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The Philosophy That Life Is Not That Important

Luke F. Davis

Madonna University


Every persons life is filled with complexities. There are good complexities like the birth of a

child, and there are more negative complexities such as the death of a loved one. The complexity

that is losing a loved one can be a very heavy conundrum, heavy being whatever causes someone

to really think. There are many different heavy complexities that someone can come across over

their lifetime, some of which are tragic. Tragic, to some, can mean a great flood that kills five

hundred people, but to others tragic can be defined as the devastation one might feel that could

lead them to contemplating suicide. In a more simpler sense, tragedy can be a term referring to

anything that is either sad or devastating, and the magnitude of such sadness or devastation

surrounding various situations may be different to some people in comparison to others but if

someone is to refer to something as a tragedy it is their way of communicating how important

that event is to them. The thought that takes place when any tragedy is occurrent is basically the

minds way of compartmentalizing the different emotions being felt in lieu of a tragic event.

After compartmentalizing an emotion, compartmentalizing is referring to the action of taking

each feeling that you feel and feeling it and then turning that feeling into a memory, you have the

choice of how you are going to engage with the memory of whatever emotion you had felt if it

were to ever be referenced or the tragedy were to ever be talked about. Most choose to engage

with their memories of tragedy by grieving and/or crying, but some take a different take on it and

choose to laugh. Tragedy seems to infect people as if it were a sickness, and some say laughter is

the best medicine. By making jokes about tragic events you can make tragedy less of a heavy

complexity, but a complexity nonetheless. If we can learn that treating tragedies as if they arent

tragic by making jokes about them doesnt mean the event isnt any less sad or devastating, its

just being made less heavy, then we can effectively heal from any tragedy easier. Its like when

you get a cut and you put bandage over it to help the wound close faster, the scar will still be

there after but at least the wound isnt open anymore. The cut being the tragic event, the bandage

being comedy, and the scar afterwards being a respectful reminiscing of the negative emotions

surrounding any form of tragedy.

Keywords: Complexities, tragedy, comedy


The Philosophy That Life Is Not That Important

I like life. I do. You know how much I like life? Ive never killed myself. Thats how much I like life. I

like it precisely enough to not kill myself. -- Louis C.K.

Although suicide is typically an uncomfortably bleak concept, comedian Louis A. Szkely, or

more commonly known for his stage name Louis C.K., takes this outwardly gloomy topic and crafts it

into one of the many jokes he adds to his normal act. In the May of 2014, Gentlemen's Quarterly

Magazine (or less formerly known as GQ Magazine) crowned C.K. as Americas undisputed king of

comedy, which no one with a true interest and passion for stand up comedy seemed to argue. C.K. is

known to show no regard for whether something he says offends someone or not, it even seems as though

he goes above and beyond to purposefully cross the line in order to push the audience out of its comfort

zone. Tragedy is often the tool he uses to push his audience out of its comfort zone, meaning Szkely uses

any particularly offensive or melancholy subject as a way to purposefully discomfort his audience in a

way that effectively mends tragedy and comedy together to birth, or moreso rebirth, the genre of

tragicomedy. Tragedy in peoples lives can be made less heavy, heavy being anything that causes

someone to truly ponder, by making a joke of it. This method of making jokes, or generally lighthearted

portrayals, out of genuinely tragic subjects is far from a modern way for society to compartmentalize its

current sufferings. When someone is experiencing a tragedy of some kind, or have experienced a tragedy

of some kind, they can often be seen looking at life through a rather cynical point of view, by which I

mean to imply that they show a particular amount of contempt for commonly accepted standards of

honesty and morality. When a society is in turmoil it, at times, can conjure a rather cynical reflection of

itself that is most often displayed through the arts. Examples of this is seen in the 19th-century plays of

Henrik Ibsen, the peri-World War II era motion pictures and today in almost any modern medium of art

such as songs from musicians like Tyler Gregory Okonma (stage name Tyler, The Creator) and in the

joke I previously mentioned by Louis C.K..


