Trained Seals at Big Top Fringe


For the record, I am happily willing to concede that I am prone to outrage.


There are very few things in this day & age which shock me, but I still find myself outraged pretty much on a daily basis (often several times a day): off-leash dogs; TV ads; TV shows; newspaper headlines; willful stupidity; sexism; racism; classism; intolerance (including, especially, my own)…


Having said that, any of you who follow SIR’s twitter feed will have noticed that I’ve become a bit obsessed with a review of “Shakepseare in the Ruins’ Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet” written by professional comedian Al Rae.


In Al’s review, and in his subsequent clarifying comments, he asserts that Shakespeare never wrote anything that was funny, and that anyone who laughs out loud at a Shakespeare comedy is pretending to enjoy his or self in order to appear more… (what? cultured?intelligent? cool?!) than they actually are.  He claims that audiences who laugh out loud at Shakespeare have merely been “trained” to do so “like rather dim seals”. 


Pretentious, dim, trained seals.  


(To read Al’s review and comments in their entirety, go to the CBC Website, find their fringe coverage and click on our show title.)


So here’s another thing that fills me with outrage: a professional comic who uses his forum as a fringe theatre reviewer to make sweeping, insulting generalizations about millions of people in order to show everyone how much cleverer he or she is than everybody else.


As a fan of ironic discrepancies (arguably a junkie), I delightfully point it out once more:


Al’s attempt here is to show the world how much cleverer he is than they by claiming that, for over 400 years, theatre audiences have been PRETENDING to like Shakespeare’s comedy in order to show the world how clever they are.


Again, this does not shock me.  To be shocked by a professional comic’s use of a sweeping, insulting generalization in order to make him or herself seem clever would be akin to feigning shock over the Conservative government’s efforts to eliminate the CBC’s public funding: it’s simply part of what they do (and it’s an easy, lazy way to win over the majority).


It does, however, strike me as a bit outrageous.







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