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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Water Glass is Half Full

The sky is falling. I'm not sure if you've noticed that, but it is. It's crashing down around us, harder than the falling stock market, deeper than gas prices, louder than shouting political analysts, and faster than melting polar ice caps. The sky is coming down, and I, for one, have been in a duck and cover position for the last few weeks.

But last night I had a phone call with a friend that had me laughing so hard my cold-afflicted lungs gave new meaning to the phrase "whooping cough." And that laughter made me feel better than I have in weeks, and eventually sent me off to sleep with unusual feelings of warmth and happiness.

These are some serious times, so it's easy to forget that sometimes the best way to cope with life's curve balls is a complete lack of seriousness.

Over on Living the Romantic Comedy, blogger Billy Mernit has followed that theme in his last couple posts, including his most recent review of Mike Leigh's new film Happy-Go-Lucky, beginning with the powerfully declared statement: If there's anything I've learned in my short time on this planet, it's that when you lose your sense of humor, you're toast. Read the rest here.

Of course, Billy was not the only writer discussing humor recently. Yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, Shalom Auslander, author of Foreskin's Lament, talked about his favorite bed table book, which happens to be The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx. In Auslander's words, Groucho is ideal protection against all things overly serious:

On that same small table, there are also books of philosophy, theology and a few that have been blessed enough to qualify as "Literature" (the qualification process is brutal, with a $50 nonrefundable Literature Application Fee and a 17-page questionnaire that must be notarized by James Wood). These books approach life and its myriad questions with seriousness and focus, and after just a few pages, they make me want to kill myself. Which is why Groucho is never far away; I can't do an hour shot of Beckett or Carver without an unstiff Groucho chaser.

You see, I've long been of the opinion that life is too serious to be taken seriously, and if that is my religion, then Groucho is the pope.
Even with recent events seeming particularly dark and dire, those who make their living on comedy have certainly been taking advantage of the opportunity to find the ridiculous in the serious, case in point, the recent resurgence in the quality of political satire over at Saturday Night Live.

There's a great scene in Sullivan's Travels (1941), a Preston Sturges film about a director who wants to make a movie about the struggles of the common man. To research for the movie, he strikes out on the road posing as a hobo and after a series of mishaps he finds himself a prisoner on a chain-gang. In the classic scene, the director and the rest of his beaten and weary fellow prisoners are treated to a showing of a comedy cartoon in a church. And as the movie rolls, the director looks around and sees something that startles him... the prisoners are laughing.

So the sky may be falling. Harder than the stock market, deeper than gas prices, louder than shouting political analysts, and faster than melting polar ice caps. But I tell you what. I'm sure as hell going to find a way to get my laughs as it comes crashing down.


stu said...

The sky isn't falling, the ground is rising to squish us against it. What we need to do is find some very heavy weights and leave them on empty patches of grass. That'll stop it.

Sven said...

I'm reminded of an interview with Mike Myers. He noted that his motivation for making The Love Guru (no comment on the movie itself) was after meeting the Dalai Lama, he was surprised to find that while he was this great spiritual leader, The Dalai Lama was also, or perhaps because of it, a very funny guy.

I think humour is a very important part of leading a balanced life. When things get bleak it's easy to forget to laugh, or choose not to out of fear of some social taboo, but that's when you need it the most.

I laugh when balancing my checkbook all the time. Doesn't change the numbers at all.

Andi said...

Comedy is great in these trying times. Many thanks to Palin for making this election much funnier!