Expansive Poetics – (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.

Groucho Marx in “Duck Soup” (1933)

AG: I haven’t had a belly-laugh on television for years…I don’t remember one single belly-laugh (except for theMarx 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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