Let me start by quoting from a letter I wrote yesterday to a very dear friend of mine, whom I think I shall refer to as GULP as that word is reminiscent of his initials. So is PLUG for that matter, but I wouldn’t want the reader to jump to any unsavoury conclusions on the mere happenstance of anagrams and initials.
The letter was written as an expression of gratitude for his sending me DVDs and a video all the way from Lane Cove post office (Sydney) to Brno (Czech Republic).
The extract-come-paraphrase goes like this:
Earlier this year, I happened to see a Brit TV series on DVD, The Office. The “sleeve” notes confirmed the opinion of its recommender, that it was the laugh of the century. Hilarious satire etc. Well it wasn’t - not to me. I thought the main character, the really funny one, Mike (?), was so tragic and pathetic that I ached for him and I could never laugh at anyone in that situation. Once again I am out on a limb here - when relating this to others who’ve seen it, they to a (wo-)man loved it and couldn’t understand my reaction, at least not to the extent of being unable to laugh.
You know me better than most, and know how funny I find comedy, and how much I crave it. But I’ve never found cruelty funny, not in Roadrunner, nor in slapstick when someone cops a bucket of paint on his head or gets slapped in the face by a revolving door. Perhaps it is an analogous psychological cruelty in The Office that makes me cringe and whinge.
You know me better than most. I’m sure you can see where this is leading. I watched the first two episodes of Kath & Kim and felt more or less the same. It’s got the added burden of being vulgar. I’ll watch some more of it and maybe I’ll get into it, or more importantly, I’ll get it. It’s quite fascinating from an introspective point of view to find how far off centre I am - hardly a new discovery. find ==> confirm.
Well, that’s the end of that extract.
Regrettably I sent the letter from which this comes, before coming across these paragraphs from Charles Osborne’s 1998 novel The Pink Danube – upon which my pen shall perambulate in later blogs.
p.128-9: The play I saw was a quite ordinary Broadway comedy. I can remember very little of it now except that it concerned a young American middle-class couple and their two children, their interfering in-laws, their feelings about education, television and love. In a normal, undrugged condition, I think I would have been rather bored by it. … However, under the influence of the mescalin I reacted to this innocuous comedy as on other occasions I have reacted to King Lear. I felt I was witnessing a great tragedy, in which the situation of modern man in search of a soul was being dispassionately examined. The things that the characters said and did to one another appeared to me to be shocking and horrifying. The American psyche was being laid bare. … My sentiments were those of Dostoevsky’s Prince Mishkin after witnessing a hanging: “You can’t treat people like that.” … I was overcome by tears of compassion for the human condition.
Charles Osborne is clearly the writer among us. He admits that if he were not drugged, he would probably have been shrieking with laughter along with the rest of the audience. I wonder if my reaction would have been more conventional had I watched K & K or The Office amid friends and enthusiasts.