Comedy really is hard.
I recently saw Le triplettes de Belleville again and was reminded of this fact. It’s one of the great achievements in animation—hell in all moviedom. It’s funny, sad, warm and uplifting and it made me realise that very little recent art popular outside of animation has those qualities.
But let’s face it: There has never been much truly great art that is a whole lotta fun.
Do I have to feel like crap in order to have a transcendent experience? (No sex, drugs and rock and roll jokes, please.)
But how many life-changing moments come out of funny business? As much as I go on about Shakespeare this and Shakespeare that, how many of the comedies would I feel bad about missing before shaking off this mortal coil? Zero. From the whiny Hamlets to the homicidal Richards Henrys to complete nutjobs like Lear and Titus, let’s face it: it’s the death that really sticks with a person. All the rest? They feel mostly like what they were meant to be: entertainments. Granted with the most glorious language ever imagined; but you know what I mean. It ain’t the stuff dreams are made of.
And that’s how the vast majority of great art works. It’s beautiful and thought provoking and depressing as all get out.
Literature? Besides Huck Finn, how many happy endings does one get? But no matter how much every Twain (and today Vonnegut) try to paper it over with the jokes, they can’t hide an essentially negative (and deeply depressing) world view. Let’s face it, even Jesus is a downer. I think it was another philosopher Linus (Lucy’s kid brother, not the 3rd century Pope) who said it best: I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.
And in music it’s no better. Beethoven? Not exactly easy listening. Miles? Loads of laughs. I guess that’s why I forced myself to get inside the music of Louis Armstrong—even though it didn’t speak to me for years. I just had to learn to appreciate something so great that’s also a real toe-tapper. It don’t come naturally to me.
I recognised this lack in myself years ago. I have always really wanted to do something -really- good that left one feeling uplifted and happy to be alive. But even though Hamlet says, “What a piece of work is man”, we know how that one’s gonna end.
But I gave up. I don’t have the ‘muscles’ or the ‘spirit’ or the whatever to do something truly ‘happy’ that goes beyond being entertaining.
It’s absolutely tragic that Detroit had to be such a tragedy. 😀 But no matter how well it turns out, I’ll feel like I’m coming up short. The world needs music like Louis Armstrong’s far more than any ‘deep’ insights into the human soul—no matter how fabulous. My only excuse? Making any kind of decent opera is hard enough. Giving Pagliacci a happy ending? Now that would take some real genius.