Comedy, Tragedy And Other Mythical Beasts

How do people do this? I’m just now coming to realize how difficult it is to come up with blog ideas. Maybe I put too much value them. Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I’m just a neophyte. I’m looking at the computer without a clear and organized essay ready to come out, yet somewhere in my head is the voice of a forgotten face reminding me that: “Blog means not toiling over it. Blog means just write.” Damn whoever that was and damn the people able to blog once a day or worse, multiple times. You showboating pricks obvious have a muscle that I don’t. I’m damn jealous. The rest of you—well, you’ll have to suffer through one of my scatterbrained ponderings.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the interplay of humor and sorrow. That is, I’ve been wondering why is seems that they always arrive wrapped around each other like horny teenagers (is that redundant?). Now, to some of you it may seem obvious, that life is often a black comedy (this not this). We must laugh at the horrible things or we will lose our minds. I don’t disagree with you. I do think that comedy and laugher preserve our sanity as well as give us reasons to keep marching, but what puzzles me is the other side of the equation. What purpose does tragedy serve comedy?

One of my favorite TV shows of all time was Homicide: Life on the Street. It was a show about death, murder and crime but it was, at times, also one of the funniest shows that I’ve ever seen. That makes sense to me. The show would have been less effective if it had taken itself too seriously. But I also remember that some of the funniest TV shows I’ve seen have brought me to tears (the sad kind). Not only did they crack my heart but they did it before I even realized what the hell was going on. The caught me looking the other way. The first I can remember was M*A*S*H. M*A*S*H had moments where the joking stopped; where Hawkeye didn’t have the perfect snarky comeback and the dark, red realities of the war soaked through surgery sheets. They were devastating episodes. Cheers had the “Coach’s Daughter” episode, and Futurama brought me to the grave of Fry’s nephew and left Fry’s dog Seymour waiting for his master through rain, heat, and snow, eventually closing his eyes.

So my question remains. When you’ve found a way to to make people laugh, why would you bother making them cry? The only thing that I can think is: gravitas. Yes, I do mean seriousness and solemnity. It’s important that we take certain things in life with a degree of sobriety. Left to laugh continually, all of us would probably starve and  our houses would crumble into disrepair. But, “gravitas” come from the latin root gravis, which means heavy or weight. Gravitas is the sister word of the gravity. And perhaps that’s what tragedy is, a weighing down. Perhaps tragedy is a grounding; a symbiotic relationship where comedy keeps our hearts afloat and tragedy keeps our feet planted in the dirt.

C.S. Lewis said of pain that it “removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the rebel soul.” So for him, without occasional tears we would be blinded; our soul would run off into the heavens. We often group emotions as good or bad, but lacking any of them we would be less complete souls. Maybe the interplay between them gives them their value. Maybe when comedy becomes tragedy it’s reminding us that how we deal with our emotions is the true method by which we determine the types of people that we are. We are not parachuted down from the clouds where the Pegasus breeds with unicorns; where arrows and genitals fly without purpose and everything is resolved in 22 minutes. We are forged in the smoldering fire of rage and sorrow and joy and listlessness and loyalty. We are everything swirling inside of us. We are the choices we make. In the words of Detective Frank Pembleton, from the afore mentioned show Homicide, “Virtue isn’t virtue unless it slams up against vice.”

Published
Categorized as Thoughts

By C.A. Hall

Writer / Podcaster I'm a well-written sentence marred by a curse word. In another life I might have been a criminal profiler, a jazz drummer, an architect, an acrobat, an actor, or a children’s book illustrator.