Have You Heard the One About the Art Scene Embracing Comedians?

Andy Kaufman in the gallery

And comedy, perhaps even more than art, is a death trip. Sigler and Katz both describe stage fright as a kind of mortality-mirror, and when stand-up comics do well, they "kill." Kaufman talked about faking his own death, and Sigler believes he's probably still alive, having the last laugh. Zadie Smith (notice her essay's title) uses her own hapless, everyman father as an example of comedy triumphing over mortality: Her father "missed his own death" because he died in mid-sentence, "joking with his nurse."

Reggie Watts, the Brancusi of comedy. Maybe the Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Kris Krüg
Reggie Watts, the Brancusi of comedy. Maybe the Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Dada, which was saturated with irony and humor, rose from the carnage of World War I. Our own art-comedy moment feels rooted in similarly apocalyptic soil: wars, natural disasters, and nasty elections. Four years ago, skulls were the leitmotifs in art, clustered in paintings or crusted with diamonds. Now, laughter is taking over.

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