve been forced to change your thoughts?
Opinions aside I want to take a second to talk about Bathroom Monkey. Wait, no, though that was hilarious, my favorite non-stand-up performance came from Janeane in Sweethearts. A film for people who don’t need happy endings, it starred fellow stand-ups Bobcat Goldthwait and Margaret Cho. It’s about a romantic night for a suicidal woman. My lungs kind of give out as I watch the end, as the sun rises. Of course no one pays attention to a piece of art like this. Much better than any dog-pulled roller skates role. Janeane doesn’t take acclaim as well as others though, so I’ll cut this essay short.
Kim Sun-myung watched many North Koreans come and go in his 44 years, as one would expect. He never threw his ideals away though. People were beaten over and over. People died in prison, but it didn’t deter him. He listened as unification seemed a possibility and then faded away.
He was finally released back to North Korea in the late 90’s after amnesty international put some light on him as the longest-serving political prisoner in the entire world. In the late 90’s films like this probably would not have been made in South Korea. A few years later it was made, nothing censored. Times change when voices unite. So if you really want a world full of hate and war, please keep voting for it, or not at all. Until then peace activists like Janeane will speak loudly, without the big stick. Maybe you’ll need us one day when all the guns and bombs don’t work.