Comedy Comes in Threes
by Jeremy Ting
Comedy comes in threes.
The third in a series is always unexpected. My grandfather passed away on the 16th of February 2021.
As a wannabe comedy writer, I have found myself, in different seasons and in different contexts, to be an agent of humour whether willingly or unwillingly. Having been born rather rotund, my early adolescence left much to be desired. Wry laughter roared from classmates at school to housemates at home. Describing, deriding and maligning my weight became their bread and butter while tears, fears and drear became my lard and ice cream. Upon reflection the severity of these abuses might have been exaggerated in my mind all these years, however, the experience and feelings left a profound influence on my sense of humour and sense of self. Transitioning from primary to secondary school, persuasions to join a sport from my family were as unsurprising as they were unwelcomed. Nevertheless, like the prisoners in Socrates’ allegory, I caved. The dragon-boating team was a far departure from the physical dormancy of the science club and though good for my health, the endless monotony of paddling and push-ups drove me away after two years. Despite the disappointment from my family, this decision ultimately opened the door to the most formative years of my writing style. The Odyssey of the Mind (OM), a creative drama competition.
As an OM team member with less than stellar artistic and prop construction skills, I had to rely on my dramatic and comedic skills to get me through the competition. Like a mangrove from a swamp, plots, characters and jokes born from my insecurities propelled our performances to greater heights. My rogues’ gallery was filled with insecurity, dim-wittedness and slothfulness, all of whom were portrayed by me. Slapping on a misshapen costume with globs of face paint on my face and being greeted by laughs, against all odds, made me more confident with myself on stage. Like a pig eating its own faeces, I became an object of ridicule on my own terms. Being comfortable with my own skin onstage also translated to more practical benefits beyond the fourth wall. I was able to embrace the things that made me feel like an outcast and make strides in my social life, like a simile in a journal essay, I had become a welcome nuisance. Embracing the mild tragedy of my childhood had shaped my comedy and had become a means to address it. The old adage that comedy and tragedy were two sides of the same coin was slowly becoming more apparent in my life.
On the 16th of February 2021, my maternal grandfather passed away from a fall in his home. As the procession over Zoom took place, my mother retreated to her bedroom with a forlorn look on her face. Wanting to comfort her, I followed her in, only to find her on the toilet urinating. Things fell apart as laughter erupted from both of us. This incident, though recent, will continue to leave a lasting impact on my mind. Comedy and tragedy are like the obnoxious riddle about the chicken and the egg, no one knows which came first, yet it is certain that at least some comedic eggs originate from a tragic debilitated chicken. The tides of life ebb and flow between sadness and gladness while I cling onto comedy, my laughably small piece of driftwood. I keep clinging knowing that despite its gross texture and confused origins, it might keep me afloat till I reach a shore I may never see.
I love comedy, it is not simply the act of creating laughter, but the act of recontextualising situations to bring us through a life full of inevitable chickens. It can make an innocuous situation absurd and entertaining, a dark moment light-hearted and reflective, and a hastily written journal essay palatable and possibly brilliant.