Sunday, June 03, 2012

Chaplin, Cohen and the Joy of Honesty

I saw, ‘The Dictator’ this weekend.  I loved it.  Your results may vary depending on your perspective; your worldview, so to speak, Gentle Reader.  If you like to laugh then you will enjoy the experience.  If you are to preoccupied by the forged chains that bind you with what is acceptable to find humor in and what is not then you may find fault with the film.  That’s fine as long as you realize that is why them invented different flavors of ice cream ~ you may like the vanilla but the next person just may like the Cherry Garcia.

I’m in the, enjoy the Cherry Garcia, camp. 

Mel Brooks is quoted as saying, “Political correctness is the death of humor.”  He was right.  Shakespeare wrote two basic types of fools / jesters, the natural and the licensed.  A natural fool couldn’t help himself from being the brunt of the joke or ridicules of the court while a licensed fool was given permission to make observations to masters and mistresses of the court itself for the sake of amusement.  A proper jester can be honest.  There is truth in humor, tragedy too and a licensed fool has the ability, intelligence, and decree to do just that - find the truth in humor.  Isaac Asimov is quoted as saying, “That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all.”

Sacha Baron Cohen is no fool but he is, certainly, successful at what he does.  You may be familiar with, “Borat”, “Ali-G”, or his “Bruno” characters.  His latest creation, “General Aladeen”, the leader of Wadiya, is a welcome addition to his stable.  Over the top?  No doubt.  Blissfully so.  However, what struck me most was Aladeen’s speech about democracy near the end of the film.  It reminded me of another Licensed Fool, Charlie Chaplin, and his performance in the film, “The Great Dictator” (1940).

Here is Chaplin's speech from that film.  I encourage you to click and listen and to track down a copy.  It is simply timeless and brilliant.   

Wikipedia has this to say about the role of the fool in literature, “In literature, the jester is symbolic of common sense and of honesty, notably in King Lear, the court jester is a character used for insight and advice on the part of the monarch, taking advantage of his license to mock and speak freely to dispense frank observations and highlight the folly of his monarch. This presents a clashing irony as a "greater" man could dispense the same advice and find himself being detained in the dungeons or even executed. Only as the lowliest member of the court can the jester be the monarch's most useful adviser.” 

There is a crushing need for Licensed Fools today.  Common sense is simply not that common.  I am very pleased that Sacha Baron Cohen is here to do what he does.  So, find a baby sitter (this is not one for the kids), go to the theater, enjoy yourself (I hope you like the ice-cream), and listen closely to General Aladeen’s speech.  Chaplin & Cohen should be heeded.

It turns out there is a lot of truth in humor.

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