Comedy

To bite or to bet, that is the question

If you haven’t yet read The Unbitten Elbow by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovksy, please do so here if you’re going to read the following piece. If you have no interest in reading the following piece, I still insist that you refer to the link above and read The Unbitten Elbow.

The Unbitten Elbow is perhaps the third or fourth piece I read by Krzhizhanovsky. His linguistic turns of phrases and philosophical tendencies had already captured me with The Letter Killers Club and his ability to weave stories within stories was enticing enough. But with The Unbitten Elbow came a gust of comedy, of laughter. Most of my friends whom I summarized the tale to reacted to the ending with a look of horror and disconcertment. Only one of my friends mirrored my own delight as she giggled and clapped her hands as I told her of the attack from the rear and the subsequent death from blood loss.

Thus I arrived at the question of whether or not The Unbitten Elbow is in fact comic. The line between comedy and tragedy is dangerously thin—an abyss in itself, reflective of the incoherence which is the root of both tragedy and comedy. Traditionally, the incoherence in a tragedy will often end, for lack of a better word, tragically, while a comedy tends to resolve itself in often what is a literal happy union. One of the benefits of tragedy is the ability to watch someone self-destruct so that you don’t have to. The same may be said of comedy, only this time the self-destruction isn’t in vain. While raging through the crook of your elbow may give off the appearance of self-destruction, whether or not it was in vain and whether or not it’s funny still remain to be seen.

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Tragedy exists so man can watch man self-destruct so that he does not have to.

During life, man is both an actor and a spectator.
Theatre and plays remove the necessity for man’s participation,
rending him above all
the spectator.

With literature, with the written text,
man does not get off so lightly.
He is required to act; compose; rearticulate to himself
the written word,
as he simultaneously sits back and watches any and all
masquerades unfold.

 

The comic is always aware of the tragic,
otherwise how would it remember its own name?
Take it as seriously as stone
before you let it skip Christ-like; unnaturally.

At the end it’s always been about the same thing.
That’s why the end doesn’t matter.
And you still can’t wait to get there.

Keep checking your phone.
Pretend it’s for time.
Pretend you miss the ringing in your ears.
Pretend to be personable
—to be able to person.

 

It could’ve been funny.

I’m currently still in the process of formulating a routine for myself. Well, I suppose I already have a routine, but it seems necessary to reframe one in which I’m not dreading every waking and sleeping moment. There aren’t too many other moments, mind you. Working for 9.5 hours, returning home, sleeping, and then returning back to work all over again isn’t even something to give a vague name to.

Pushkin dreamed: “I want to live to think and suffer!”
To Live, To Think, And Suffer.
Living encompassed by a variety pack of suffering, leaving no opportunity for the mind to wander and think for just a moment, is not quite what I would call living. Not quite at all.

This spills over past working hours as well.
Last night after I stepped onto the F train at 63rd and Lexington, after it went approximately 400 feet, after I had been working for 9.5 hours, the train stopped. Not the most unusual experience, but it stayed stopped for an hour and forty minutes. The first hour wasn’t too bad, no one really seemed to notice how long it was taking until the conductor started mumbling on the intercom about “technical difficulties” with the train ahead of us.

During this time, a woman came up to me with the question “Do you speak Russian?”
At first glance, and even second, I wouldn’t have guessed that she was Russian. But upon third and forth considerations, it was possible that she came from the Eastern districts of Russia. But how she happened to be here now, in New York City, on the F train in Manhattan, speaking perhaps a graspful of words of English, trying to get to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, I have no idea.

I tried to explain to her that the train was stopped because of “technical difficulties” with the train ahead of us, but if I ever knew how to say train in Russian, that was not the moment in which I could have remembered. All my mind could focus on was getting off of my feet and getting home, after already spending an hour on a stopped train trying not to think about having to wake up in the morning, return to work, and make coffee all over again for people who clearly just want a cup of cream to sip on.

By the time the train started moving backwards, back to the station we were only four hundred feet away from the whole time, she had chosen me as the one who could help her. She only had five dollars so taking a cab to another train station wasn’t within the realms of possibility. Since the B wasn’t running, the Q was the only other train she could take. I tried to describe to her where the Q station was, but with every word I said she returned my eye contact only with the attempt (in vain) to understand the sounds coming out of my mouth.

