Tragedy + Time = Comedy

“Comedy is tragedy plus time…The night Lincoln was shot, you couldn’t joke about it, you just couldn’t do it…but now time has gone by, and it’s fair game.” – Lester (Alan Alda) CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (written by Woody Allen)

When purposely obnoxious comic Gilbert Gottfried attempted a few airplane jokes at a Hugh Hefner roast less than a month after September 11th 2001 an audience member yelled “too soon!” Obviously this guy was familliar with the theory Alan Alda’s arrogant buffoon character pontificated above. Gottfried decided it was time to switch gears and tell a joke rarely told in public. A joke that was legendary among comedians for its possibilities for improv. Dirty, disgusting, vulgar, and sometimes just plain wrong improv but also sometimes brilliant, clever, and plain hilarious improv too. This is the basis for the film THE ARISTOCRATS that opened last week at the theater I work at.

I saw it on Sunday night and enjoyed many of the performers – Steven Wright’s typically deadpan take on the joke, Andy Richter telling it as if it were a bedtime story to his infant son, Andy Dick throwing “Hitler dressed in crotch-less panties” into the mix, and it was great to see that the staff of the Onion are artsy pudgy dorks like the rest of us.

I’m not gonna waste blog space trying to relate the joke – you can easily click on the IMDB link above – or go into length about the many many comedians in it I’ll just say that this is a flawed and questionably cut movie that is not for the squeamish but it does contain a lot of laughs. I’m pretty desensitized to the desciptions of strange sexual behaviour and scatalogical acts but I’ve seen a few people walk out – one couple at the 7:00 screening tonight walked out after 15 minutes calling it sick and wanting their money out – so be warned.

Well If the history + time = comedy theory * is really accurate, how long until the first Hurricane Katrina joke? I’m going now to check out the Onion and find out. Something tells me its not too soon for them…

the line has also been attributed to Carol Burnett.

More later…

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