Stand Up Comics as Tragedians — The Fine Line That Never Was 

The CNN series got me thinking. Highly recommend it. 
Since my beginning of my literature studies,  there was always a link between comedy and tragedy. The comedy was veiled,  feigned even.  It was often one and the same.  The mask served as a way of reminding us what we were actually watching.  

Then I moved to studying the exemplary James Joyce and came across Dubliners and noticed that farce, comedy, tragedy, and sarcasm were intertwined. It is shown mostly in The Dead where the situation, like the snow, was general all over the world, not just Ireland. 

Then there was Six Feet Under, the amazing HBO series that shot a dose of reality on TV as banal as reality at home. The point is that there exist comedy and tragedy simultaneously all the time in some perspective. 


It was an afternoon of lounging around that introduced me to George Carlin. I remember him answering the Proust questionnaire on the last page of Vanity Fair. I remember him being asked who his hero in real life was. He answered something like “nobody should have heroes. That’s a terrible thing “. Carlin was a realist at a post -Lenny Bruce era that was adorning all the fluff. Carlin was a unique sort of comic. He did the usual shtick but also put enough social satire to make him a legend. He incorporated fears and yearnings into a comical package that made you laugh hysterically but made you think long and hard afterwards. But the reason he was the most unique was his longevity. He was not the usual tragic comic that died young. He lasted and played till his dying days.  Longevity, timeliness,  and stability are a triumvirate hardly ever achieved. This is why he is the greatest. The God of comedy. But don’t ever let him know I said that. Perhaps he was stronger than most. Perhaps he had better coping mechanisms. No matter, he outlasted all his counterparts. 


The Guardian explain that comics die young. Lenny Bruce and Robin Williams are attestations to this. Thereis often addiction involved. In Bruce’s case, there was the alcoholism, the alleged drugs, and his unending trouble with the law that got him into taking the tragic route out. Robin Williams was depressed,  as I’ve found out many are. 

I love the above quote. Very true and globally so.  This was once the funniest man in the world. Depressed. Took his life. Unlike Carlin, Williams,  unfortunately,  is more of a typical version of a successful comic.  Even of a successful artist. They want to make you laugh because they usually can’t laugh themselves. Not internally anyway. Not where it counts behind the adoration of the crowd.  


And then there’s the enigmatic Marc Maron,  who reminds me of myself. I got to see him through his IFC series and then listened to his entertaining podcast. In real life, Maron has been an addict. Though I have never been addicted to drugs or alcohol,  I have vices difficult to take care of.  It is a win at a time with a few losses in between. But Marc hangs in there. And through difficult moments, it is someone at your wave length that you have laughed with that’s the saving grace that keeps you chugging along. 

For the, George and Marc are people I always fall back on because I need a dose of reality. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s