Comedies everywhereLEE DONG-HYUN
The author is a deputy industry 1 team editor of JoongAng Ilbo.
German philosopher Georg Hegel’s notes on aesthetics lectures were published in three volumes by his student, Heinrich Hotho. They are often translated as “Lectures on Aesthetics.”
In the books, Hegel wrote that human vices are not comic. Instead, he said, the more splendid the juxtaposition vices have on what humans should display in the real world, the more comic it is to show them without hesitation.
His definition of comedy was satire. By describing the human world with humor, irrational situations are created to make people laugh absent-mindedly. Jokes and satires about politicians are closer to Hegel’s definition of comedy.
When 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln faced Democrat Stephen Douglas in the election for a Senate seat in 1868, Douglas attacked Lincoln for being a two-faced man. Lincoln replied, “If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?”
In Korean politics, the late lawmaker Roh Hoe-chan was known for his witty language. During a television debate in 2014, he condemned the dominating two-party system and said, “If you cook pork belly on the same grill for 50 years, the meat will burn. It’s time to change the grill.”
Personally, I think the wittiest political comment in Korea was made by then-opposition Grand National Party spokesman Jang Kwang-keun in 2001. When the ruling Millennium Democratic Party “leased” a lawmaker to help the minor opposition United Liberal Democrats to form a negotiation bloc in the National Assembly in a bid to establish a coalition, Rep. Song Seok-chan, a lawmaker from the ruling party, said he would return to the ruling party like a salmon. At the time, Jang, the opposition lawmaker, ridiculed that the National Assembly was composed of 272 lawmakers and one salmon.
Comedy doesn’t need to be vulgar and instead should have satire and humor to give catharsis. Gag Concert, a Korean television comedy show with a large audience, ended in May after 21 years. It had some controversies over its contents, but it gave viewers laughter and catharsis for a long time.
The show ended because of low viewer ratings. It is not surprising because the world is even funnier than comedy shows. Late comedian-turned-politician Lee Ju-il once said he learned a thing or two about comedy as he left politics for good.