Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zadie Smith Writes About Comedy

Thoughtful discussions of comedy are a rare pleasure, so we thought we'd pass this along. It's from a New Yorker article by Zadie Smith, author of the wonderful White Teeth, among other things. She writes about connection she and her father had through their favorite comedies, even at one point calling themselves "comedy snobs," and the piece as a whole has a decidedly morbid flavor. One especially dark passage:

"In birth, two people go into a room and three come out. In death, one person goes in and none come out. This is a cosmic joke told by Martin Amis. I like the metaphysical absurdity it draws out of the death event, the sense that death doesn’t happen at all—that it is, in fact, the opposite of a happening. There are philosophers who take this joke seriously. To their way of thinking, the only option in the face of death—in facing death’s absurd non-face—is to laugh. This is not the bold, humorless laugh of the triumphant atheist, who conquers what he calls death and his own fear of it. No: this is more unhinged. It comes from the powerless, despairing realization that death cannot be conquered, defied, contemplated, or even approached, because it’s not there; it’s only a word, signifying nothing. It’s a truly funny laugh, of the laughor-you’ll-cry variety. There is “plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope—but not for us!” This is a cosmic joke told by Franz Kafka, a wisecrack projected into a void."

So good.

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