Dying is easy. Comedy is hard. Those are the words most often attributed to Edmund Kean. Mister Kean was a Shakespearean actor in the nineteenth century. My son, who is a studying theater in college, might agree except that he has disdain for most things Shakespearean. Which, as an undergraduate, is pretty much his job. Poking holes in things that are supposed to be good for you is what students should do. However, having grown up in my house, I don't know if he would argue the sentiment too long. He grew up with a heaping bushel of comic influences. In his early teens, he discovered that the word "pants" has a magical quality to it, and he has used it to his advantage over the years, most memorably when it came time to name our family's Guitar Hero Band: Fiendish Pants.
Meanwhile, tragedy occurs around us every day. Plane crashes. Floods. The lingering presence of Donald J. Trumpf. Finding something funny to say or do while the world continues to disintegrate gets harder and harder. If Shakespeare were writing today, I wonder if he could have maintained his ratio of comedy to tragedy. Lumping the history plays into the tragedy camp, the Bard wrote just about one comedy for every tragedy. For each drama where everyone dies at the end, he wrote one where everyone gets married. Nice job, Will!
Which brings us to the twenty-first century for the sake of this discussion, wherein Peter Farrelly won an Oscar for his movie Green Book. While not a tragedy in the traditional sense, its themes of racism and homophobia seem much more serious than the rest of Mister Farrelly's work. Starting with Dumb and Dumber, he and his brother mined the silly side of the road trip until he decided that would never get him an Academy Award. That being said, I wonder if there is a drawer full of terribly sad screenplays that came roiling out of the minds of Peter and his brother Bob as they struggled to create the giggles found in all those Jim Carrey haircuts. And I wonder if Hamlet would have been funnier if he had a broken front tooth.