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?