Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Culture: Getting (Kinda) Serious about Comedy

Do we laugh to hide the sadness within ("tek kin teet kibba heart bun")?; do we poke fun at figures, public (mostly) and private for the good of the many, or the mirth of the few? How linked are comedy and music in the hearts and minds of Jamaicans, and do Jamaican comics get the respect they deserve viz-a-vis other creative types as well as opposed to foreigners?

The above was just a sample of the questions addressed in a robust, free-wheeling and individualized session at the N1 Lecture Theatre (Humanities) at the UWI on Sunday last.

Entitled "Put Fun and Joke Aside" (another prime Jamaican expression), the session was led by Tanya Batson-Savage of Blue Moon Publishers - Blouse and Skirt Books, and featured two of the more firmly established and widely beloved comedic talents.

For some years, Dr Michael Abrahams (above, left) has been balancing his ob-gyn specialist "day job" with poetic comedy expositions both live and and on television. Hie oeuvre is largely satirical, cataloging the many current social ills and skewering public figures form many quarters.

Between his duo work with Winston  "Bello" Bell, his teaching duties at the School of Drama and his own dual-resident comedy schedule (Jamaica and Canada, with other stops in between) there are hardly any trails that Owen "Blakka" Ellis has not blazed, although he did take time earlier this year, to launch a poetry collection, "Riddim and Riddles" under the Blue Moon/Blouse and Skirt imprint ( copies were, of course, sold at the  event).

the two are not only well known to the public, but to each other, despite Ellis' seniority as a performer, and their unforced rapport and readiness with an ad-libbed zinger or phrase made for an enjoyable but also illuminating morning's exploration into the seriousness of  comedy - of doing it, and of living it.

As could be expected the moderated sessions and the Q & A covered almost every topic and sub-topic imaginable, ably interspersed with "readings" - Ellis from the book, and Abrahams, as is his wont, performing ex tempo, and accompanying himself on guitar for a scathing send-up of the recent (and ongoing?) social and environmental debacle that is the Riverton landfill fire(s).

At the ned of it all, the large audience were left with a greater appreciation for the sentiment summed up in the words of actor Edmund Kean: "dying is easy, comedy is difficult"

If only they didn't make it look so easy

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