TT: Hello out there in radio-land! This is the Threadbare Traveler, comin at you raw with this week’s installment of “Head-to-Head.” We’ve got a great panel for you tonight, guys. On my left is Mr. Dark—
Mr. Dark: Hullo…great to be here.
TT: —and on my right is Mr. Black.
Mr. Black: Sup.
TT: Tonight we’re gonna be discussing these two bad boys’ opinions on various comedies. Now, first, I feel this isn’t the first time you guys have met.
Mr. Dark: You know damn well we know each other.
Mr. Black: Yehh…we TOL’ you this like, five minutes ago.
TT: Hah-hah…it’s just for the audience boys…
Mr. Black: …an stop callin us BOYS…we’ve been around the block more times than you can COUNT.
TT: Oo! Faux-pas! Sorry…you guys just look so darn YOUTHFUL.
Mr. Dark: Thanks. You know what? Keep calling us that. It’s very ironic.
Mr. Black: You can call me Black, danks.
TT: What an intro! Now, the first topic on the firing line—the much-lauded TV Comedy ‘Arrested Development.’ Love it or hate it? Black, you wanna it start out?
Mr. Black: Yehh. Love it. Def love it. Best comedy I’ve ever seen on TV.
TT: Mr. Dark?
Mr. Dark: I think it’s a good show. Its humor is very complex and original. It’s almost a GREAT show. But I failed to empathize with any of the characters, so, at the end, it’s nothing more than a bunch of assholes running around, being assholes to each other.
TT: Black? You just let air escape your mouth in a manner suggesting you disagree.
Mr. Black: Astute observation. Yeah. I mean, the humor’s there, and assholes bein assholes is what comedy is made from, so I don’ really see the problem.
Mr. Dark: The problem is, I fail to become emotionally involved. I don’t care about any of the characters’ fates.
Mr. Black: Did you laugh?
Mr. Dark: At the show? I mean, yeah. But that’s not all there is to it.
Mr. Black: I think you’re mixin up comedy with drama ova here. The more you laugh, the better the comedy is.
Mr. Dark: OK…here’s my problem. I think with this show, as with other shows you’ve professed to liking, you’re just laughing AT the characters while failing to empathize with their plights.
Mr. Black: Yo.
Mr. Dark: What?
Mr. Black: I want you to think for a sec: when you’re watching a comedy, you’re laughin, right?
Mr. Dark: Often.
Mr. Black: Are you laughing at the characters when they laugh? Like, do they tell a joke, and you jus burst out alongside them? Or do you do the opposite? Like when something bad happens to them, you laugh?
Mr. Dark: Well…
Mr. Black: Let me answer for you: you laugh when something bad happens to them. In any comedy. That’s what comedy is: making fun of people.
Mr. Dark: I…
Mr. Black: Lemme finish. I used to act. I was doin this play with my mentor, Mary Bracken Phillips, big playwright, got nominated for Tonys and shit. We were goin through Meisner, and were readin this bit of Tom Stoppard. This comedy. You know what she tol’ me? She said: don’t try to be funny when you’re doing comedy. When you’re doin a comedy, act the same way you would in a drama, cause it’s the situations, the writing that makes it funny. A comedy should be acted dramatically, an’ it’s just the fact that the situations are a little ridiculous, a little satirical, that makes people laugh. You’re not tryin to be funny when you’re actin comedy…you’re showin the same anxiety or uncomfortableness or self-hate that you would in a drama, and the audience giggles. The only difference is that comedy’s a little over the top. An’ that’s ALL comedy.
Mr. Dark: I disagree.
Mr. Black: You’re sayin that you’re laughin at the screen when sumthin happy happens?
Mr. Dark: No. I’m saying I Iaugh at misfortunes too. But you can laugh at a character and still have love for them. In Arrested Development…
TT: …bringin it back…
Mr. Dark…I laugh at the characters, but with derision. I don’t laugh with fondness. That’s why it is an inferior show.
Mr. Black: waitwaitwait…now THIS is comedy…you sayin it’s funnier for a character you CARE about to be hurt, instead of one you don’t care about? Psff. You’re tryin to be all holier-than-thou, sayin you gotta CARE about the characters, but then you admit that it’s funnier when characters you care about get hurt.
TT: Slingin the BIG rocks over here. Alright, next topic of conversation…you’ve both seen Fargo?
TT: You guys get that? Fargo?
Mr. Black: Yehh. We gottit. We’re jus’ not responding to questions that we’ve already been asked.
TT: Well, guys, at least they agree on SOMETHING!!…anywho, one of the most discussed scenes in that movie features the kidnap victim trying to escape from the clutches of her captors, played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare. She gets out of the car, but they are in the middle of nowhere, her hands are bound, and there’s a burlap sack over her head. The two captors realize that she’s goin nowhere fast, so they just sit back and watch her stumble about. Whaddaya guys think about this scene?
