Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
So since I’ve made the switch to dark comedy from romantic comedy from straight comedy from everything else…I’ve been wondering what dark comedy actually is.
The simple answer is stuff that is funny but also deeply uncomfortable for one reason or another.
Which presents this wonderful fertile grey area between comedy and tragedy. Between the energy that lifts our spirits and the horror that drags it down.
You know how drama comes from conflict? Well, comedy comes from conflict too.
Not just dark comedy. All comedy. Comedy is the theatre of the unexpected (yes, since living in Australia, I’m spelling like a English person again. Dashed English speakers can’t even agree on what to call a bathroom tap.)
The last place you would expect a ‘That’s what she said’ joke.
Now this example isn’t dark in my opinion. Why? Because the comedy itself isn’t uncomfortable. The circumstances around them are – these two dudes are about to rob a bank. They’ve been forced to by an unscrupulous bank. But the jokes is well-placed and cuts the tension beautifully.
So that brings me back to my question – what is dark comedy?
Dark comedy is the friction between our dark and light selves.
The parts of ourselves that want to be uplift, to love, to heal, to build, to nurture.
And the parts of ourselves that want to maim, kill, torture, destroy, control, subjugate.
The dark also comes from the abject – a constantly shifting space, of course.
Consider how this gay man was portrayed in Vietnam.
Choices were made, by all involved, that rendered this gay man pervy and funny.
Comedy comes from the unexpected. Dark comedy comes from both the unexpected and the dissonant.
What’s a good example of that?
I find Martin McDonagh’s comedy deeply problematic but I have to say he has a strong handle on this dark comedy business.
This first scene I think is supposed to set up some of the crimes that come up after as well as establish the Guard as given to deeply inappropriate behavior. Him feeling a corpse’s testicles just to take the mickey out of his junior is one example of this.
Do you feel what I’m saying? The joke makes you laugh and makes your skin crawl.
Here’s another one. So many things wrong with this scene, it’s sort of awesome.
A child using the n-word because he heard it on TV.
cop threatening a child.
And the last line – ‘killing little Protestants’.
And where exactly is the light here?
The child makes it funny. Because his transgressions are innocent.
As for the cop, we forgive him because the previous scenes have shown him to be devoted to the community and to his ailing mother. In spite of his tendency for inappropriate behavior, we believe that he is more bark than bite (more love than hate). A valid writerly tool though groan-worthy when you hear this particular character’s racist comments. And he is trying to bust a international drug smuggling ring (a desire for justice).
Dark comedy is a fuzzy genre but one I enjoy immensely. I’ll share more insights as they come to me.