Monday, May 29, 2006

Comedy v. Satire

On Friday, over at Huffington Post, Rachel Sklar writes of (dare I call it) a phenomenon of which, I’m afraid, many of us are all too aware, bad politics make for good humor. Sklar mentions Stephen Colbert’s now infamous speech, Robert Smigel’s recent edition of “Fun with Real Audio,” and a new book from Sam Seder and Stephen Sherrill, F.U.B.A.R.: America’s Right-Wing Nightmare, and concludes it’s all “damn funny stuff,” “until you consider the source material.”

There is lots of good political humor these days, but it would be a whole lot funnier—and I agree with Rachel here—if we were laughing at a miserable period that we had now put solidly behind us. The fact that we are still listening to these jokes in Bush World ™, makes it hard to just let go and laugh. As Sklar concludes, “Carol Burnett said ‘comedy is tragedy plus time.’”

Now wait a minute, I thought, I was with you, Rachel, until you said "Carol Burnett." I read the “tragedy plus time” construction and exclaimed, “That’s not Carol, that’s Lenny!”

Well, I got to Googling, and it appears we’re both kind of right.

Burnett does seem to get the lion's share of the credit for "Comedy equals tragedy plus time," but she essentially stole the line from Lenny Bruce, who said, "Satire is tragedy plus time." Carol's version is a little more user-friendly and multi-purpose, I suppose, but, as I thought about it, I wondered, is there any comedy that stems from the "tragedy plus time" equation that isn't satire?

All three of Sklar’s examples are, indeed, solidly in the satire camp. In fact, I am hard pressed to think of any political humor that isn't essentially satire.

Now, I was going to say that I am hard-pressed to find any comedy that isn't satire, or, by reduction, tragedy plus time. . . but then it hit me like a Sledge-O-Matic: Gallagher.

Not a lot of tragedy in smashing watermelons.

Unless you're the watermelon.

And speaking of watermelon, happy official unofficial beginning of summer, everyone.

Update: I was just thinking, America is kind of the watermelon to Bush’s Gallagher. . . and the President practices statecraft with about as much subtlety as Gallagher practices the comic arts.

Give it two-and-a-half years. . . it’ll be funny.

(I hope.)


Blogger ada said...

4+ years later, as we pull out of Iraq... nope, not yet funny.

1:40 PM  

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