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The International Satirists Guild: A Brief History
Jul 24 2004 by Allen VoivodThe origins of the International Satirists Guild are shrouded in a damp, penetrating mist - the kind that makes clothing cling tightly to the skin.
Archaeological data traces the Guild back to Norse cave painters, the forerunners of today's political cartoonists. For untold years, they had plied their trade in anonymity - often without a direct audience, due to the dismal hygienic conditions of the day.
But when King Olafur Tryggvason converted Leif Erickson to Christianity, he incited tremendous ire among the painters, or "grottemaleren." Boggled by the blessing conferred upon a man with such a murderous family background, they formed the first known Satirists Guild in 999 and brought their paintings to the streets of Norway in protest.
A great many were slaughtered as a result, and the infighting among survivors became a hallmark of the contentious outer and inner workings of the Guild. Guild presidents often suffer untimely deaths - by one count, less than 30 percent have survived their terms of office.
Indeed, violence and satire have gone fist-in-face over time, as Europeans brought their culture to the far corners of the world. In those less-refined times, satirists were treated in such a manner as to make the Spanish Inquisition look like a tickle fight.
Despite these travails, the ranks of the Guild swelled through the ages, and as the rule of law took hold in Europe, satirists enjoyed an upgrade in treatment from torture to disdain. Further, their audiences were less afraid of being killed if they laughed at satire, and satirists had gotten on the hygiene bandwagon. Their art began to flourish.
Today, satire - and satirists - are alive and well. And the Guild, reflecting its increasingly diverse membership, changed its name to the International Satirists Guild on November 22, 1963.
Of course, JFK was assassinated that day, so no one really noticed until about three weeks later, and by then Christmas was just around the corner, so it merited little attention in the mainstream press. This, many modern satirists claim, is an apt metaphor for the stories of their lives.
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