Propriety and Humour
The morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium - Oscar WildeI read a well-written review of a new book on Wodehouse's letters.
The writer had covered his controversial broadcasts on German Radio and how what he did was typical of his way of dealing with world - by refusing to grow-up.
But even that, at some level, seemed to rescue him and deliver him into a 'he was above all this' type of goodness. While that is a useful and necessary reaction to the accusations, on absolute terms, I thought the restoration was still on the terms of those who made the accusations.
It is surprising how much a humourist is pilloried for insensitivity when that indeed IS his trade. Looking at the world at an angle and flatly refusing to engage with reality in its own terms is what enables him to cause the 'benign violations' in the first place.
Pray, in what world/times would humour be permissible? When are we ever without violence,cruelty and suffering? It is the earmarking of subjects and times as inappropriate which I find insensitive. Insensitive to the fact that what they think is permissible humour is also cruel - but it doesn't strike them to be so.
Next only to them, are those who ascribe a social function to humour (eg. gradually lowers the limit the of acceptability, ingenious method of loosening the grip of convention, punctures self-importance etc.). Nothing wrong as such, except that, having said that they promptly forget that this is just an analysis of an existing phenomenon - humour - and not a justification for its existence. Most such analysis invariably end with palpably smug satisfaction of rescuing humour by ascribing some social utility to it.
There is little difference between such people and those who insist on humour with a message. The former may consider themselves aesthetically refined and hate didacticism in humour, that the latter group relishes. But the difference is only by a question of degree.
They appreciate humour for 'biting sarcasm' or they atleast want to be able to say the clichéd 'a much needed relief in the dark times'. All within their current framework! They find it unfathomable that someone they like could possibly not share their social concerns.
Now, am I unruffled because my appreciation has little do with my social concerns or because I share his (alleged) apathy about the larger questions of life.
Hmm..Let me believe it is the former.