We at Word on Fire share a lot of laughs. We're talking a lot. This prompted us to get thinking — is there something about the Catholic faith that lends itself to good humor? Kerry Trotter thinks so, and she shares her hair-brained (and hair-shirted) theories today.
“If it bends, it’s funny. If it breaks, it’s not funny.”
I saw Woody Allen’s 1989 film “Crimes and Misdemeanors” while I was in college, some years after it was released. The movie was required viewing for a drama class I took to fill an arts requirement, attended with little interest but likely with a hangover.
Alan Alda’s film producer character sits on a New York City park bench and explains comedy — how the crowds and stress and suffering of urban life will drive anyone crazy, but that’s where all the humor begins — the whole bending/breaking idea. You just need to get some space from all the madness in order to find the funny. Then there was the line: “Comedy is tragedy plus time.”
Something snapped in my foggy freshman brain. Hawkeye had a point. While comedy is not quite as cut-and-dry (or insensitive) as the simple “tragedy plus time” equation, there is something there. I let out a loud guffaw at this scene, and noticed my professor wheel his head around, a satisfied smirk on his bearded face.
That professor, an erudite and quirky Dominican friar who wore a cape and a beret over his white habit, wanted us to notice this. This was the lesson. What is comedy? What makes something funny? Beyond events occurring when or where they are not expected (take that beret and cape, for instance), there is another piece. Suffering.
And who knows suffering better than anyone?
Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed. Kerry Trotter reflects on the life of her grandfather, "Spoose," and how his simple gifts of love and faith inspired so many.
One of the first phone calls I made from my brand new phone in my brand new Chicago condo during my brand new flirtation with self-sufficiency was to my very old grandparents.
It was 2004 and Moose and Spoose, their names to the grandkids, were living in Phoenix. I missed them.
“Ker! Howaya? Oh, before I go on, your grandmother needs your new address.”
“Sure. It’s 1400 West Cortez Street, unit number…”
“Cortez!” he interrupted. “Oh yeah, hell of an explorer.”
I burst out laughing at this very sincere aside of my grandfather’s. It could have been the fact that he was complimenting a long-dead Spaniard, or that Cortez’s colonization of Mexico probably didn’t win him any humanitarian awards. Or it could have been that it was just a typical “Spoose” thing to say.
Everyone, according to my grandfather—even a pillaging womanizer—deserves some credit.
Spoose, or Jack Leonard as the rest of his boosters knew him, died a year ago today. He was 94. His passing was unexpected in the way it should be, in that his illness was short and dignified, but not tragic or untimely. He left behind four sons, four daughters-in-law, and over a dozen grandkids and great-grandkids, all who were completely shook by his passing but totally devoid of regret. There was no unfinished business in this family, no one who wasn’t entirely certain of how he felt about his kin—and how he felt was that we were the greatest. Not all of us collectively, but each and every member of his clan managed to share a superlative. Never mind the impossibility of the claim, when we left Spoose’s company, we felt it...