Today I was talking to my Dad on the phone about Dante’s Inferno. Surprisingly we both found it funny. This is a book where people’s souls are tortured in the most horrible ways imaginable for all eternity, often for no more than religious thought crimes or moments of passion. The religious medieval mind was sure a strange one! When things go that dark they, at some point, go through the looking glass and pass into the realm of absurdity, and then turn into comedy.
Lou Reed often makes me laugh in the same way, though I’m almost positive that he was in on the joke. When he was asked about his album Berlin, which many deem the most depressing album of all time, he said he was just, “having fun.” Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul, I can put that album on, or any number of his albums, and find myself instantly cheered up. The final song on it, Sad Song, is the cosmic punchline to the album. I was going to describe it, but I found this description on YouTube by Adam Pendleton, the first comment at the time of writing, and I really enjoyed it:
So this poem is about an abusive husband, than his wife kills herself. Even so, he doesn’t really care. He half-heartedly chants “sad song.” than shrugs and moves on. Even after she’s gone he thinks of her as “wasting my time.” and that he was wrong for thinking she ever looked beautiful. He justifies his abuse, “somebody else would have broke both her arms.” At least that’s what I got out of it.
As Mark Twain once said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.”