I don’t remember which comedian said this about comedy vs. tragedy, but I have never forgotten it: “When you slip on a banana peel and fall down, it’s comedy. When I slip on a banana peel and fall down, it’s tragedy.”
I grew up in a time when TV shows such as “The Three Stooges,” “Laurel and Hardy,” “The Little Rascals,” and so on were standard Saturday morning fare. All of them were hilarious to the young me, and all I thought about these shows was that they were funny.
Now and then my mother would tell me that slapping or hitting people was not acceptable, and that I should not act like these people. As young as I was, I fully understood that what I was seeing was certainly not acceptable behavior. To me, it was simply entertainment and nothing more.
Bear in mind that, when I was growing up in my small town, we were all pretty much the same. We were all white, most of us went to church on Sunday, and the only divisive thing in our community was whether you were Catholic or Protestant. And all that really meant was the church you attended.
As kids, we didn’t swear; our parents would have been mortified if we did, and would have told us that we were raised better than that. Every morning at school we stood, hands on hearts, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. After that we sat down at our desks, bowed our heads, clasped our hands and recited the Lord’s Prayer. For us, that was just business as usual.
We had recess twice a day, which was great to run off our energy after having to sit quietly for so long. I don’t remember much in the way of bullying, but I do remember that some kids were labeled as pariahs. All that meant was that you just didn’t play with them. As with so much else, we never questioned it.
When we watched comics on TV, none of them ever said a dirty word or made a rude gesture; it just wasn’t done. It was clean humor, meant to amuse and nothing more. We watched shows like “The Life of Reilly,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” The Jackie Gleason Show,” “Ed Sullivan,” “Our Miss Brooks,” “The Dean Martin Show” and so on. It was just good entertainment.
In any family show such as “Leave It to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best” or even “The Lucy Show,” any problem was always solved within the half hour and it all ended well. Those were much simpler days, of course.
Back then comedy was funny, tragedy was not. These days are vastly different. Let’s just leave it at that. I’m not saying that how I grew up was the best; it was just the way things were back then. Back then, it was a whole lot easier to know what was comic and what was tragic. These days we have to step lightly; very lightly.
Kind of sad, isn’t it?