Depression and Humor

Depression and Tragedy

Tragedy is a loosely defined term, but tragedy is easy to define introspectively. We all

know what is tragic to us, but we dont necessarily know what someone else might find to be

tragic. To a farmer, a flood washing over your crops may be a tragedy. To a child, dropping your

ice cream may very well be a tragedy. The way we introspectively define tragedy is by whatever

causes us a great sadness. A child dropping their ice cream may cause a momentary depression,

but as the mind matures and it is more able to grasp the complexities of life it will develop a

much deeper sense of depression following tragic events. Depression is much like a disease, in

regards to the way it can debilitate its victim. The most drastic way any disease can debilitate its

victim is by death, and adults who suffer with depression are at very high risk of suicide. The

National Institute of Mental Health monitored the prevalence of major depressive episodes

amongst U.S. adults over the twelve months

of the year 2015, and from this study they

found that overall 6.7% of U.S. adults suffer

from depression. Also during the year 2015

the National Institute of Mental Health

recorded the leading causes of death among

various age groups (as seen to the right),

suicide being the 10th leading cause of

death in 2015 among all ages, and notably

being the 2nd leading cause of death for


Americans from ages 15-34 only second to unintentional injury. Tragedy causes depression, and

depression can cause death, which in turn is a tragedy in and of itself repeating the cycle and

spreading from person to person. Tragedy is itself like a disease in the way that it is spread and

circles victims in an endless loop, but it is not dissimilar to a disease in the way that there are

ways to help treat its victims as there are ways to treat victims of diseases. One way to treat those

who have suffered a tragedy and are in the midst of a depression is through comedy, or most

effectively tragicomedy-- in essence tragicomedy is a coping humor.

Coping Humor

Nicolas A. Kuiper, Rod A. Martin and L. Joan Olinger submitted an article to the

Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science titled Coping Humour, Stress, and Cognitive

Appraisals. The article supports my intended message of tragicomedy being a tool that

individuals as well as societies have used to compartmentalize and heal from tragedy. It does so

by structuring my analogy of comedy being the bandage someone could use to tend to the

wounds of their tragedy by introducing the concept of coping humor. The authors touch on a

input of data called the Coping Humor

Scale (seen to the left), this seven item

self-report scale was developed by R. A.

Martin and H. M. Lefcourt in 1983 to

provide a measure of the degree to which

individuals maintain a sense of humour in

potentially stressful situations, and employ


humour as a means of coping with stress (1993, p.85).

During World War II (WWII) a horrific amount of deaths were tallied, a substantial

amount of which were casualties caused by the genocide of Jewish people. In concentration

camps members of the Jewish society were forcefully subjugated to work for no pay, and were

subject to less than humane living conditions. The sick, the old and those who could not keep up

with the work temp were selected and then killed with gas, injections or shot. Others were

chosen for terrible pseudo-scientific experiments most often losing their life (,

2009). This genocide, referred to as the Holocaust, is easily recognized as a tragedy. Roman

Polanski, a Holocaust survivor and a Polish film director, directed a movie in 2002 titled The

Pianist. The Pianist is based on a true story centered around a Polish-Jewish musician who

struggles to survive amongst the destroying of his home in the Warsaw ghetto during WWII. A

truly tragic tale, surrounded by the real-life tragedy that is the Holocaust. During one of the final

scenes in the film the main character Wladyslaw is hiding in the ruins of his hometown

helplessly waiting for some sign of life after the destruction of war. He is wearing a coat off of

the uniform of a Nazi soldier for warmth. Wladyslaw hears a group of people walking outside of

the building and peeks out to rule out danger. He sees that the group is made up of Jewish locals

and the Polish militarymen and he runs out to hug one of the Jews, finally feeling safe and free,

but because of the Nazi coat hes wearing the Jew screams for a soldier thinking Wladyslaw is a

German. The soldiers begin to shoot at Wladyslaw and he runs into another building for cover.

