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The disappearance of comedy - full report





The discovery of the disappearance of joy


There's two blokes, adjacent beds, in hospital, very, very old, very, very still. They look like they're in a coma but they're not completely zonked—their eyes are slightly open in very thin slits above their oxygen masks. What happens next actually happens over about two minutes but I'm going to give it to you quick (just imagine it's like some drug-induced dream, a slow-motion hallucination). So the one on the right shifts himself onto to his side, brings his arm round, fumbles about for something in his bedside cabinet, eventually brings out a small packet of pills, collapses back, has a rest. After a bit, he heaves the packet of pills onto his bed-table. Does a little grunt. Catches his breath; grunts again. The other man creaks his head round—what's the matter? Pill-man shows him: he taps the packet of pills very gently, smiles. The other man sighs, closes his eyes. Reaches round for the red emergency button, grabs it, presses it. A nurse appears, goes to pill-man, whips the packet from his hand.

   "Please stop showing off, Mr Knightley," she says with infinite weariness. Puts the packet away, walks off.

   Silence, stillness...

   Grows a bit longer...

   Pill-man grunts again. Hand still on the table he very slowly turns it and raises his middle finger in the air. The other one has already started reluctantly looking over. After a bit pill-man slowly gives the finger a slow left/right waggle to make sure his ward mate gets the message. If you look hard enough you can see pill-man smiling with deep satisfaction.

   Get it?

   Probably not, because you should be seeing it acted. If it was on television, which is where I was imagining seeing it, and you could see the contempt in the eyes of pill-man, you'd see it was about how we can be absolute sods even when we're on the brink of extinction, even when you'd think, finally - finally - we'd calm it down. These two decrepit, dying men have nothing left to lose but with just days to go the one has to rub it in that he can afford the slightly better care package with the more expensive pills. The mean little shit.

   I imagined that scene three years ago. Not long after imagining it I realised what I was doing: emulating modern tv comedy, which seems to want to berate us for the fact that

   I realised not long after this that comedy as I'd known it had disappeared. Comedy interested in its own funny logic, playful and silly, had been replaced by something that wanted to make a series of serious or bleak points about 'human nature' and/or teach a series of stern lessons:


(1) The majority of people are scummy and immoral underneath because they are viciously competitive automatons

(2) Those that aren't viciously competitive are ineffectual loser automatons

(3) Most of life consists of the following scenario, endlessly repeated: nasty, spiteful, thick, scheming, perverted people shitting on weak and gullible people

(4) Insight is never gained. We're condemned, like automatons, to the above scenario being endlessly and infinitely repeated because, presumably, 'evolutionary biology'.


The question therefore arose: could comedy as I'd known it previously be brought back?

The experiment


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