Laughter in the Dark

As I sit here listening to Chopin’s Nocturne the day is clear and windy, the cat lies hidden somewhere after a bad night. Upset tummy, poor thing.

According to the rules of marketing, I should begin blogging about the subject matter of my next book but there’s nothing funny about divorce or the death of a child, or taxes although tax laws are often so ridiculous they lend themselves easily to satire.  Here’s an honest-to-God snippet from a letter I received from the IRS:

It is clear that appellant has failed to meet her burden of overcoming rebuttable correctness of respondent’s determination...she did not benefit from the income understatement are insufficient to overcome the presumptive correctness of respondent’s assessments.

“rebuttable correctness”  “presumptive correctness” ???  Gadzooks!

Besides, who doesn’t love laughing at lawyers? One of my favorite authors, Charles Dickens, made an art form out of it.  His seething hatred for the law came out again and again – so often that it’s hard to believe he was actually a student of the law!


Uriah Heep – can you believe a band named themselves after him?

For example: Uriah Heep, the solicitor who tries to insinuate himself to David Copperfield, is described as a “red-eyed: cadaver” whose “lank forefinger makes clammy tracks along the page…like a snail.”


Mr. Vlohes, whose legal finagles in Bleak House drag out a case for so long that it ruins the lives of two young people and bleeds an estate dry, is described as “so eager, so bloodless and gaunt.”Bleakhouse

Dickens exposed the injustices of his time with such great wit and sarcasm we can’t help giggling even though we can feel the pain, much the same way as the movie “The Producers” provokes hilarity by portraying the world’s biggest villain (Hitler) as an idiotic buffoon.  Behind the laughter there’s always pain.

Or maybe it isn’t pain. Maybe it’s something else.


It’s not possible to laugh at Hitler, is it? Yes, it is!

Over the weekend I couldn’t help myself. I watched a Robin Williams marathon:  Dead Poet’s Society, Cadillac Man and One Hour Photo.  In those movies, particularly the last, Williams doesn’t even try to mask the pain his characters are going through with his usual flashes of manic energy.  I sensed in those portrayals something other than pain.  Something fierce.


One of my favorite satires – the King of Hearts

Curious, I did a little research online about why comedians mask their pain with humor. I didn’t get any answers, however the research did debunk a few myths:

Myth Number 1: Comedians come from difficult childhoods. According to a blog on Psychology Today, this myth does not hold true for the majority of modern day comedians. Many were popular in high school. Some were even class clowns.

Myth Number 2: Comedians have an IQ in the genius range. The average comedian (again according to Psychology Today) has an IQ in the 120s, high, but not in the genius range.  However they do have a very large vocabularies.

By the way, wouldn’t you like to know how the psychologist managed to get a group of comedians to take IQ tests?

Anyway, a couple of myths did hold true.  The majority of comedians are extroverts on stage and introverts off. Many suffer not only from depression but are also suspicious and angry.

Anger, hum…

Aye, that’s it. That’s what I saw in Williams’ performances: Anger.  Not kind of the anger that shouts “I’m going to punch you in the face if you look at me the wrong way!”  The kind of anger that ignites a passionate, brilliant performance, often doing great damage to the artist.  It’s as if they hold a mirror up to the world and say “you don’t have to be so damned ugly to each other.”

We may laugh but we get it.

6 thoughts on “Laughter in the Dark

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