The soldiers order Wladyslaw to exit the building with his hands up, so he does. Once he does so

the soldiers immediately recognize Wladyslaw to be Polish. They lower their weapons and ask

him why hes wearing that coat, to which Wladyslaw replies Im cold. Although the film is not

a comedy, this scene is sculpted with comedic overtones, as an attempt to lighten the mood.This

scene does not demean the tragedy of the Holocaust whatsoever, but it does piggyback off of the

tragedy and makes a relatively light hearted joke out of a true situation that one Holocaust

survivor found himself in. Reiterate your point here

That scene in The Pianist is an example of tragicomedy, wielding the weight of a tragedy

and making light of the situation. As I stated before, the director of this film is a Holocaust

survivor himself. One could argue that directing this film was Polanskis way of

compartmentalizing the tragedy and trauma he underwent during WWII by revisiting the events

of his past in a controlled environment such as shooting a film in the setting of the warzone.

Also, one could argue the same thing for a Holocaust survivor who chooses to watch The Pianist.

I believe that Roman Polanskis The Pianist is his way to maintain a sense of humour during the

stressful situation of dealing with the memory of such a tragedy, and employing humour as a

means of coping with that stress. This being evidence that using tragicomedy in filmography as a

medium of art can be a powerful outlet for coping humor.

Along the topic of the scene of The Pianist that I had previously mentioned, there is

another notably comedic adaptation of events during the Holocaust. Jerry Lewis, an

American-Jewish comedian and director, created a film in 1972 that is reportedly the first fully

comical film that was solely based on the events of the Holocaust. The movie is about a German

circus clown named Helmut Doork (played by Jerry Lewis) who is captured and imprisoned in a

Jewish concentration camp as a result of a comedy act in Doorks clowning routine portraying

Adolf Hitler in a less than respectful demeanor. Doork uses his clownish charm to lift the spirits

of the children within the concentration camp, but is ultimately coerced by nazi soldiers to lure

the children of the camp into a gas chamber where him and the children are killed with a final

scene of them all laughing as the gasses are released. The film struck such a controversy that it

was never released. This is, again, an example of tragicomedy and coping humor from a Jewish

American director responding to the travesties of WWII, but one that was much less accepted by

society. It wasnt released because the film industry considered it to cross a line, meaning it

was seemingly being disrespectful in the films attempt to find humor in the topic of the

Holocaust. At times coping humor can be offensive to some people, which I will talk more about

in the Results section.

Tragicomedy offers a different context to put tragedy in. For example, take the film

Weekend At Bernies. Weekend At Bernies was released in 1989 and is a movie about two

young men who are invited to stay at their bosss beach house for the weekend. But

unbeknownst to them the invite was really a trick to get the two in a remote location for a hitman

that the boss had hired to assassinate the two. Reason being, the two came across some shady

business the boss had his hands in, but the hit went wrong and the boss was killed instead of the

two young men. When the young men found their dead boss at the beach house they decided to

not let his death ruin their weekend getaway. So they put sunglasses on the boss, changed his

bloody clothes, and carried him around during a party at the beach house in an attempt to act like

he wasnt dead. From a viewer of this movie you would naturally find the content to be very

comical and the situation the film portrays to be that of whit. But if you take a step back and look

at the film for what it is, the movie definitely has very grim overtones. I dont know if I know

anyone who is morally supportive of body desecration, murder cover-up, murder attempts or

business fraud, but yet all of those elements happen to sneak past the audiences radar. Truly, the

entirety of the events portrayed in Weekend At Bernies are gruesomely tragic, something that if

you had heard it on the news you would think of it as plainly wrong and saddening. These are the

elements of a more muted tragicomedy, turning something that is realistically tragic and offering

a brand new context to put it in. Which putting tragedy into a new context has had a substantial

impact on our culture today. This is sick

Tragicomedy is much more popular, and intertwined with our culture, than most would

recognize, this can be seen most prominently in the arts. For one example, take a look at the slapstick

humor of The Three Stooges. Moe, Larry, and Curly are The Three Stooges, and their comedy is

predominantly centered around someone, somehow, inflicting pain on someone else. If Moe hits Curly in

the back of his head with a ladder and knocks him out its funny, but if a father were to accidentally hit

his seven year old son in the back of the head and knocks him unconscious that would be far from funny.

