Suffering and the Joke

He wonders if the vulgarity of
the comedians, the banality of
barbs, the rudeness of the

quips, the sheer meanness of
attacks intended to elicit big
guffaws reveal a shallowness

of experience, a dearth of
breadth and depth. Or maybe
they are all products of some

devastating personal trauma,
of abuse behind closed doors
in darkened rooms? But maybe

not. Maybe they are just the
shallow jokes of a shallow life.
Maybe, as the stand-up co-

medians of the Catskills knew,
that true suffering, great suffer-
ing, community suffering, a

people’s suffering, a collective
groan are fertile ground out of
which grows the best comedy

and the best joke, the great
joke, the self-effacing joke, not
the mean joke, but the earnest,

belly laugh joke is the proper
response to the tears and the
blood that water that soil —

the joke that helps them cope.

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