Finally, I just said “I’ll walk you there. Don’t worry, I can show you where the train station is”. The train returned to 63rd and Lex after an hour and forty minutes of wasted life, and we emerged from the lower levels upon lower levels of escalators. I immediately lit a cigarette, pissed off at the time spent on the train, and vaguely frustrated that now I had this woman in tow. She borrowed my lighter to light her Marlboro Light. The Q station was only about six blocks away; we didn’t speak during our walk. Could we have? Even if there was the chance of being understood, what would either of us have said?

When we got to the station she hugged me tightly and repeated “spaseeba”. I wished and searched my memory but fell short at saying “you’re welcome” in anything but English.

It wasn’t until I was finally home, in bed minutes before I would fall asleep, that I realized that I didn’t even ask her name. That’s the kind of frustration and impatience and indifference that this job is awakening in me. In any other light, that entire situation would have been comic, playful, a colourful anecdote where I happened to have an interaction with someone who wasn’t an unwelcome male chatting me up in the street. But instead it was all refracted with the tragic light of what I was unable to do.

HIMYM Series Finale– and I don’t usually spend this much writing about television

I’m a fan of television, Netflix especially, and that is not to say that I spend my time watching reality shows. I enjoy shows that actually create a world, create characters that act apart from the authorial hand. Shows like House of Cards and True Detective show me that this can be masterfully accomplished when it comes to drama shows. And up till tonight, I thought that How I Met Your Mother was going to be one of those shows that accomplished this in the genera of romantic comedy sitcoms. And everyone knows how easy it is to want to tie things up in a neat little bow when it comes to comedy and romances. Hell, that’s the hallmark of comedy. That’s what differentiates it from tragedy. They’re both about incoherences, but comedy ties up the world in a happy union, often literally (think marriage). 

But over the past nine years HIMYM has been defying all of these hallmarks. Yes, there are the similarities to Friends, yes the character Ted was a whiny piece of shit, yes Lily and Marshall were sometimes too perfect. But HIMYM exposed the inconsistencies inbetween these relationships and allowed for these characters to grow and become themselves and become different from who they were when the writers first started the show.

The Lily from season one would never have decided to give up her dreams of Italy for Marshall and her family. She would have been too frightened. But even, Lily, the most fucking annoying character from seasons one to four was redeemed so much because she grew as a character. They all did. Barney, Robin, even Ted. That’s the problem. They grew so much over nine years and then in the span of forty-two minutes all of that growing and becoming was stripped away into the writer’s idealistic fantasy. If the show had ended after season one, Ted would’ve ended up with Robin, Barney would’ve been a single dad (most likely), and Lily and Marshall would’ve been happy together. Just because they decided from the get go that the mother dies doesn’t mean that every thing else that the characters went through over the past nine years didn’t matter.

Barney promised Robin, his one vow, the last vow, was that he would never lie to her. He would already be honest. If they were married for three years and he had problems with them moving around a lot then he would have said something and they would have strived to fix it. But it seemed like all it took was one fight and they just called it quits. That’s what season one Barney and Robin would’ve done. It’s like the writers forgot who they were dealing with. Everything these characters do in these last forty-minutes completely negates the people they have grown to become after nine years. I keep saying nine years because the fact that people grow after time is important; whether or not they are real people or fictional characters. Lily and Marshall would’ve fought harder for Robin. Barney would’ve have regressed to such an extent. He was in a more realistic state after Quinn. 

I’m not one to often write about television shows, or even voice my opinion on the internet, but the disrespect for character development and character actualization upsets me. We’re at an age where we don’t need happy endings. If Robin and Barney had divorced, Ted had a dead wife, and Lily and Marshall were still happily married, now that would be realistic. Sometimes you can’t have things wrap up in a neat little bow. Sometimes some people just end up alone. And that’s okay. But the fact that they felt that they had to press Ted ending up with Robin and having that happily ever after that he’d always dreamed of is upsetting. Why set ourselves up for an unrealistic ideal. Why not present the audience with a realistic ideal, that then will cause the audience to strive beyond that?