The comedian has been around a while. And comedians are always most funny because they are probing something true, and often painfully so. Shakespeare’s fools operated on this paradox very well, most notably in Lear. Jan Kott, a Shakespeare scholar, says this of the general role of the Shakespearean jester or fool:
He has no illusions and does not seek consolation in the existence of natural or supernatural order, which provides for the punishment of evil and the reward of good… But the Fool does not desert his ridiculous, degraded king, and accompanies him on his way to madness. The Fool knows that the only true madness is to recognize this world as rational.
Anthony Griffith is no exception to this rule, as you will see in this confessional, true-to-the-bone “success story.” A comedian who had “arrived,” Griffith made it to the benchmark of success, Carson’s The Tonight Show, and simultaneously received his laurels with ashes, as he got news of his young daughter’s cancer returning. He describes a moment in time completely bifurcated: the realization of personal ambition, and the utter shrouding of that realization with the present season of suffering. (Have we talked about suffering very much recently?) It is made all the more powerful because his life’s work is premised on packaging life into a humorously “tidy sitcom.”
He speaks of the blame-shifting that occurs in suffering, that when it always must be someone’s fault, you often think of what you’ve done to cause it; and then there’s the Denzel Washington voice within to “buck up” and see the world as it is. It is not a voice of compassion, but one of stark reality–which could be gracious in that it faces what is real, rather than what is wished or planned. All said, Griffith is here deconstructing the myth of the progress, dream-and-achieve narrative more than he is providing a qualifying ‘out’ for suffering. Suffering, while being an avenue for hope, is still suffering. The Moth presents “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.” Viewers beware: if you cannot be seen crying at work, wait until you get home (ht JD).