Why Comedy Matters

Why Comedy Matters

by Dmitri Nikulin

“But how does comedy do it? By careful thinking put into staged action. The comic logic that leads to a good ending is convoluted, cerebral, and public, originally appearing on stage as an imitation and perhaps parody of philosophical and political debates in Athens. As everyone participates in democratic politics, so everyone is involved and takes part in the comic action. In this sense, comedy lacks a single center. Moreover, it is radically democratic, because in comedy one can dare to do the seemingly impossible, to question, change and subvert the current suspect and corrupt social and political practices. A convoluted comedic plot may appear to be on the verge of imploding — but it always rebounds and achieves its good ending. In his Politics, Aristotle explains that politics is the interaction among the citizens for the sake of the common good. If this is the case, then public thinking and acting with others for the sake of the achievable common good is both descriptively comic and prescriptively political, aiming at a good end of history. In comedy, one does not need a monolithic identity, either of a hero or the modern philosophical subject. Comic identity is often ambiguous, inconclusive, and disjointed.”
“Since the comic character is a regular person, the one next to you, the character can be anyone — of any gender, race, ethnicity, and social standing. In fact, the comic hero is often oppressed and of a socially lower position. She may be a servant (or, in antiquity, a slave), a woman, or a person of ambiguous gender. As the thinker on stage, the hero is capable of motivating others to act in a way that is ultimately liberating and beneficial to everyone. The end of the comedy is quite ordinary and accessible to everyone: it is good life, love, and the enjoyment of ordinary and simple things. By resolving the current conflict through subtle and often funny and unpredictable thinking in public, comedy achieves freedom and fortune for its characters. In the end, the slave is freed, those separated and in love can be together, parents reconcile with their children, and money finds its way into the right hands. Yet the comic liberation and good life are never a given but rather a task to be achieved again and again in interaction with others. And if comedy is capable of bringing social and political justice to all, then everyone should strive to become a comedian.”


“Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.”
― Alan Moore, Watchmen


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