Comedy – Isn’t that funny?

We have been working diligently, putting our creative minds to work in drawing connections between Dante’s Paradiso and Morrison’s Paradise. In our most recent class days working on the final project, the word “comedy” came up a few times, and bounced around my head for a while. Of course it was partially because we were working with the Divine Comedy, but the word continued to bounce around when we were drawing connections to Paradise and African-American writing, so I figured there must be a connection. There was.

The word “comedy” is a little tricky since its literary definition contains stories with happy endings while its contemporary definition refers to any form of entertainment that makes people laugh. Regardless, it is truthful to state that Dante addresses political, social, even religious issues to his audience through a comedy.

I pondered it for a while then drew the connection between comedy and African-American expression, remembering that comedy is a very popular outlet for Black people. When Black people attempt to address political issues through music or film, their work is usually either white washed or turned down from the beginning. Through comedy, however, African-Americans are able to address all of the injustices and ideas that they wish to address, as long as the presentation is comical. I feel that this is good in the sense that it allows Black people to express themselves and be heard in the mainstream, but also restrictive because the important content being expressed under a genre that is meant to entertain rather than inform, travels as comedy as well. The media really is the message.

When we turn on our televisions, almost everybody we see on the movies, commercials, and news outlets are White. Black people have very limited ways of being heard. It’s great that we are making strides in the social media industry, but the fact that White people are still in control of American media (which influences the entire world) is very dangerous for the image (and well-being) of Black people.

The importance of Toni Morrison’s work extends beyond her creativity and literary excellence; it would change the world if Black people decided to read her novels. They will be informed and enlightened in ways that their previous sources of entertainment could not (would not) allow.

I will continue to develop this idea, incorporating research and alternative viewpoints. But for now, enjoy this Dave Chappelle skit.

2 Replies to “Comedy – Isn’t that funny?”

  1. Alpha, I’m glad you put up this post. I too have been thinking about the connection between the gravity of Morrison’s and Dante’s themes situated in the realm of comedy. Your post reminded me of a tweet I saw recently, which I have been unable to track down, but essentially, the author of the tweet said that the black community uses comedy to desensitize the world around them. In my search for this tweet, I came across this article (contains strong language) online about black comedians and white audiences. The author’s perspective of comedy utilized by the black community is quite pessimistic; she claims that black comedy “continues to leave the accountability piece out when it comes to addressing structural racism. Using humor and satire to make audiences learn about racism and have a good time easily translates to the maintenance of power.” Overall, she concludes that “satire is seemingly a white man’s game but also a tool Black folks have utilized for survival and creativity,” and she urges her audience to be more critical of black comedians, whose catering to white audiences in order to survive effectively preserves the structural violence they have face everyday. I was wondering what your perspective of her work might be. I completely agree with you that comedy, though restricting, does indeed provide an avenue for black community to express and begin to redress the injustices placed upon them. I am reminded of Saidiya Hartman’s “Venus in Two Acts,” which I have been frequently returning to as the semester winds down, and her analysis of the consequences of retelling painful narratives. Similarly, I am reminded of Morrison’s closing of Beloved: “It was not a story to pass on.” My reading in these two works leans more closely with the necessity of circling back to these stories, bringing them back to the forefront of our cultural narrative, so that they have the greatest chance of being addressed. However, I also recognize the danger in couching these narratives in the genre of comedy, wherein they might be flippantly passed.

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