Featured Quote

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."
~Arthur C. Clarke

Quote of the Week: Mel Brooks & the Comedy of Tragedy (and vice versa)

Quote of the Week

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."
~ Mel Brooks

I simply started out to post that I have a new Quote of the Week, but I've always loved this quote - not the least reason being that it's Mel Brooks and the man knows from comedy - and just had to post some thoughts along with it.  There's some major truth in his words...the insight on our perspectives, on the good & bad in our lives as well as others, and as an illustration of Schadenfreude...

Mostly, it always reminds me of some things I learned when I was studying theater in college.


One professor was explaining the differences between comedy & tragedy in Shakespeare. Comedy is defined by the act or promise of a marriage at the end of the play; whereas, tragedy means the death or murder of someone by the end of the play...usually lots of deaths...usually the main character eats it...and usually on stage.  Dead bodies piled up all over the stage, actors asphyxiating from trying to hold their breath for most of an hour, fake blood congealing all over the place.  Now that's good theater (personally, I don't think it's a proper tragedy unless there's at least three dead bodies on stage when the curtain goes down).  So, marriage vs. funeral.  Got it?  Good.

Here's a different way to look at it, though: another professor explained how drama/comedy/tragedy work.  In drama, you want something.  Ever hear an actor talk about their motivation?  Well, that's it.  What does their character want

Tragedy means you really want something, and (I don't recall if this was what the professor told me, someone else told me, or I thought of myself) you're not likely to get it.  I've even heard that, like in comedy, drama, etc., you have a goal, but in tragedy you die if you don't get it.

Comedy, however, means that you want something so bad and pursue it with such an intensity of focus, that you're not likely to notice anything else...such as the car bearing down on you as you cross the street...the car that only narrowly misses you because you leap bodily out of the way, only to fall down the manhole cover...which wouldn't be so bad, except that it is the one time in which the urban legend about alligators in the sewer happens to be true...and once you've fought your way out, clothes shredded, arrive at the bus you were trying to catch just in time to see it drive away, be told that you don't have the right change, that it's the wrong bus, or whatever.  I mean, just look at the opening to the Dick Van Dyke show.  Who wants to shake hands with their guest more than the man who falls over a ottoman just to get to him?  Now that's comedy.


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