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You can be a Spark My Muse hero/helper in these two ways:
Whether it’s an Episode of Saturday Night Live, a late night tv host monologue, a webisode, or humor website, one of the many uses of humor one is to prove a point. People who find themselves funny may often aspire to more elevated forms of comedy:
Satire, wit, or something that seems noble.
If not fully noble, then at least something useful for creating meaningful change.
And if not that, then a comic may just try for old fashion notoriety. But, plenty of people simply settle for infamy.
Cuss words, crude jokes, and whatnot. But, in an effort to avoid thorough banlality the aim might be satire.
In the dearth of well-formed, well-put, well-placed, and well-timed, first-rate satire, many hope their wild comedic jabs will do the trick. They don’t.
True and artful satire is really rare; just like true brilliance is rare.
A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.
Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.
Besides that, the difference between satirical prowess and just being mean is more of a fine line. One that rests in the subjective ear of the hearer. Vary the audience and you have a flop. Get it right and you can have an impeachment.
I asked my friend Dougto elucidate us on some of the finer points of comic relief.
If any one put this sort of thing on the map, it was Shakespeare.
(Not Billy Crystall, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams…which was a fund raising thing.)
Either way, I’m soon out of my depth.
• So, what’s the point of (Shakespearean) COMIC RELIEF?
• How does it work, or not work.
• Does it work now?
A modern audience of non-English majors might not get Elizabethan wordplay…a lot of the problem is that people begin with the general idea that this is serious literature and therefore one is not supposed to laugh.
Not true. Sometimes it gets lost in translation.
While many think of comic relief as a literary ploy to give the audience a break from the latest dramatic event (a murder, beheading, or suicide etc), there is more to it.
For starters, says Doug, take the Fool in “King Lear.”
Cambridge poet and scholar Malcolm Guite asserts that, “Shakespeare, with a true understanding of the cross, always puts his greatest wisdom in the mouths of his fools.”
Throughout the early parts of the play the little fellow offers repeated jabs at Lear’s stupidity in attempting to step down from his throne but retain his power.
The idea of “royal retirement” amuses the Fool. Like a standup comedian with no “off” switch, he shoots out one-liners until several different people threaten to have him beaten.
He’s funny. He’s even funny in the howling storm when Lear begins to lose his mind and Edgar pretends to lose his and we do indeed need a break. But the humorous bait conceals a serious barb, both for the characters and the audience. The fool sees what the wise men miss.
Drawing on the common usage of court jester in that day, Shakespeare can deliver a message of great import.
Shakespeare here draws on the origins of the trade. Wealthy people in the medieval world sometimes kept mentally impaired people around because their antics amused their betters.
They could say or do anything and get away with it, basically, on the insanity defense.
Eventually a few very clever people figured out that such a role would allow them to engage in serious political critique without the usual inconveniences of getting exiled or sent to the Tower of London.
The Fool is such a double-dealer, offering a needed message disguised as “mere” comic relief.
Just as it happens today, comedy and the use of humor serves many purposes. Entertainment may be the first one, but a lot more may happen in the process.
In excavating the sites of Elizabethan theaters, archaeologists have found the shattered remains of pottery boxes into which theater patrons would drop their admission fee.
At the end of the night the company would smash the container – like a kid breaking his piggy-bank – and divvy up the night’s take. (This, by the way, is the origin of the term “box office.”)
This little factoid is a reminder that Shakespeare did not so much write for the ages as for the commercial stage. As a professional playwright he had to produce shows that people would pay to see.
His diverse audience wanted action, politics, poetry, and, yes, humor. But with each of these elements he did more than met the eye. His “comic relief” is like drinking sea water: It briefly relieves our thirst for wholeness only in order to make us crave the real thing even more.
It would seem that comic relief still has its place. Jokers ARE wild.
But, whether a comic gives the challenge due diligence is another question.
What’s been your favorite bit of satire, recently?
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
-Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 CE
This quote is a lovely reflection of the pursuing God, the God that brings peace and wholeness. And in tasting that wholeness and love we long to be ever-filled by such goodness
I invited Shane to post here, chiefly because I feel a kinship to Shane. The artist and the spiritual formation learner I am jives so nicely with Shane’s outlook, and what he does as his life’s work. Writers, artist, thinkers, creatives, musicians, and so forth bring vital perspective to Christian Spirituality, and walking with God. Shane tends to this group, which is not an easy task.
Who is SHANE TUCKER?
Shane lived in Ireland for eleven years with his wife, two daughters and son. Visit his site. He works with the arts, spiritual disciplines, evocative messengers, and symposiums to engage people in their journey with Christ. He is passionate about seeing people live into their purpose in life, and he finds applications for that as a ‘soul friend’ (spiritual director) via Soul Friend (www.ArtistSoulFriend.com). He can be reached via either website or at shane dot tucker at gmail dot com.
Please enjoy Shane’s post, and feel free to offer your insights, comments, or questions.
Aesthetic Spirituality by Shane Tucker
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” -ThomasMerton
We have an innate quality to notice beauty at every turn. To know that something is ugly or unattractive we must, of course, know that true beauty exists . . and in some way, to have experienced it. We resonate most strongly with that which seems to offer wholeness or a sense of completeness to our lives. That resonance may also be experienced as a deep hunger. Seldom do we know ourselves well enough to be able to express those yearnings in a coherent fashion. Itʼs in those times we need a bridge – something enabling us to connect, to integrate disparate elements into a whole. . . into a sense of being whole.
Art – any method or medium of creativity – can often serve as this necessary bridge, this connection, between what we know and what we long or yearn to know. Art gives us the tools, the words, the motion to live into what we sense is already there, but as of yet remains unseen. In this sense, art itself is a means by which we find ourselves by moving beyond ourselves. Through art (the highest sort) we are transported into places and spaces where we can lose ourselves. Itʼs a gift to be fully present to, and fully absorbed into, a situation or individual where weʼve forgotten to be concerned with our own desires or even aware of our image before others. Iʼve had a few experiences like this directly and by extension.
One of those experiences occurred three summers ago while I was attending a festival of creativity in middle England. I sought out a band I wanted to become acquainted with and unexpectedly, during their set I was in continual awe. Through their skillful use of music and visual elements, I was caught up in the moment and I forgot myself. Classic. Iʼve had similar experiences standing on green, broad, bald hilltops around Ireland as I drank in the arresting landscape around me. Another example are Christmas mornings since my three children arrived on the scene. Experiencing the uninhibited enthusiasm and joy demonstrated by these little people as they open gifts and share their excitement with the family – these are moments of pure bliss.
In times such as these we are given the gift of losing ourselves . . more specifically, concern for ourselves. The end, however, is not the experience of forgetting oneself in beauty, wonder, and awe; or even that of knowing a deep resonance which affords us the equivalent of tonal tonic through lifeʼs journey. Itʼs knowing Him. I hear, see, touch, taste and feel the Creator in this God-saturated existence called life. Heʼs made Himself ever- present in the created order and ever-accessible. He has, in fact, painted Himself into the portrait, written Himself into the narrative and sung Himself into our lives – even into existence, in Jesus Christ. When we recognize His overtures of love, our moment is to respond whole-heartedly, in trust, recklessly abandoned. In His hands, we then become the artwork by which He invites others to lose and find themselves in Love.
“Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them.” – Jesus, Matthew 16:25