Sunday, January 17, 2010

the gods died laughing

at least, that's what i imagine. yes, we're all 'the pawns of comedy', the name of a group performing in town last nite:

and this kind of stand-up an art. it wallows in the gutter, forces the performer to tear at his/her insides, and leap for the clouds, falling back in the mire. more than a high-wire act, it combines agility with a wise stupidity.

of course, i didn't realize all this while watching. at barnes & noble this afternoon i discovered what they were doing:

nothing like a good book to reveal the mysteries. ah, that's why they talked so much about themselves and the ironies of sexual attraction. everybody in the audience begins here, with themselves! only slowly can higher things be introduced, like cultural insights and political scarification. even the clown in shakespeare had to wave his thing-a-ma-jig for the groundlings.

nietzsche, i think, said, 'you can tell what's essential about a person by their laughter.' people do find very different things funny. think of an american reading punch. it's often like a foreign code. and in class and at the theater i'm always breaking into guffaws when everyone else silent. luckily, it doesn't make me embarrassed in the least. in fact, i like demonstrating my superiority.

yes, humor is a sign of intelligence, the ability to make connections, to bypass one's conscious thought and go right to the juglar. baudelaire wrote on 'laughter and cruelty'. and the two never far from each other. death escaped is hilarious, no matter how you did it. but a final demise, can that actually be comic?

of course, it can! but not necessarily. one has to expire with a certain style.

for example, i've just posted pictures of my time in prague:

i chased kafka all over the place, including going into the building where he processed worker's injury claims, flashing a photo right under the guard's indignant nose. (see if you can find it.)

when living in germany and conversant with a modicum of the language, i looked at the first page of kafka's the trial. i perceived a humor i've never gotten from any translation. he uses some kind of germanic conditional phrasing, essentially saying, 'this might be happening, or it might not.' alas, i don't have any pictures from my adaptation of the metamorphosis in which i performed the human turned cockroach.

still, i remember laughing through my tears.

who was it said, 'the world is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think'? might be something in that, as long as you don't get the two mixed up.