Since Plato, Aristotle and Sir Philip Sidney were some of the first readings we did, their fundamental ideas remained a key platform for viewing effective comedy. Watching Nanette and King Henry IV were the first concrete examples of comedy as a reference, which allowed me to connect these performances with the class pieces and open mic pieces we saw later on.
Sir Philip defends poets from the accusations that poetry is not essential and secondary to works of science and engineering. He makes the argument that instead of not just being secondary, poetry and art are the most important and highest works overall. He begins by explaining that many great discoveries and inventions actually arose out of poetry, since poetry has the ability to shed light on what we do not know. In this way, the text closely aligned with Aristotle’s views on art and ignorance. Sir Philip claims that poetry is able to mirror our world back at us in a way that reveals gaps in our knowledge and progress. Therefore, we are able to make advancements. First identifying what we do not know is the first step toward eventually being able to know it. He then goes on to talk about the importance that other societies placed on art and poetry. In Greek and Roman society, very high merit was awarded to artistic practices and they were considered holy. He expands on this list of precedents as reason to believe in the importance of art. He weighs the importance of gnosis vs praxis, stating that the active process we take in art allows for a sense of catharsis and ability to mirror and learn from our reality. This also agrees with many of Aristotle’s viewpoints of the importance of comedy.
In King Henry IV, a common theme was the tension between the fathers and the sons within the play. For me, this connected with Nanette. In Nanette, Gadsby uses the technique of creating and relieving tension in order to create her comedic moments. It seems that Shakespeare is employing the same technique within Henry IV, as the audience is made to feel very tense within these scenes, but then humor often relieves the moment. For example, when Gadsby first brings up how she is often categorized as a lesbian by her straight friends, the audience is made to feel the tension. She then breaks it with following that statement with, “I cook every night- why don’t I ever get introduced as that comic who cooks?” It is this push and pull of creating and breaking tension that makes the comedic performance successful in evoking emotion and reaction.
A common theme in the course so far seems to be the opinions of comedy as a tool to build or destroy the pillars of our society. Everybody arguing against it, such as Plato and the critics Sir Philip refutes argue that it is undermining our importance and progress. This is also the status quo that The Pedagogy of Laughter confronts. On the other end of the spectrum, it is argued that “poesy” is necessary to build our society and progress as thoughtful individuals and as a collective. I strongly agree with the use of humor as a tool and a necessary part of the human experience. However, Nanette brought up many conflicting ideas that really stuck with me. I think there is a lot of truth in the idea that comedy augments stories by sealing them at the middle point and often times it can be easy to overlook the entire meaning. This goes along with Sir Philip’s ideas of good and bad comedy, as good comedy would be something that brings out the best parts of reality and acts as a mirror of truth but bad comedy further extrapolates the negative aspects and perpetuates false ideals.
I have been paying attention to these ideas as a premise and framework for viewing comedy within this class. I have analyzed specific examples from the open mic in Vancouver to outline what components of jokes work and which do not, noting what critiques are helpful in illuminating important societal underpinnings and which are detrimental.