I’ve been in about three dozen plays over the past ten years, at least a third of them comedies. I mean comedy not in the classic sense — antithetical to tragedy — but in the contemporary sense. Funny. Plays which people attend because they expect to laugh, to have a good time.
In every one of those dozen or so comedies, there has come a performance — usually a Friday evening or a Sunday matinee — when Act One has produced, at rough count, four smiles, two giggles, and zero laughter. None. Backstage, trying to gather energy for Act Two, the cast will assess the problem, and always, ALWAYS, at least one person will say, “Man, what a dull, dumb audience. They don’t get any of the gags.”
Beyond that, I don’t have much to say about the cover illustration on the current issue of The New Yorker. As Paul Woodward argues,
What the editors of The New Yorker don’t seem to get, but have perfectly demonstrated, is that it’s very easy to be clever and stupid at the same time… any time satire has to be labeled (inside the cover of this issue, the magazine explains that the cover is satire), it has failed.
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, explained, in response to wide-spread criticism of the cover,
I respect people’s reactions — I’m just trying to as calmly and as clearly as possible talk about what this image means and what it was intended to mean and what I think most people will see — when they think it through — that it means. The fact is, it’s not a satire about Obama – it’s a satire about the distortions and misconceptions and prejudices about Obama.
Yes, you can tell yourself the problem is that the audience is simply slow on the uptake. But while you’re combing your hair and checking your make-up for Act Two, it might be a good idea to look carefully into the mirror.