The Comedy Hours

One – nous sommes août. I like that in French “we are” a month. I am August, living in Paris for a month. July and August (like their Roman Emperor namesakes) have been prodigious in black comedy hours.

Two –  we are subject to all kinds of weather, internal and external. The wet heat of New York City is a yearly ritual that always goes too far. My personal weather has been house renovations so slow and illogical that summer is just fatigue and disorientation.  Our basement was invaded by a NYC monsoon, thanks to 120 year old plumbing. The  plumber who came to help that day arrived at my gate, streaming blood. He yelled, so sorry, he had to go to hospital, he had been stabbed with a kitchen knife by a random stranger two blocks away. He has physically survived, but who knows about his inner weather. Meanwhile a series of old – and young –  friends continue to have bad weather, and have tipped, or almost tipped, into death.

Three – my humor has increased. Daily life forms a bloody pool from which all the jokes erupt. I think one of the reasons I moved to NYC was to get my sense of humor back. And yes, men are still afraid that women will laugh at them, and women are still afraid men will kill them (a Margaret Atwood gem). Recent political weather has ensured that we (all of us who are othered in some way) feel this in our bones. Our sly, periscopic, wicked humor acknowledges broken hearts, the absurdities of Empire and its psychoses. We are prepared, alive, our jokes are handy cudgels.

Courtesy of Belleville’s exterminator supply store – a new scene in the window every time I come back to Paris

Four –  last month I attended a club in Bushwick, with young comedians sweating it out at the mic. A few mentioned the political weather we endure, but most routines were their inner weather as a death spiral. It was a brave struggle, the kind where you’re trying to say something, but you’re unable to get there. It’s hard. I admire comedians, and have been ransacking Netflix for comedy. I prefer jesters who tell the truth, ingeniously punching up.  It seems as though a number of famous  jesters are  kings sulking about being “cancelled’. They tell lazy punch-downs about trans people. My humor wanes.

Five – trans writer Callum Angus dives beautifully into the weather of gender and trees, the fracturing of futures, and our longings.  He writes, Trees and people live in transition now, perhaps permanently, and I do not think this is all bad. Such a shift in climatic thinking requires accepting loss sometimes, and remembering where we’ve been, what we’ve done wrong, and a willingness to find new things beautiful. It requires recognizing the beauty in new definitions of gender, allowing the expansiveness and creativity of trans people to revise what we thought was known about gender in the past. It requires adaptation to new seasonal rhythms, yes, but adaptation with an awareness that this is not the first time whole societies have been forced to adapt to change they didn’t want, and a willingness to listen to those communities with much more respect than we have in the past.

Six – the same week my basement flooded and my plumber got stabbed, New York City issued a nuclear attack preparedness video.

It’s pure gold. A jaunty millennial exhorts us to not ask questions – just go to the middle or the basement. Because, New York City, we got this.  

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