On Comedy

That comedy is a mansion built on tragic foundations was a theory given credence by Sigmund Freud. “A jest betrays something serious,” he wrote in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious... The first doubled comedians were the first professional comedians, the comic actors who plied their trade as professional theaters emerged during the late sixteenth century. It was these men for whom the word comedian was coined, a designation that sought to describe the nature of their labor by placing them within a strict generic context. Prior to this moment, it was not possible to define comedy so neatly, nor could it be so closely associated with particular individuals. Rather, it existed as part of the much wider category of “fooling,” a diverse and multi-faceted portmanteau of spectacles that might include jugglers, acrobats, and simpletons as much as it did jesters and wits. Medieval fooling could also incorporate a mystical dimension, imagining the fool as both scapegoat and scourge, a quasi-apocalyptic Everyman who stood to remind us of the principle listed by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians: ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.’

Andrew McConnell Stott, "Split Personalities," Lapham's Quarterly - http://bit.ly/1cFqbTq

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