IN THE PROLOGUE to his ribald and comic tale, contained in Geoffrey Chaucer’s brilliant fourteenth-century poem Canterbury Tales, the Reeve observes of “olde men” that
Till we be rotten, can we not be ripe.
We hop away while that the world will pipe.
For in our will there sticketh aye a nail,
To have an hoary head and a green tail.
Or to phrase it another way – as indeed it is phrased elsewhere in the poem – though there be snow on the chimney, there is fire down below.
I am most at home among those who’ve an appreciation of the absurd. To detractors this would perhaps be characterized as the silly or, at further depths of condescension, the juvenile. I don’t much mind either characterization and will plead guilty as charged if pressed to do so. You see, my people have a touch of anarchy about them as well as a suspicion (perhaps more than a suspicion) that human pretension, and especially the human pretension toward civilization, is at bottom ridiculous and thus fit for ridicule. An effective mode of ridicule I find is the raspberry, the gesture which indicates that its object is regarded with a lowly contempt precluding a need of serious rebuke. Better still is whimsy for its own sake. On that foundation rests my preference for comedy and comedians aspiring to no identifiable social purpose, for examples and in no particular order Gilda Radner, Jackass, The Mighty Boosh, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This preference took root in my childhood, which suggests the term juvenile does have merit. Continue reading And Now For Something Completely Different