Issue #75 / December 2019
You are one of the funniest writers out there. Would you say humour is an important aspect of your writing? Who has inspired your humour?
CHRIS, BEIJING, CHINA
I’ve always seen you as something of an underrated humourist. Do you see comedy as an essential art form?
LUKE, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
How important is humour to you in your art?
ALEX, BATON ROUGE, USA
Who in your band is the funniest?
BRADLEY, BALTIMORE, USA
Dear Chris, Luke, Alex and Bradley,
There is nothing on this earth that is so serious that it cannot be elevated by humour. Humour is not lack of gravity and it is not frivolity. Rather, it is the merciful oxygen that can envelop seriousness and prevent it from becoming a grim contagion that infects ourselves and those around us. True humour is the antidote to dogmatism and fanaticism, and we must be cautious of the humourless and those who cannot take a joke.
Humour is the way in which we manoeuvre ourselves through the things that are difficult to talk about, that require subtlety of thought, that are counter-intuitive, uncertain and mysterious. Humour is a way of exploring the uncomfortable without fully committing ourselves, testing and pushing at the boundaries of acceptability, always able to retreat back into the form itself.
In this respect, Luke, I am a humourist, and many of my songs are essentially comic songs. I have always used humour as a way of presenting ideas that may otherwise be considered unacceptable. Humour is a device that allows us to push against the constraints of decorum and say the uncomfortable things that challenge our presumptions; it allows us room to breathe.
It is for this reason, Chris, that I have such deep admiration for comedians, from Buster Keaton to Lenny Bruce to Dave Chappelle. Anarchic and troublesome, comedians are the canaries in the coal mine of ideas, often saying things that cannot safely be said elsewhere and taking significant personal risk to speak truth, not just to power, but to stupidity too, to outrage and self-righteousness. Between the joke and the laughter resides our common humanity and as our laughing bodies relax, our hearts and minds open and serious ideas can penetrate. Humour is the Trojan horse that crosses the moat and infiltrates the castle, bringing with it the unsayable.
Ultimately, humour allows us to laugh at ourselves and the absurdity of our human predicament. Humour tells us that we are, in the greater scheme of things, both completely meaningless and supremely meaningful, and though our efforts are of no real consequence, they are heroic and deeply moving.
P.S. Bradley, The Bad Seeds are bound together by both our music and our collective sense of humour, however it is impossible to exaggerate just how funny Conway Savage was. Conway had a Depression-era, Dust Bowl wit, so dry and parched you couldn’t help but feel his perfectly timed, apocalyptic one-liners were the true cause of the world’s environmental chaos. We miss Conway very much.