Friday, September 05, 2014

When comedy fails

How do we become whole people in a broken world?

That's the question I asked my Comedy class this morning, and we agreed that comedy is a common response to the world's brokenness. Look at Sherman Alexie's short story "Do Not Go Gentle": suffering children, grieving parents, comedy as a way to cope. Case closed.

But then I went to my office and heard about some real brokenness right up close, a colleague whose child suddenly died, and I'm not the least bit tempted to respond with comedy. I promised myself that I would write a bit of light verse every Friday this semester, but I'm having trouble coming up with playful lines and silly rhymes. If comedy is tragedy plus distance, then maybe next week I'll be up to sharing a dazzling piece of doggerel, but not today. Let's keep it short and simple:

Branch breaks. Baby falls.
All the king's horses
stay in their stalls.
Broken people. Broken world.
Crack the oyster--
where's the pearl? 


Bardiac said...

I'm sure you know Ben Jonson's poems about his son and daughter? They always make me cry. And yet Jonson can also make me laugh to tears.

Contingent Cassandra said...

Somewhere in the coverage of Joan Rivers' death, NPR aired a clip of her responding to a heckler who had claimed she wouldn't think deafness was funny (apparently she'd told a Helen Keller joke) if she had a deaf relative (which apparently she, in fact, did). I'm not sure I can quite condone her calling her interlocutor "stupid" several times (different human beings cope with the difficulties and tragedies of life differently, and that, in my book,deserves respect), but, leaving that aside, she did do a pretty good job of defending comedy as a coping mechanism that is *not* ignorant or dismissive of real suffering.

Of course, the next question is whether any of your students will know who Joan Rivers is/was.

Bev said...

Funny, but we didn't talk about Joan Rivers in class at all. Maybe Monday. Pretty soon we'll be doing the "When is Hitler funny?" thing, which always raises a few eyebrows.