Comedy and Tragedy – Is There a Difference?
My plays, I believe, straddle comedy and pathos. I genuinely feel that life is sad and mostly disappointing. My worldview is, and has been, for as long as I can remember, on the dark side. Even as a kid I was contemplating the meaning of life and giving eulogies at the funerals I had for the dead butterflies I found in the yard. While as an adult I’ve usually held onto hope as a matter of survival, I’m most certainly not optimistic about life – be it my own personal happiness, mankind, the environment, or the world at large.
I know that sounds grim. But before you dismiss me as a bitter curmudgeon – or jump to the conclusion that I should cheer up and look at the bright side – let me tell you that I have a great sense of humor. Truly. I love to laugh. I laugh often and I laugh hard. I quite adamantly believe that in order to survive we must laugh. Or drink heavily – that works too. But laughing is better for you. Unless we know how to laugh at ourselves and our human predicament then, at least for me, it’s hard to make it through this life without sticking my head in an oven.
Life is absurd. There is no arguing otherwise. Even the most optimistic, well adjust among us knows that life is ludicrous and illogical.
There is a moment in my play The Buffalo Kings where a man with Alzheimer’s mistakes cat food for cereal. The moment comes in the midst of some onstage mayhem where, night after night, freeFall audiences were laughing. When, in the confusion, Harold takes a hand full of cat food and consumes it, the laughing crescendoed – until the audience realized it wasn’t funny. It was tragic. Or was it both?
Which brings me to this: when tragic situations bestride comedy there comes the inevitable audience member who is offended.
Tune in next week when I’ll ask the question how do we write comedy in this hyper politically-correct climate. Until then I wish this blogging format allowed for me to hear some of your thoughts on the often blurry line between comedy and tragedy.