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Comedy & Censorship: Religion, the Big Ugly, and Critical Reception.

 

“A farce or comedy is best played; a tragedy is best read at home.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Today while following a trail of shares from someone who did far better in law school than me and  is smarter than me and who I don’t believe practices law anyway (Question: Why go to law school then?  For the fun of it? To blow the curve for the rest of us? ) I found the following controversy:

An American Comedy Troupe known as the “Reduced Shakespeare Company” was set to perform a play called “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)” as part of a three month tour of the United Kingdom.  Until the first show at Newtonabbey in Northern Ireland.  Without having seen the entire play, the Arts Counsel decided – having booked the performance originally – to cancel the performance before the politicians did for them.  The reason? For an American the answer should be hair-raising:

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)  apparently determined, without having seen the play, that the adults of Northern Ireland cannot decide for themselves what is profane, blasphemous, offensive, or mocking of religion.   Chillingly, the DUP stated that government should be run with religious principles, meaning I suppose, Christian and only Christian principles.  Remember, England has been the model for most of our laws regarding the establishment clause. As in, what not to do and who not to behead in a divorce or otherwise burn alive at the sovereign’s pleasure.  In response, the troupe posed the following legitimate questions: What exactly is wrong with mocking, poking fun or ribbing at something that we share as a fundamental document in our culture?  And the better universal question, why is that fundamentalists have no sense of humor?   (These aren’t my questions, they are the podcast questions worth pondering.  I defer to others here.)  I immediately ordered their Complete History of America here: http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/rsc-shop/.

The good news: The Arts Counsel put the performance back on, which played TWO sold-out performances.  Because, the unerring human principle is that if you ban it or condemn, people will suddenly wake up wanting to know why.

Which brings me to my own sad story: Last year the Dam Short Film Festival in Boulder City hosted the hilarious Found Footage Festival.  Their rules are as follows: they comb garage sales and thrift stores looking for inadvertently funny, bad VHS tapes (remember those?).  And showcase them.  The funniest were a 1960s police training video on live human birth (yep, uncensored) and a how-to guide to masturbation made by the Canadian government.  Which resulted in photos of ahem, the big ugly, splashed across the gilded screen of clean, green Boulder City.  And a crimson host.  I knew the moment I saw him it wouldn’t be back.  Just now, I checked online, and sadly the Found Footage Festival will not be back to the Dam Short Film Festival.  Which is greatly our loss because the greatest comedies should be watched and tragedies read, per Abraham Lincoln.   Notwithstanding But the good news is they sell DVDs online which can be purchased right here: http://store.foundfootagefest.com/

The other good news is that I have tickets for the Book of Mormon, the Musical, in June.  Pondering the above, I checked out the response of the Church of Latter Day Saints to the Musical per Wikipedia (yep, that’s a source), and was pleasantly surprised by the following statement:  “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

And the response from the writers? “That’s a cool, American response to a ribbing—a big musical that’s done in their name. Before the church responded, a lot of people would ask us, ‘Are you afraid of what the church would say?’ And Trey and I were like, ‘They’re going to be cool.’ And they were like, ‘No, they’re not. There are going to be protests.’ And we were like, ‘Nope, they’re going to be cool.’ We weren’t that surprised by the church’s response. We had faith in them.”

I am as always surprised by the American capacity to surprise.  And I will happily laugh my ass off at the Book of Mormon, and will privately show the Found Footage Festival to as many people as I can comfortably invite to my home.  Because comedy is best watched, drama best read.   

Sources:

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/establishment-clause.html

http://www.damshortfilm.org/

http://www.foundfootagefest.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Mormon_(musical)

http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/

http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/category/podcasts/ specifically podcast Episode 373.

 

 

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