Showing posts from September, 2012

Of Parks & Recreation's Sweetness

When I was thirteen, my English teacher incurred the wrath of my class by daring to discuss the theories on comedy of a scholar - possibly T.G.A. Nelson? - who posited that all humour is based on humiliation, on the way a comedic situation asserts the superiority of the person laughing, at the expense of someone else. We laugh, he said (she said), because we’re mostly relieved at not being the person in the comical situation; laughter asserts our dominance, and makes us feel better about ourselves. I think we were studying Brecht’s ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle’ at the time, and my teacher tied this theory of comedy in to Brecht’s determination not to give his audiences the satisfaction of the catharsis of comedy: in other words, he ensured that by underlining the artifice of the play we’re watching, he deprives the audience of that satisfying sense of relief and superiority that comedy can bring, and reminds us of the inherent awfulness of the world, of which we are part.