what is comic relief?

Nov 19, 2006 by

Main Entry: comic relief
Function: noun
: a relief from the emotional tension especially of a drama that is provided by the interposition of a comic episode or element

Hmmmmm….so that’s comic relief in the traditional, dictionary ala Greek and/or Shakesperean sense… thus spoke Zarathutsra, er, i mean Webster. No mention of Falstaff, neither the charcter nor the beer, doing a benefit. True comic relief doesn’t draw attention to itself or its celebrity drinking buddies. It doesn’t shake a can, have a phonebank, or arrange for photo opps. True comic relief is the laugh at the funeral near the murdered corpse real close to the tragedy right before we return to the scene of the crime. What we need in New Orleans is that laugh, that oh-so cathartic laugh, before we return back to the horror and get back to work. BUT do we really need another celebrity-baitied and celebrity-baiting fundraiser? REMEMBER: it took years for George Harrison’s money to ever make it to Bangladesh. Personally, I’ve been leery ever since.

Don’t get me wrong. Parts of last night’s show were inspired. Oh inspirational and perspirational Muses, though ye are oft mispronounced round here! Bob Zmuda was right on the mark that things are still broken. Billy Crystal was dead on with his Lord Buckley-esque character sketch of the old clarinet jazz cat. “Can you dig it?” However, Robin Williams’ crotch grabbing was neither comic nor relief. Likewise, Whoopi’s ethnic presence was just that: ethnic and present. PERIOD.

It truly surprised me that Zmuda, the founder of Comic Relief, who allegedly spent six months here to do his homework prior to last night’s comic release and nocturnal transmission, did not include any local comics. Yes, we’re here… some us working the same clubs where Bob Zmuda milked Andy Kaufman’s ghost in the form of Tony Clifton.
Perhaps we local comics aren’t the A-List and A-Team of Hollywood Squares that pranced the stage last night. Perhaps we don’t have the name recognition or bank accounts or as friends on myspace. BUT unlike Dane Cook, John Stewart, or Roseanne Barr, we have that little something something that was missing from the soire. We have a comic insight that none, i repeat none, of those comics did have, do have, or ever will have. We lived in New Orleans. AND we still live here. We lost homes. We lost family. A part of us died August 2005. A part of us continues to die everyday. We know what it means to miss New Orleans. It’s a little disappointing and upsetting to have a non-New Orleanian bastardize and blaspheme that tune or even “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It’s hard to stomach really–like hearing Springsteen doing a Pete Seeger tribute by covering songs that Pete Seeger didn’t write. Right? He’s no boss of me. But I digress… How can you miss a city you’ve never been to? LIKEWISE both the spirit of the city and the gospel roots of “the Saints” were lost in the opening dance number. This isn’t the Oscars. This is my life. Did they miss New Orleans? NO. Did they miss the mark? YES. Heck, they were in Vegas. We appreciate the spotlight, but…

Let me end with my own experience, the tragedy that surrounds my comic relief (see definition above). In the past 14 months I have lost job(s), home, and family. My mom’s body was subsequently lost, er, misplaced by FEMA. I have received no monies from my insurance. I have received no monies from the Road Home Program. I have received no monies from Tipitina’s or any of the other musician/ performer foundations, although i have applied to several of them several times. There are several potholes in my road home. As Whoopi, Robin, Billy, and company were preparing to take the stage (once again, in Vegas, not here), I received my own form of comic relief, a FEMA check in the amount of $347.25 to cover my mother’s funeral expenses. Comic relief indeed. Check your local listings. BLOG THIS!

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