That instance could be a very tragic event, where with The Three Stooges its funny but in reality that

could be very serious, if someone were to hit you in the head with a ladder there could very well be brain

trauma or something of the like. Although, the slapstick comedy of The Three Stooges teaches us that

conflict between friends, brothers, loved ones, doesnt have to be so dramatic or taken so seriously. Their

comedy is a bit over the top, but has a cultural relevance. The Three Stooges would not necessarily ever

be categorized as a tragicomedy, but I believe that is just how interwoven tragedy and comedy are

together and our culture not recognizing that just goes to show how big a part tragicomedy plays in our

culture. But this is not only seen in film, it can also often be seen in various other mediums of art.

Tragicomedy is not an artistic genre limited to film and the performing arts. In 2011 a

musician that goes by the name Tyler, The Creator (Tyler Gregory Okonma) released a music

video that, not to his awareness, would become viral in a matter of weeks. The music video was

for his song Yonkers on his first album titled Goblin. The song itself became popular by

creating a very unique middle-ground for hardcore rock fans and the hip-hop genre. Tyler, on

the other hand, became famous not for the song Yonkers, but for the music video that

accompanied it. The mood of the song is very dark with a deepened voice echoing in the

background randomly to add an ominous devil-like effect. The song is very intentionally

creepy, but the lyrics are rather on the wittier side. Granted, the majority of the comical/witty

lyrics typically still rooted in a place of darkness, taking jabs at religion in a negative way and

using explicitly demeaning language towards certain groups of people. The music video, on the

other hand, is not inherently witty by any means. The video shows Tyler sitting on a stool

rapping, but then his eyes become all black and a large insect begins crawling around his fingers

and on his hands, then Tyler eats the insect and vomits it out. The next event in the video is a

noose dropping from the ceiling into frame and then Tyler stands on the stool, wraps the noose

around his neck, and kicks the stool from under him. The video ends as the viewer watches his

convulsing legs slowly begin to stop and eventually his legs are still as he swings back and forth,

portraying his death. Like I said, the video is in no way inherently comedic, but the lyrics

combined with the video create a weirdly dark and jocose atmosphere, thrusting the artist into

popularity and stardom. The video, portraying the artists fictional suicide, is very tragic, but

somehow the tragedy is made amusing and laughable to his audience. This is either a

representation of the extent tragicomedy has influenced our culture, to the point where suicide

and ominous jokes are deemed humorous, or this is a reflection of how deeply Tyler, The

Creators art has impacted the modern American (and to some degree global) culture, or both.

Tragicomedy is a metaphor for life as a whole. The way we measure the good things in

our lives to the bad things in our lives (or vice versa) is what engenders our internal philosophies,

and in turn our external philosophies. If you believe the negatives outweigh the positives in your

life then your outlook on life is bound to be more pessimistic, and if you believe the opposite

then your outlook on life is bound to be more optimistic. Both optimistic and pessimistic

outlooks on life are, in a basic sense, your minds way of anticipating whether the rest of your life

going forward will be more filled with joy or more filled with sorrow, whether the next chapter

of your life will be exuberant or glum, optimistic being exuberant and pessimistic being glum.

Tragicomedy is a mending of these two outlooks, paving a new philosophy that there can

exuberance in our sorrows and there can be a gloominess in our joy. In reality the next chapter of

all of our lives will neither be joyous nor gloomy, but every moment will be a little bit both if life

is to be worth living. Without sadness there is no happiness, without happiness there is no

sadness. Very much like there is no existence of good without the existence of evil, and there is

no existence of evil without the existence of

good. This is the root of tragicomedy, and this is

also the root of many teachings of historys

most notable philosophers. According to an

article titled Great Philosophers: Augustine On

Evil electronically published on the University

of Oregon States website [there cannot be

good without evil] is a metaphysical idea about

the structure of reality. The article goes on to

include an excerpt from the Enchiridion by North African christian theologian Augustine of

Hippo (as seen above). The excerpt includes this quote: Where there is no privation of the good,

there is no evil. Where there is evil, there is a corresponding diminution of the good. As long,

then, as a thing is being corrupted, there is good in it of which it is being deprived; [...].

