Monthly Archives: October 2010

My unifying theory of comedy

Comedy is probably my most dominating vice, more alluring to me than women or wine. And, much as I’ve studied the finer qualities of those other two, I feel – well, it’s sort of an obligation – I need to watch and to criticise and assess and ponder comedy every single day.

I once went to see Russ Abbot in London. I suppose that he, the Two Ronnies and Blackadder had a fundamental influence on what I find to be funny. Later, the Fast Show and Alan Partridge ruled my jokesphere. But it was in the discovery of late-night reruns of the Larry Sanders Show and Seinfeld that my comedy addiction finally found a home.

And Seinfeld led me to Curb Your Enthusiasm, naturally. That these two shows, born of the genius of Brooklyn-raised Larry David, are among the most celebrated TV shows ever is no surprise to me. I’ve always loved the New York fast-talkin’, wise-ass schtick that Woody Allen used in Annie Hall. But Curb taught me something else: the secret of great comedy.

And this is my theory.

Essentially, great comedy is made through a counterpoint of your lies and the lies of those you interact with. Pathos is important, at times, but the key is the manipulation of people and their manipulation of you. In other words, society and life are the comedy.

Now, I’m aware that this sort of thinking is pretty facile. I don’t claim this as ‘original thought’. But I’ve come to it all on my own, and now I feel the world needs to share it with me.

Oh, and Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 5 Episode 10 is the finest piece of comedy I’ve ever seen. It’s perfect. It deals with identity, mortality, selfishness and selflessness in a way that no movie ever could. Also the time-travel episode in the new Futurama season is pretty good. Pretty. Pretty. Pretty Good.

Catalan independence and socialism

One of the aspects of my questions for supporters of Catalan independence touched on an issue I hold to be of vital importance: What model do you see an independent Catalonia adopting? Some sort of republic? How would it be organised? – This question, while it did receive some responses, didn’t attract the interest I’d be hoping for. That’s probably because I fudged the wording a little. What I was really getting at was: what type of state will Catalonia be?

The reason I feel this is important, indeed the main reason that I’m unable to personally back independence, is the socialist question. Or rather, What Would Trotsky Do? Because while I love Catalonia and would only wish the best for it, I would have trouble backing what I considered to be an independent Catalonia that conferred new rights on itself, but not its citizens. That is, for any such movement to deserve support, it ought to be either genuinely revolutionary or committed to serious socialist policies.

And at the moment I don’t see that happening.

For what it’s worth, Trotsky stated various times that the the cases of of states in the Soviet Union and Poland, independence was an understandable urge, and not at odds with revolution. He would probably not have been quite so supportive of Catalonia’s current bourgeois republicans.

It is true that the Catalan independence movement seems to be generally connected to left-leaning parties and organisations. ERC, the largest openly pro-independence party has certainly shifted away from what was a more chauvinistic “We are who we are” message. But the party continues to struggle with just who they really are. Are they ‘Esquerra’ first or are they ‘Republicana de Catalunya’ first? This question, trite as it seems, sums up the problem with the movement for independence here. I’m not an ERC supporter and nor do I expect that party ever to become a revolutionary force for change. I consider it all too likely that they’d sacrifice the ‘Esquerra’ bit before they sacrificed independence.

But perhaps I’m wrong about ERC and wrong about the chances for a revolutionary independence movement here. If one exists, even in nascent form, I’ve yet to encounter it. And that’s why, for the moment, I still find it difficult to make a blog that supports independence. At the very least, I would need to see a referendum that included a clear promise as to the republican and socialist nature of the state to come. Otherwise, maybe we should all just support the socialist movement in Spain.