Where does comedy come from?

... the same place that tragedy comes from. 

This is one of my favourite quotes.“Trapped in a situation that you realize you can’t get out of, that’s where tragedy comes from, that’s where comedy comes from.” (I don't know who said it. Does anyone?)

Comedy and tragedy are awesome separately and powerful together. They can be two sides of the same coin (did I just use a cliche? - me! really?! you know how I feel about cliches). 

When a comic tragedy works it's brilliant. Such is the case with The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It's a y/a novel about a kid from the reservation, Arnold, who goes to school in the near-by town. You will be laughing uproariously one minute and then Alexie lands an emotional punch to the gut that will have you crying down-roariously (see the problem with using adverbs!) the next.   

Another example is the British sit-com Absolutely Fabulous which features two aging, raging vodka-champagne swilling former hippy friends Eddy and Patsy. One a wannabe celebrity and the other a publicist. Both living in the lap of luxury (yikes, another cliche) off of their ex-husband's alimony. You'll be in stitches one minute, then the emotional gut punch will grab the lining of your stomach and pull the next minute. Eddy has somewhat difficult relationships with her best friend Patsy, her mother and the daughter she never wanted Saffi (short for Saffron). Check out this short clip. All the episodes are available on DVD.   

Have you tried writing a comic tragedy? Are their points in your writing that tragedy can be softened by comedy or comedy can be made more meaningful by tragedy? 


JennaQuentin said…
Thanks for these thoughts. I spent yesterday morning trying to be funny, thinking of everytime I've made someone laugh...result: blah. I guess there's a reason I've published more tragedy. I appreciate the thought of them going together - I think it will help!
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Jenna. Good to hear my post might be helpful. Keep at it! ;-j
Angie said…
I've never set out to deliberately write either, but I know my novel has some elements of both. Charles Dixon's did it extremely well (but then, what didn't he do well?). I'll forgive your cliches and adverbs. ;) Love the clip.
Jan Markley said…
Interesting approach Angie. Thanks for your forgiveness. I must have had a bad case of clicheitis yesterday!
Heck, I can't write comedy, nevermind mixing it with tragedy.

I used to love watching that show. Haven't seen it in years. :)
Jan Markley said…
Stina: it is a great show. A friend and I used to rent the DVD and make an evening of it. Good fun!