Expansive Poetics – 109 (Beauty, Humor (and no belly-laughter from television)

[A performing chimpanzee, “Zippy”, watches tv in 1955]

Student:  Why do you find beauty in it (Benjamin Peret’s poem, “Hymn of The Patriotic Old Soldier”) if it’s so crude ?

benjamin péret

[Benjamin Peret]

AG: If it’s crude? Well, there’s a certain delicacy. In this sense, he’s parodying an old soldier. He’s like a tough, funny, French, old soldier who’s very frank, who doesn’t give a shit for the army and doesn’t give a shit for patriotism but is an old soldier and won his Legion of Honor and he’s actually exhibiting a certain humanity – “To remember my ribbon of hour/I’ve painted my nose red/and put parsley up my nostrils/for the Military Cross.”

Student: Yeah, it’s..

AG: That’s real speech

Student: (Well, it’s in a) humorous form.

AG: Yes.

Student: How about..

AG: I find beauty in it.

Student: Yeah, it’s very good..

AG: Human beauty, human beauty. The best beauty is human beauty. Yeah

Student: It’s very compassionate and humane…

AG: Compassion. Absolutely.

Student: If you balance (it) up against (Louis-Ferdinand) Celine’s vision of that same war

[Louis-Ferdinand Celine]

AG: Oh, Celine is just as funny, actually, in a way.  The social function of… I said “irresponsibility”, I don’t  mean, really, “irresponsibility”, I mean “liberty” – Liberty, liberty – not being intimidated by reality.


Student: How about the comedy (that) we see on television? Is that..

Student (2): What comedy?

Student:  …also a belly-laugh to break the Cold War?

AG: There are very few belly-laughs on television

Student: I think so too.

AG: I haven’t had a belly-laugh on television for years…I don’t remember one single belly-laugh (except for the Marx Brothers on television. I don’t remember. Literally. I’ve never had a belly laugh off a television. Have you actually? Has anybody here actually had a literal belly-laugh, like a total.
Student: Yeah
AG: ..What was it?


[Jane Curtain, Dan Ackroyd & Lorraine Newman as “Coneheads” on “Saturday Night Live” c. 1975]

Student: “Saturday Night Live” used to be really good.
AG: Well, that might be. And that was considered a bit progressive.
Student: I mean, I might cry too from television, like seeing a sad story..
AG: Uh-huh
Student: Tears…
AG: Well, tears are equally good. Tears will do to dissolve the fixation, as well (laughter).
Student: “The Three Stooges”


[“The Three Stooges (MO Howard, Curly Howard and Larry Fine (c.1938)]

AG:  “The Three Stooges” I’d buy. They’re on television, yeah. But the regular program comedy of television hasn’t been very…risible..

Student: I think it’s evil. It makes people escape the whole creation.

AG: Agree. (I’ll agree).

Student (CC): I… isn’t this poem, though, when you say Celine’s description of the same war, then aren’t we ultimately connected to the reality of war and sadness?

Student: ..in that.. oh yes

AG: Well, there’s a certain realism in that, too

Student: I was just thinking of…

Student (CC): Without much humor

AG: In Celine?

Student: No, I mean in war

Student (2): Journey to the End of the Night

AG: Well, people who have been to war say there’s tremendous comedy in it actually because it’s absurd, finally. Tragedy but also comedy.

Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty-seven minutes in and concluding at approximately ninety minutes in]

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