Friday, February 10, 2006
Two Guys Walk Into A Bar: An Urban Tragedy.
Rodney Dangerfield was right. Funny guys get no respect. Sure, women say they love a man with a sense of humor, but they never go home with the comic. They go home with the guitar player.
Comedies are rarely given the big awards. People love Westlake, but he's not often mentioned in the pantheon of great writers. Yet Ax deals with the weighty issues of what a man loses when he loses his career, and what desperate means he'll use to get it back. Carl Hiaasen wrote one of the funniest scenes I've ever read in Stormy Weather, a scene involving a fire extinguisher, a mother-in-law and a coati mundi, but the novel also deals with government corruption, naked ambition, and human frailty, the same things Arthur Miller mined for All My Sons.
Over at Salon, Stephanie Zacharek looks at recent film comedians' work. Here's part of what she wrote:
As much as we all claim to enjoy comedies, we're often unwilling to take a comic actor seriously until he or she tackles "serious" work, an expectation that comics themselves are only too keenly aware of. But they know as well as anyone that great comedy -- and even just minor comedy -- often harbors serious themes. Mike Myers (a wonderful comic actor who needs to take a break from doing cartoon voices and give us a real comedy) has often quoted Henri Bergson's claim that comedy is basically the recognition of your own mortality. You can't get much more serious than that.
Maybe I should have called this blog Memento Mori.
Sir Donald Wolfit is remembered more for his deathbed observation that "dying is easy - comedy is hard," than for his acting career. So, maybe the trick is to write serious stuff all your life, and then as you're drawing your last breath, go for the punch line. After all, no one remembers Olivier's last words.
He should have gone out on a joke.