Friday, April 3, 2009

A formidable weapon

When a character is deliberately blown from reality into an imaginary state, be it through writing, theatre, a comical sketch or satire, which is the work of any writer or any stand up comedian, there is certainly a degree of cruelty involved, since one must carve away in there like one moulds play dough. It is quite an efficient manner of not loving to hold the other for a transformable object, for a "modelizeable" working matter. The potter uses clay to make a vase, so too does the writer, in the form of characters.

So when you listen to a stand up comedian how do you know there is not a real person behind his character who is rageing or sulking, because he/she knows there is such and such an allusion made to a real life story. This phenomenon is far from being novel.

In painting for example, many an artist has amused himself in giving to his characters traits of existing people by portraying them on a canvass in a grotesque fashion, or at the least disadvantageously. With the representation of the Apocalypse, for example, you will be told that such and such a character at the bottom left corner, where hell is portrayed with souls burning in a marmite, is the grocer of the author to whom he owed money, or this one, his own wife, etc. Nowadays no one gives a hoot, but back then, the grocer and the wife must not have been overjoyed, especially if an observer detailing the canvass came to say: look at that woman rotting in hell, what a nasty face she has! That is well deserved!

The painter is oblivious. He just paints in various colours the obscenities he observes around him. He brings them to the limelight. He couldn't care less about the rest.

With writing it is the same. Someone like Marc-Edouard Nabe, the son of the saxophonist Zanini, wrote a "Personal Diary" in 5 or 6 volumes of 800 pages each. He goes very far since he prints family names and demolishes or hails right and left. Many people in the music or literary world were concerned. He even describes in detail how his wife Helene "treats" him, how she cheats on him, how he shoos her away or on the contrary how he loves her. Everything is there, to the nearest toenail. He also derides hundreds of people whom he only intersected with for a few hours. He must not have made himself many friends. He doesn't care. It's not his problem. For that matter he wrote this sentence on each of the books in this diary: "The more the details of my life are known, the more I will be free".

He isn't wrong. But, pray tell, free of what? Well free of loving or of not loving in a few sentences or not, and this for the simple reason that to make a secret public is to execute love, it never fails: there is no love without secrets, and to expose the secret, or the so called secret, is to liquidate the love or friendship that goes with it, or said to be. One must recognize that this is an efficient recourse and a rather formidable weapon to have at hand which the artist can weild at any moment to the detriment of those who annoy him, and in a profitable manner since he monetizes the satire to the delight of the reader who has paid his entrance ticket, as Louis-Ferdinand CĂ©line would say.


  1. Well I think it all depend of the degree of sensibility/paranoia of the watcher/reader. I personally recognize myself behind any standup comedy, (but I think this is the goal of a stand up comedy), behind some movie caracters, books caracters, etc...Most of the time, I take it the cool way , but sometimes it can makes me very angry too....depend of my degree of paranoia that day!

  2. I make no claims to be smart. Because that would just be stupid. But I did spend several years doing stand up comedy. So I met a lot of stand up comedians. The majority of them were the most insecure and unhappy people it has ever been my pleasure to meet. These people lived to play through the pain. Like Woody Allen said “tragedy plus time equals comedy.” (At least I think it was him, but don’t quote me on quoting him… Like I said: I make no claims to be smart.)


  3. As Jean-Phillipe de Delay, my uncle, used to say, "Modelizeable, integrationable, Apocalypsable, imitationable, rewrites of Dante's Inferno ain't gonna get it, boy. You gotta get out there and jump them stumps, slip and slide and get some mud up your-..."
    Well, uncle Jean -Phillipe was colorful and a life-long dipsomaniac, but he knew how to monetize his satire. His last book published in 1948 was entitled, "The Life and Occassional Thoughts of Louis-Ferdinand Celine." He was the grand uncle of Celine Dion.Count Sneaky

  4. AH,
    Haha, yes that is something else, I noticed it makes things much more lively when the audience is involved.

    This is very interesting. You obviously have some talent to have done stand-up comedy :) I have heard the same of actors too. If I take the case of the Parisian scene, there are comedians who cater to the mainstream, and others who are real artists of the word (like Raymond Devos). There is also a certain tradition of vitriol/irreverence amongst some French authors (which has probably been mostly lost). :)

    I tried looking up these names, they must have come before the Internet. Too bad! :)

  5. Let's face it, tortured souls and passionate people make the best artist. If you can express what others suppress you will impress.

    "The more the details of my life are known, the more I will be free" That's a motto of my blog. I have tried to keep everything to myself because I did not trust people with the details of my life. I did not know that holding everything in was instead proving that I did not trust myself. A strong person can handle others reactions. A generous person can give of themselves freely. I want to be both strong and generous so I must commit myself to vulnerability in life and in art.

    Wish me luck.

  6. 3L,

    a) Actually it seems quite a few artists oppose their artistic prowess to a metaphysical quest - like Emile Cioran (one of the great French prose stylists of the 20th century). Express... supress... impress... nice! :)

    b) Good luck! ;)