Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Arguing With Myself About Comedy

Actually there is another kind of comedy- one in which the comedian is a trickster figure- a harlequin, a Mr Punch- an amoral anarchist- god or devil- who cuts a swathe through all the decencies- up-ending policemen, deflating stuffed shirts, showing up the absurdity of everything we take for granted. It's a tradition that is less strong in Britain, I think, than it is elsewhere- though Chaplin, who had a lot of Harlequin in him- was British. Both types of comedy are subversive. The difference lies in who you choose to put centre-stage; is it the subverter or the subvertee? Classic British sit-com loves its strugglers, its unsuccessful social climbers- think Captain Mainwaring or Hyacinthe Bouquet- the person who ends up with the pie in their face- and identifies with them in their mortification. You could, I suppose, call it masochistic. Fleabag is terribly masochistic. But few actual comedies are simply one thing or the other. The greatest comic creations are both sad and bad, pathetic and anarchic. Fleabag- the character (who- like Chaplin's Tramp has no personal name) is certainly both. Chaplin was both. Falstaff was both...
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