Mr. Black: Hilarious.
TT: Mr. Dark?
Mr. Dark: I thought the scene was excellent, but I didn’t find it funny.
Mr. Black: Wut, there wasn’t some part of you that found it funny, that woman stumbling around with the sack over her head? Fuckin’ pure slapstick. An’ slapstick is some of the purest comedy out there: it’s showin people in PHYSICAL pain, not jus’ mental.
Mr. Dark: I thought the scene was scary.
TT: Not funny at all?
Mr. Dark: Well…well, that’s what made it scary. There was…some…part of me that found it funny, but there was also some part of me that found it scary. It was the mixing of these two dissimilar emotions that made the scene so good. I cared about the woman, so I was scared for her, but it was also funny in a way.
Mr. Black: I think you’re not sayin all you’re thinkin, Dark. I think it scared YOU that YOU found a kidnapping scene funny.
Mr. Dark: Perhaps. It was a very dark movie…but I think I got a lot more out of it then Black, who probably just giggled through the entire thing.
Mr. Black: Well, least I was laughing at a character I didn’t care about…you were laughing at someone you did.
Mr. Dark: Well, I didn’t actually LAUGH.
Mr. Black: Oh yeah, I forgot…you’re one of those cats that just sardonically appreciates comedy instead of laughing.
Mr. Dark: Y’know what, Black? I think you just don’t get it. You can laugh with fondness, or you can laugh with hate. You do the latter. I take joy in the shared follies of humanity, because I realize that I’ve been there, experienced the same things. In a way, I’m laughing at my own humanity. You hate humanity, and you laugh with hate. That’s why you like Arrested Development so much. The show presents hateful characters, and you bust your gut because you feel they deserve to be in pain. You like separating yourself from the comedy.
Mr. Black: So you found it funny…I’m sorry…some PART of you found it funny, because you can empathize with being kidnapped?
Mr. Dark: Not directly, but yes. I was scared because I was laughing at a pain similar to my own.
TT: Whoa! Discussion’s getting hea-TED. Well, that’s what makes good radio, all y’all out there! Next hot topic: The Darwin Awards just gave out its posthumous 1st place Award this year to a California man. When his gun failed to fire during a robbery, he looked down the barrel and pulled the trigger a second time to test it out. This time, it worked…Black, you’re laughing.
Mr. Black: Yehh, didn’t get a chance to check out the Darwins this year…that’s a good one.
TT: Mr. Dark? You’re shaking your head. Not laugh-tastic to you?
Mr. Dark: I don’t even see why this is being discussed. That’s not fiction; that’s reality and it’s horrible. How can you laugh at that?
Mr. Black: Lemme see…probably because it was on the internet.
Mr. Dark: What?
Mr. Black:…yeah…the internet. Same place I watched all the movies we were talkin about.
TT: Apparently, Dark downloads illegally.
Mr. Black: Wut I’m sayin is, how is this story any different from any of the other stories we were talkin about? Wasn’t me, wasn’t anyone I know…never even been to Cali. I mean, if that story was a hoax, there’d be no way of us knowin. Could jus be some humor writer or some shit…I mean, prob NOT, the Darwins’ are good on their research…but you know what I’m sayin? Same as fiction to someone who reads about it a thousand miles away. And if Darkie over there claims anything different, he’s a liar.
Mr. Dark: Ex-CUSE me?
TT: Whoa! Drama in the studio!
Mr. Black: Comedy to everyone listening.
Mr. Dark: So, you’re sayin that if!…that happened to someone you know, it wouldn’t be funny, but sad?
Mr. Black: Psh. This is a guy who tried to fuckin SHOOT someone here, you forget already? Dude haddit comin to him. He was a guy who deserved hate and pain, deserved what he got…so yeah: even if I knew the cat, it’d be funny.
Mr. Dark: You just…just…DESPISE humanity, don’t you?
Mr. Black: If by humanity, you mean the humanity that tries to kill someone ova a couple bucks?
Mr. Dark: Kinda taken out of context, don’t you think? You don’t know the history of that man, how his life was proabably shit, how he was probably damaged goods, like you or me? For fucks sake, empathize!
Mr. Black: You know what? You’re one funny muthafucka. You make me laugh…huhuhuhuh…you really do, with your moral pretentions, tryin to be something you’re not. Humanity is shit, sit back and enjoy the show!
TT: Getting HEAVY in here!
Mr. Dark: FUCK YOU!!!
TT: Dark…I’m sorry, MISTER Dark has grabbed Black, who is still laughing. He…Mr. Dark has grabbed the mic and it beating Black about the head with it…Black has stopped laughing, looks scared…there’s blood…my God, there’s a lot of blood…Dark is down on the ground, Mr. Black…Mr. Black is stomping his head…do we have a commercial lined up?…Mr. Dark is laughing…he’s crying now…he’s laughing…he’s crying…