“Pure Comedy” is a grandiose satire voiced through perspective of an unhinged, broken skeptic of humanity. The title song is no different, as Father John Misty simplifies the existence of humanity to its most basic core in an almost unbearably nihilistic tone. His tone gives off a sense of superiority, making him a bit unlikable in this song. The satire starts immediately as Misty begins, “The comedy of man starts like this:/ Our brains are way too big for our mother’s hips.” This opening line exhibits satire through the duality of its meaning. While our large brains, and heads by extension, cause birth to be quite painful for the mother, this line also suggests that humanity is too smart for its own good. This line leads into the central idea of the first verse: the satire of early societal structure. Misty starts his idea by stating that “…half of us are periodically iron deficient/ So somebody’s gotta go kill something while I look after the kids/ I’d do it myself, but what, are you going to get this thing its milk?” Misty alludes to early societal structure in hunter-gatherer groups, as the men would often hunt for meat (a strong source of iron) while the women would stay and tend to the children as only they can nurse them.
Today, this structure isn’t needed anymore. Grocery stores hold all the food and nutrition we need to survive, yet women still often are the ones to stay at home. Through describing the process of gathering food to be primitive and basic, Misty makes the idea of raising a child and providing seem backwards.
In the second verse, Misty begins to dismantle Religion in an extremely superficial tone, but he also discusses the hypocrisy and idolization of corporations. When FJM says “They build fortunes poisoning our offspring/ and hand out prizes when someone patents the cure,” he discusses how we are stuck in a cycle of gluttony. The “poison” refers to could be seen as alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, which when overused, can lead to health issues or death. As a society, we’ve showered these industries with money, and when someone comes up with a cure or solution to a societal issue, we shower them in money as well, creating a cycle of greed and wealth.
The final chorus closes with the irony of survival: “The only thing that seems to make them feel alive/ is the struggle to survive/ but the only thing they request/ is something to numb the pain with.” Humans innately want a challenge to occupy themselves with, but this challenges can easily become overwhelming. This can result in substance abuse to simply carry on. This song is certainly poetic, but I’ve always found it difficult to truly enjoy due to the larger-than-life FJM seems to project. The song, while insightful at times, is almost consistently pessimistic and depressing.