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If you feel you should be adopting a more serious attitude to life… watch this…

February 5, 2017

I knew of this bit of film a few days ago, and I’ve finally forced myself to watch it.  If you’ve ever felt that you need to finally put away childish things and adopt a severe and po-faced attitude to the things that really matter in life – then you should watch it too.

Kellyanne Conway does stand-up in 1998.  And it’s not just that she dies on stage – comedy itself dies up there. The merest fantasy of mirth pulls out a ceremonial Japanese sword and impales itself upon it.   In the space of eleven and a half minutes Kellyanne Conway manages to contaminate everything that you thought might be funny about someone talking into a microphone to a room full of people.  More unremittingly than Samuel Beckett (who had a keen sense of necessary comic relief),  she turns the familiar cadences of comedy into black holes of joyless inhumanity.  This is a stand-up routine that light itself cannot escape.

If you can get through it all, your relief at this routine’s conclusion probably takes the form of a chant in your own head.  “Never.  Laugh.  Again.  Never.  Laugh.  Again.”  There are in fact, almost mockingly, bits of laughter to be heard in the background, seemingly in the far distance of what doesn’t seem to be a large room, or possibly in a different room altogether.  Laughter is meant to be infectious but these laughs are a reminder that comedy is indeed the form that’s being slaughtered.  Kellyanne is “making fun” (though fun seems to have emigrated to a different star system) of people who were famous in 1998.  Some you’ll have heard of, and some not.  It doesn’t matter.   In between the “jokes” there are pauses.  The pauses are there because she’s seen comedians on TV and she knows that you need to pause between jokes to allow the audience to recover their composure after each fit of hilarity.  During each pause she smiles, recovering her own composure, because she is absolutely 100% convinced of the genius of her own material.

So if you really want to lay the “child within” upon a stone altar and sacrifice her or him to the sacred cause of a life of unremitting seriousness, then watch this bit of film.

We’re always told that at least this US administration will be “good for satire” or will be “hilarious”.   But Conway herself doesn’t understand comedy.  Neither does her boss.   This is a presidency that lack the capacity to relax and acknowledge weakness.   It is psychologically bereft either self awareness or humility and there can be no laughter without these ingredients.    This is an administration that thinks it should be great at comedy only because it thinks it should be great at everything.  Because it’s rich.  Because it’s always had the money to buy things (and things should included “people”).  There is some great satire being made about this US administration, but the administration itself is too joyless and miserable to understand it or really be affected by it.

Perhaps a film that might tell us more about how an unfunny person thinks they can buy affection would be that strange little film Funny Bones (dir Peter Chelsom, 1995) starring Oliver Platt.   Except that Oliver Platt’s character found redemption at the end.  I can’t see that happening for any of this cast of (un)clowns.


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