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On Comedy

Vanity Fair Comedy - Tracee Ellis Ross
On Comedy Posted on December 12th, 2012 in Musings.

The Vanity Fair Comedy Issue is great! This year, it’s guest-edited by Judd Apatow. I have always loved comedy. Yes, for the obvious reason- cause it makes me laugh, but also because it was through comedy that I came to understand myself. Growing up, I was very comforted by Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Steve Martin, Lilly Tomlin, Gilda Radner, and Eddie Murphy getting in the Hot Tub as James Brown!

I was born quite a silly person. I have my father to thank for that…my real middle name is Joy. My mom said I just came into this world with a joyful spirit – joyful and energetic. HA! My pediatrician suggested to my mom that I was like a ball of energy and her job was to help direct my energy in a positive direction. I seem to express myself mostly thru my body, and even my pain seems to come out as joy. Many a dinner was interrupted by my unique zest for life or as my Grandma called it the “12 year old giggles” (which I still seem to have at 40). So when I discovered others expressing their fears, pains and observations through comedy, when I saw Lucile Ball stuffing chocolate in her mouth and Carol wiggling around I found it explained myself to me. I am in no way comparing myself to these greats, but I know a part of me shares something in common with them.

Which brings me back to this fabulous new VF issue. It features some of the Comedy greats: Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, Jim Carrey, Steve Martin. It also features Sarah Silverman in a wonderful “Young Hollywood” spread in which she really stands out (though she is slightly upstaged by the man in the lilac satin gown) and Zach Galifianakis with “Dispatches from the Set” where I read one of the funniest lines, maybe ever, about a a bird farting. There’s also a stupidly awesome article on Mike Nichols and Elaine May and just so, so much more. It’s a thin issue that is jam packed with incredible stuff.

One of my favorite gems from the issue came from director, writer, producer and comedian, Mike Nichols. When asked, “What is the point of humor in society?” Nichols answers, in part, “It’s the expression of freedom. He goes on from there, but for me comedy at it’s finest is just that: The expression of FREEDOM!”

I also finally watched “The Eddie Murphy-One Night Only” special, and after reading the VF issue and watching this I am struck by how comedy seems to live in friendships and within connection. I love the thought of this. The magic that occurs in some of these epic partnerships; the idea of collaboration is a fun and delicious one to ponder. Does a tree make a sound when it falls if no one is there to hear it? Is comedy funny if no one is there to laugh?


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