Sunday, October 21, 2007

why clowns ought to cry

IT'S A WAIL OF A TIME for the usual sob stories that have become the stuff of headlines, and that's enough to know why a clown's job is herculean more than ever. With the Glorietta blast recently reminding us, albeit rudely, of the forthcoming cemetery-centered holiday come November, it has gotten awkward to sustain one's self in a merry mood. But no matter if laughter nowadays is grimly in short supply, sigh, irrepressible remains the weakness to be jolly with a joke. Which reminds me of a sad attempt by a Cebuano congressman for a rib-tickling effect last week.

Hereunder is a reprint of my recent column in the op-ed page of
Sun.Star Cebu (October 16, 2007 issue) about an explosion in the face of a joker-wannabe:

Grin and grind your teeth

WORTHY enough for angels to blow theirs trumpets, those who can make people laugh. Ah, an honest-to-goodness humorist! Isn’t he more companionable than many a columnist, or someone who speaks like faith were something to bleed out of one’s wrist?

All right, here’s a confession: What gets me going to wear my Sunday best is the hope of hearing a priest who can drive the sermon home with the tongue-in-cheek grace of a stand-up comic.

Heaven, I believe, is when we feel the lightness of suspending disbelief.

Hang on, or so Rep. Tony Cuenco tried to pull off such a stunt until he winds up with his tongue now coiling tight around his neck. He went on air for a radio interview, only to somersault and spit out his words with a grin. “I was only cracking a joke,” he averred after admitting he received P200,000 —a “Christmas gift”— from the President. Nope, it was not for him to behave like an acolyte as soon as Congress beats hell’s bells for the President now in the heat of her foes’ allegations of bribery and haunted once more with the horror of impeachment. But, sorry, his avuncular vibe and baritone voice—perfect for beating his breast at the pulpit till holy water comes out of his nostrils—are just too solemn for side-splitting chortle.

How to tell a good joke?

Beats me, but I guess comedians are better hogging the limelight alone. So I think, if you dare to go on air, better to gag the interviewer and crank up canned laughter while you gnash the microphone with your dentures. And please be down to earth so you’re not far off and thus would hurt less when your face falls flat.

It will probably help not to kid one’s self that all it takes to be funny is to swallow and stick one’s tongue out. That’s what makes most politicians such a yawn, no doubt. Then again, the irony is how they become drop-dead laughable when they try utterly hard to be taken seriously. Honesty and its timing is of the essence, too. As when deaf people joke about not being able to hear.

In the end, nothing beats the coup de grace of the unexpected. Like the confession of Andy Kaufman, the self-styled “song-and-dance man” that Jim Carey played in the film Man on the Moon: “I’ve never told a joke in my life.” Doesn’t that beat Beelzebub saying he has never been on fire?

It’s all about absurdity, and anything else would be the sad spectacle of a clown seeking refuge in reckless slapstick, the grimness of the grotesque. And Nietzsche was not out to pick someone’s funnybone, certainly, when he muttered how “man alone suffer so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”

Inventions, however, ought to be original. How wonderfully out of the ordinary, for instance, if a politician would dare swear his armpits out and just admit for a change how badly he wants another pair of hands to clap at his dexterity to accept what power brings under the table. Really, won’t he need to grow more dirty fingers to poke through a crack a joke leaves on his bloody head?

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