Edmund Kean was right. Comedy is hard. Even if you get it right, you’re still risking your life. Most of the cartoonists killed Wednesday at Charlie Hebdo were veterans of art and satire both. Collectively, they represented the most refined aspects of the adolescent mind, refined in that peculiar French sense that gave the world cognac. If I could even imagine the Muslim mind boiled down and distilled in similar fashion, I would present my imagery here. Alas, I cannot.
The world lacks exposure to the subtleties of Muslim humor. If we could only know what makes for a great Muslim stand-up routine, we would have revealed perhaps the key to the greatest secret the future has yet to reveal: not faster-than-light travel, not profit without risk, not even the Universal Eternal Power source. The Muslim sense of humor, as elusive as Sasquatch.
Discussing “The Producers”, Mel Brooks observed that, whenever he contemplated murderers, bullies, dictators or other thugs who are unhappy until everyone else is unhappy, the only response he had was to laugh at them. “Springtime for Hitler” was the perfect response to goose-stepping legions. One kick line for another.
The cartoonists knew what they were getting into even as they did it. They were heavyweight champions of the world, and the thugs murdered twelve of them, all in the same rooms. At that, the thugs did not destroy a generation. They have friends, these giants, cartoonists, who once joined them in other rooms. I want to see the responses of these friends, and I want to laugh when I do.
This doesn’t lessen my grief. I mourn their deaths as I mourn the atrocious deaths of any artists. I remember Socrates, who died from the ignorant faith of his fellow Athenians (he taught understanding, and advocated understanding everything. His fellow Athenians were afraid that attitude would cause the city’s gods to become angry. They forced the great teacher to drink hemlock.)
I mourn all great artists and teachers. I do it in private, though. Please excuse me.