Tragicomedy in the arts and media challenges our understanding of life, and we can see

this in the existence of bitterness. C. Nathan DeWall wrote an article for the Association for

Psychological Science (APS) on the topic of social acceptance and rejection, in this article

DeWall wrote: Although psychologists have been interested in close relationships and what

happens when those relationships go awry for a very long time, its only been about 15 yrs that

psychologists have been doing this work on exclusion and rejection. The results have highlighted

how central acceptance is to our lives. He goes on to say that acceptancein romantic

relationships, from friends, even from strangersis absolutely fundamental to humans. Now,

when a tragic event occurs in ones life it is seldom that one will receive any form of apology for

the tragedy theyve endured. In other words, when life is tragic it is impossible for life to

apologize. The reaction one can have in response to tragedy can be categorized into two options;

one, is the person can continue their life believing that life owes them something good in return

for the tragedy theyve endured, or two, is for the person to accept that life is not a living

thinking entity, and for them to compartmentalize their tragic experiences and move forward

with their life. Believing that life owes you something is accompanied by bitterness towards life,

and tragicomedy challenges this. The reason that tragicomedy challenges bitterness is because

tragicomedy in the arts and media embody the philosophy that there is no good without bad and

vice versa, therefore challenging the bitter persons belief that something wrong was done to

them, and further disproving the notion that life in turn owes them something in response to the

tragedy they endured.



With a well rounded understanding of the roots of tragicomedy, one is able to grasp the

philosophy and cultural impact of tragicomedy. Tragicomedy is a hidden ideal, by which I mean

that it has both, for one, taken such a major role in modern comedy/music/art that we often dont

realize when were consuming it-- like with The Three Stooges. And, for two, tragicomedy,

being the equality of joy and glum, is part of everyones life even though very few have ever

even heard of it.

Outcome 1

People over the generations react poorly to tragicomedy in the arts and media-- most

likely due to the lack of prior compartmentalization of the tragedy being joked of.

Outcome 2

Tragicomedy, as a coping humor, benefits people in the way of helping them move past

the painful feelings they endure in response to a tragic event-- most likely due to their time spent

compartmentalizing the tragedy being joked of.


Life is not that important. Its just not.

It- it is not. Szkely (seen to the left)

says during his Netflix Original

comedy special, 2015, as people cheer

and clap. People get too excited

about life. *he mimics a moan of love


and adoration* Life-- [screw] you, he says, make a list of every [crappy] thing thats ever

happened to you thats life.

No matter what the tragedy is introspectively to you, one thing that is guaranteed to

define tragedy for everyone is the loss of something introspectively important. When a flood

kills five hundred people each one of those people are important to someone and are now gone.

When a person is devastated to the point that they are considering suicide, that person has lost

their motivation and will to live and your will to live is very important to everyone.

Tragicomedy, the jokes made of tragedy, is a natural way for someone to make light of lifes

more heavy complexities. It is beneficial to take things that are important to you and treat them

as if they arent really that important, especially after the loss of something important. Even if it

werent beneficial, even if you think its bad to treat important things as if they arent important,

remember that without good there is no bad and without bad there is no good. Without suffering

there is no contentment. Without tragedy there is no comedy. If we can teach ourselves the

philosophy that life is not that important, then maybe the comedy is worth all the tragedy after

all. You make tragicomed sound

transcultural--is it really?
Would a different cultural see
tragicomedy the same way? Would
they even have such a phenomena?
How might it be different or the
same? This is where this should

Good job


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