November 3, 2002
THE COMEDY OF INEVITABLE INCONGRUITY:
INTERVIEW: Deeply exploring A.I. and the I: with David Lodge
(Kenneth Baker, November 3, 2002, San Francisco Chronicle)
Q: Do you have a definition of comedy or the comic?
A: Aristotle is supposed to have written a treatise on comedy that was lost, otherwise we'd have the answer.
I think it's a combination of logic and surprise. There's got to be a feeling that the course of events makes sense and yet there's some reverse. It's both a matter of events and a matter of style, of where the right words appear.
A comic writer has to imagine his work being received by an innocent reader who doesn't know what's coming -- something inevitable but incongruous. That's why writing comedy is really a rather serious business. As a reader I myself am basically gullible if I'm reading for pleasure.
This seems right and suggests one of the reasons that comedy is fundamentally conservative
. Liberalism--with its demand that life be egalitarian, its faith in reason
, and its belief that mankind is kind, decent, and caring--is utopian. The inevitable incongruities of life are thus an assault on the Left sensibility. Conservatism
, on the other hand--with its belief in evil, its skepticism, and its acceptance of the limitations of human reason--finds confirmation when events that seem to make sense are suddenly reversed.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 3, 2002 10:57 AM
Lodge is a
Catholic writer but hardly conservative.
"Nice Work" is his most coherent novel and
the tension there is between left and right --
resolved mostly on the right. But his most
recent, and probably second best as far as
coherence is concerned, tends to resolve on
I will have to think a bit about your contention,
Orrin. It is true that the funniest writer in
English of my lifetime was a conservative,
reactionary and superstitious Catholic, but the
funniest American writer of my time, Coover,
was and is a leftist.
Comedy is fundamentally anti-establishment. Aaron McGruder (Boondocks) is not conservative at all.
Dissolute liberals introduced me to "Universal
Baseball Association" and it is true that they
did not consider it a comic novel, nor did I. Nor do I.
But I was thinking of later, funny Coover.
As I said, Ithought about what you said, and
having thought, I conclude the generality
fails, and my evidence is the first two chapters
of "Penguin Island." Nobody ever wrote
anything funnier than that.
By definition, nothing written by anyone with the word France in his name can be funny.
Aaron McGruder is also not funny. Mr. Judd has never claimed that leftists can't be funny; his claim is that when they're being funny they are by definition being conservative. (At least, that's what I've gathered). Whether that's true is up for debate.
Who the heck is Aaron Magruder?
He writes a comic strip called "Boondocks," which is full of leftist hooey---Bush is dumb, Ashcroft is Satan, etc.
Ahhhh, I see. Kind of like Ted Rall?
Uh, Orrin, in case you didn't get it, "Penguin
Island" is anticlerical.
I have been sifting for more examples of
non-conservative but genuinely funny humor.
In the anticlerical line, there's Foolbert
Sturgeon's "Further Adventures of Jesus."
And in the anti-conservative line, Hasek's
"Good Soldier Schweik."
What better makes the conservative case that Man is Fallen than corrupt clergy and the stupidity of war?
You may be the only conservative within range who believes that. All the conservatives I know otherwise adore the clergy and a great many of them think highly of war, too.