Comedy is a drama genre favored by the audience, because its exaggerated and witty expressions and characterization of comedy will cause people to laugh at witty and funny. To truly achieve the purpose of making the audience laugh is the essence of comedy, so comedy has many forms of expression. However, most comedic movies that are truly regarded as classics mostly use ‘laughter’ to satirize real life and reflect absurd forms of realistic tragedy——absurd comedy. Now, I would like to analyze the absurd comedy and study its essential elements of being regarded as a classic.
Understanding the meaning of ‘absurd’ is crucial because it is the key word of absurd comedy. We can find many answers for this. At first, absurdity refers to incoordination in music. It explained in the dictionary as: completely opposed to reason; wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate. Therefore, both the original meaning of ‘absurd’ in music and the meaning in modern dictionaries sound derogatory. But most people’s perception of it is emotional.
Albert Camus said in “The Myth of Sisyphus”: “A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity.” So, absurdity is a kind of emotional recognition that brings pain to the world and the state of human existence and this perception is prone to resonate.
After understanding the meaning of ‘absurd’ expression, we realized that absurdity is a symbol of pain and tragedy. This expression form of such thinking and emotion determines whether a drama can become an art. Tragedy is one of the manifestations of an idea. Tragedy and comedy in ancient Greece were two opposing categories of art. Tragedy is solemn and serious, while comedy is relaxed and lively. The audience will only have a single reflection of the two opposing themes. With the development of drama art, the two elements can be merged together, so the audience will not find the single comedy element boring. This kind of drama evolved into ‘tragic comedy’, which is also absurd comedy.
There are several characteristics of absurd comedy:
- Oppose the tradition of drama and abandon the logic and coherence in structure, language and plot;
- Usually use symbols and metaphors to express the theme;
- Express the serious tragedy theme in a relaxed comedy form.
There are two representative types of absurd comedy. The first is characterized by black humor. This comedy highlights the irrationality of the world in which people live and the incoordination between the environment and the individual. Behind the seemingly funny is hidden deep thought and heavy thoughts and emotions. It creates an abominable, scary, and ridiculous world with irrational scenarios. It means that the ugly phenomenon of a morbid society is revealed in the form of comedy.
For example, in the movie Lobster, there is a large environment——a hotel. All people who live in hotels need to find their partner; otherwise they will be turned into animals. However, a successful couple requires very high requirements, for example, the two sides need to be character, movement, and look exactly the same. If someone deliberately pretends to find the other half, he will be severely punished. The ‘absurd’ of this movie is reflected in the paradoxical rigidity and mechanical sense in human behavior.
Human beings cannot decide their own lives but are forced to obey a fixed social value, and the hotel is the social machine that enforces this value norm, which is cruel and cold-blooded. But what seems paradoxical is that the movie also carries a lot of laughs. For example, when the actor and the couple pretending to fall in love sing together, the rhythm of the body is so unified that is mechanical and funny.
The second type is a social comedy that reflects reality. Compared to black humor, this type of absurd comedy pays more attention to the authenticity of the plot context, and reflects various real-life issues in society. It‘s like to take the “shame cloth” of the world off. Expressively, realistic comedies create a partial sense of absurdity, used to contrast with reality and exaggerated the reality.
The film Hello Mr. Billionaire narrates a main character who has lost his job to be a poor man all the year round suddenly become a Billionaire. Since then, his life and the attitudes of the people he has dealt with have changed dramatically. The humor and absurdity of this comedy are the ridiculous and uncoordinated stories of a 30-year-old poor living a richest man’s life for the first time, such as inviting Bill Gates to eat animal offal grill. Behind the laughter of the audience, some very ironic plots are also displayed in front of us.
This movie satirizes a pecuniary society. Even if this billionaire is doing something inconsistent with his identity and making many jokes, people in the society respect him very much. The person who hates the main character even quickly switches the mode of getting along on the first day when the man becomes rich, and becomes submissive and dependent.
So, what is the essence of absurd comedy? In other words, what factors make absurd comedy an art worth studying? The charm of absurd comedy lies in its unique form of expression. Absurdity is the intermediary of tragedy and comedy so that we cannot give a fixed position to absurd comedy. It reflects the essence of life, that is, like coins, it has two sides.
As stated in ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’: ‘Happiness and absurdity come from the same world, they are the two sons of the earth. Happiness comes from absurdity and absurdity also comes from happiness. ‘The key of deciding which side of the coin lies in the viewer’s position, which determines his understanding and opinion. For example, clowns are elements of our well-known absurd comedy, but everyone sees clowns with different emotions. Their funny actions and appearance will make the children laugh, but people after caring about them behind the mask will understand that all the funny things on the surface are to r espond to the huge sadness at the root.
Therefore, the performance of absurd comedy happens to contain the dual characteristics of this world, giving a richer meaning to a world. Moreover, from the theme to the form of absurd comedy is a huge innovation in the history of human art. Its particularity is that it no longer follows the patterns, principles and methods of traditional novels and dramas, but presents the ideological connotation of ‘absurd’ directly on the stage in the form of ‘absurd’, so that the audience has a more vivid thought and interpretation.
The audience’s understanding of the double meaning in the absurd comedy also reflects the ethical and moral problems of human beings, because human nature determines that they are more inclined to pay attention to things close to their lives. Tragedy is life seen from a close distance, and comedy is life seen from a distance. The purpose of comedy is to delight the audience.
The joy of comedy is to create a sense of superiority from the misfortune of others, thereby obtaining psychological satisfaction. When people watch comedy, they just want to know whether there is ‘is there’ and not ‘why’. Unfortunately, people don’t care, because once they care, they will find that these details of suffering seem to be deducing themselves.
Once the comedy creator showed this part naked and made the audience realize that ‘I am as stupid as the character in the play’, or ‘I have the same miserable possibility as the character in the play’, the audience cannot laugh, meaning that the comedy becomes A pure tragedy. And the success of the absurd comedy lies in the creator’s just sense of control over this sadness and joy. In addition, the unrealistic scenes in the absurd comedy will also bring novelty to the audience. Therefore, the audience will be very curious about what will happen in the impossible environment of the film lobster and break some inherent patterns of thinking.
In conclusion, At this point, we can see that absurd comedy is an exaggerated and misplaced art. Absurdity comes from philosophical and practical issues, and comedy is a utopia in the hearts of the audience. Absurd comedy is to find truth in absurdity. It shines into people’s hearts in the most ideal way and takes off people’s masks. Therefore, since everyone is unwilling to face the ‘absurdity’ of their own world, a valuable art form is needed to keep everyone realistic and avoid being immersed in ‘comedy’ forever.
- Reading: “Camus Myth of Sisyphus”
- Notes on Clowns
- “The Stranger – Albert Camus.” Pg.117 Google, books.google.com.hk/books?id=YXDlsha-vcIC.
- The film Hello Mr. Billionaire(2018) , directed by Damo Peng, Fei Yan
- The film The Lobster(2015), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos