Comedian Peter Dirks is infectious as a cheerful pessimist

Comedian Peter Dirks is infectious as a cheerful pessimist

When Peter Dirks (39) says he described his performance as “yes, beautiful” so that hopefully it will be an uplifting evening, you already know enough. For him, there is little reason to cheer, so he tries to present his pessimistic message with lightheartedness.

Dirks is a committed comedian who can get quite angry with politics and powerful corporations, something that can be heard weekly in his columns in the 'De Druktemaker' section on Radio 1. He does so too in his 12th performance, but theater offers more possibilities than the radio column. To make his pessimism about the state of the world more enjoyable, Dirks brings along a band with which he plays a number of fun, up-tempo songs.

Life actually consists of an endless series of problems, according to Dirks. In a not exclusively serious summary, he lists the obstacles you have to overcome before you can start your life properly. “By definition, everyone is born in a country where they do not speak the language.”

Dirks becomes more serious in his political bloc in The Hague, when he expresses his anger at various politicians and parties. For example, he was surprised that Peter Umtzigt, after formation discussions that were supposed to be about opposing the rule of law to some political ideas, eventually withdrew due to financial issues. “What's going on there?” Dirks asks: “We want fascism but we can't afford it?”

attention

Dirks can express his political preferences in blunt terms, but what's most interesting and entertaining is when he makes his concerns a little more personal. His argument about the struggle for attention, the capital of the 21st century, is strong. Dirks talks about “Dr. Pimple Popper,” who practices a completely unnecessary medical specialty, but attracts a lot of attention online. This social media account through which massive pimples are squeezed with surgical precision is also followed in the Dirks household.

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These kinds of tales are funny because of their triviality and relatability. Everyone has their own Dr. Pimple Popper, a strange infatuation with something fluffy. At the same time, using such a specific example, Dirks shows how the “attention economy” mechanism works.

Dirks: “Now someone else is thinking: I have to come up with something that will attract more attention than a volcano of pus.” The comedian is then able to expand his argument in a few sentences to include more dangerous forms of extremism. And nothing seems to get in the way when he finally concludes that “extreme things attract more attention, and whatever gives you attention grows, so extremism grows.”

Backfire

A recurring theme in Yes, Beautiful is the question of whether technological innovations can sometimes be confused with progress. Dirks wonders: Isn't there a point where too much knowledge and (communication) choices backfire? He makes a number of serious observations, but he also tells a funny story about why you don't answer your phone. For example, he once found himself in a situation where when he was asked if he could be a referee at a football match organized by his daughter, it turned out that he did not say yes, but he certainly did not say no either. He eventually ended up on the football field as a referee, but his hesitation led to a very long football match.

Court wisdom

Ultimately, Dirks concludes, we must learn to accept the fact that not everything can be solved. Otherwise, any situation in which something remains unresolved will remain unsatisfactory. Dirks says that embracing ambiguity, a message he himself is familiar with, seems a bit cliché. With a brilliant mockery of valleys and the “winding garden path as a destination”, he parodies this kind of courtly wisdom. Sarcasm: “It makes you quite philosophical.” Yet he succeeds in showing that what sometimes seems trite actually contains truth. Its closing song is full of clichés (“This is life so you just gotta go / I've already left and I'm getting somewhere”), but it still doesn't miss its impact.

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