In contemporary art, irony and humor seem inseparable. They are, however, distinct and somewhat polar opposites: irony is an art of depth, humor is an art of the surface. Take the work of Don DeLillo. It's funny at times, of course,... [more]
In contemporary art, irony and humor seem inseparable. They are, however, distinct and somewhat polar opposites: irony is an art of depth, humor is an art of the surface. Take the work of Don DeLillo. It's funny at times, of course, but humor doesn't totalize it. We always get the sense that a truly serious abyss of despair lies just below the thin film of humor, always threatening to puncture it. Such is the nature of irony: it both conceals and reveals the abyss.
In contrast, Contemporary Comedianism occupies the realm of true humor. True humor covers nothing: it is purely superficial. Even if it does reckon with nothingness, it doesn't do so seriously. This is the difference between Neo-Ironic literature and Contemporary Comedianism: irony takes nothingness (the abyss) quite seriously, whereas humor quite simply takes nothing seriously at all.
This is to say that humor brings everything to the surface; it leaves no depth beneath it. There might be mockery, even self-mockery -- however, the supposedly mocked self has dissolved, or risen to the surface where it shines. The situation of the author may be profoundly bleak, but, as Gilles Deleuze has said, everything changes in nature as it rises to the surface: bleakness becomes a sudden ebullience.
Take, for example, the case of John Kennedy Toole. He wrote two novels, neither of which he managed to publish by the time he killed himself. His last novel, 'A Confederacy of Dunces,' is a masterpiece of Contemporary Comedianism, a resplendent example of comedic possibilities. Irony is nowhere to be found in it. Whereas with irony we get the sense of ever-incipient dread, producing brief bouts of abortive laughter that end in awkward silence, Toole's humor induces enduring convulsions that take time to settle down. Clearly, the man's life was quite grim. But at the surface, the grimness is transformed into a hilarious sequence of events.
In a sense, Contemporary Comedianism looks to Cervantes' Don Quixote as the ultimate model. Quixote saturates himself so thoroughly with fictions that his lunacy becomes essentially unassailable. As his story unfolds, Don Quixote encounters obstacles that test the strength of his illusions. But as his reputation follows him wherever he goes, the entire world falls into a totalizing delirium, coruscating on a single surface over which Quixote himself incessantly travels. Contemporary Comedianism in general strives towards this ideal: to make misunderstandings and petty grievances the objects of a hilarious affirmation, and to construct a purely superficial world in which even the grimmest of events shine. [show less]