Googly eyes

The cartoonish owl in Nicole Eisenman’s new sculpture, ‘Love and Generosity’, eyes pointing slightly in different directions, is one of a string of recent characters with the same feature: Heihei, the stowaway chicken in the Disney film, Moana; the pigeon in Spies in Disguise who eats anything and everything; and most recently, the family’s pug… Continue reading Googly eyes

Comic naivety in George Saunders’s ‘Ghoul’

The pleasure we find in naivety is complex: it’s partly superiority at a lack of social sophistication or adroitness about social conventions, and partly relief at the failure to maintain those norms – a chance to vicariously share in a momentary respite from the ceaseless self-consciousness and responsiveness required of us as social creatures. There’s… Continue reading Comic naivety in George Saunders’s ‘Ghoul’

Stand-up: seduction and susceptibility

In the recent flowering of online theatre, it is clearly the monologues and the Zoom formats that best suit the restrictions of the streamed experience. These front facing pieces resemble the direct address of stand-up, and prompt speculation about the similarities and differences between the two art forms. Often in such comparisons, stand-up is characterised… Continue reading Stand-up: seduction and susceptibility

The Darkness of John Robins

Emotional honesty has long been John Robins’ stock-in-trade, but the Netflix special, The Darkness of Robins, a recording of a show about the end of a relationship, which won him the joint Edinburgh comedy award in 2017, takes self-exposure to a new level. It seems to answer a challenge: if emotional honesty is central to… Continue reading The Darkness of John Robins

Coronavirus memes: visual banter

There’s much that is positive in the abundance of coronavirus comic memes: in their assertions of shared experience and collectivity they clearly do provide a degree of relief. But as units of communication to be exchanged and circulated, they are often only placeholders for real emotion or feeling. Given that the experiences of strain, anger,… Continue reading Coronavirus memes: visual banter

Milkman: humour in a traumatised society

Critics have frequently commended the humour of Anna Burns’s Milkman (2018), but beyond descriptions of the novel as ‘charmingly wry’ (New Yorker) or ‘darkly comic’ (The Telegraph), there has been little real insight into the part humour plays. This critical disinterest in humour - particularly in literature-  is widespread, partly because comedy has long been seen as a mere add-on or… Continue reading Milkman: humour in a traumatised society

Terry Eagleton on humour

Terry Eagleton’s new book, Humour (2019), is going to prove to be indispensable reading, and one of its great strengths is the sustained analysis of the psychoanalytical mechanisms underlying humour. Using Freud’s insights into the capacity of humour to release ‘the psychic energy we normally invest in maintaining certain socially essential inhibitions’ (11), Eagleton develops his own… Continue reading Terry Eagleton on humour