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Lions Roar : November 2013
us doesn’t really matter at all. But then, it’s been said that the enlightened view of the Buddha is one in which everything is holy. Which is to say, what doesn’t matter at all can mat- ter very much. The trivial, the miniscule, the fleeting, the impulsive—the roles these play in our lives can tell us as much about ourselves as our reactions to even the biggest Big Life Events. It’s easy to boil the observational approach of Jerry and his Seinfeld partner, Larry David, down to “Didja ever notice?” But it’s what they notice, the scope of it, that takes it from trivial to timeless. Yes, the Seinfeld/David-style mind knows, intimately, how strongly we might rebel against the perceived injustice of a too-teensy bag of airplane peanuts, the lengths we’ll go to to avoid even the smallest discomfort, and how we’ll kvetch about it endlessly when avoidance isn’t an option. And when the discomfort isn’t small? Forget about it. On Seinfeld and on David’s current show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, characters will choose to gripe out loud—about nothing—instead of being actually present when acquaintances’ lives fall apart. In a 1995 episode of Seinfeld, Jerry listens only too willingly as ex-turned-bestie Elaine goes on and on about the difficulties of keeping up a decent wardrobe. It’s familiar, typical human blather—except that the scene takes place at the funeral of a friend who just died of cancer. “I really hate my clothes,” Elaine says between mourners’ wails. “It’s get- ting to be a terrible problem for me.” Dark? Yes. Funny? Yes, that too. Funny because, as they say, it’s true: we’re all capable of abiding in this kind of disconnected darkness. Whether you’re a comedy writer or a dharma practi- tioner, suffering—big and small—and how we deal with it, or don’t, can be your bread and butter. Gleefully Digging Deeper Louis C.K. People these days like to talk about “culture wars,” and sure enough, the comedy world is as divided as any other. Just look at the industry’s biggest earners. On the one hand, you’ve got the lowest common denominator approach: the gratuitous and the mean-spirited. There’s even a racist ventriloquist who lets his dummies do the bashing. (Ventriloquists, plural, are among comedy’s royalty these days, believe it or not.) On the other hand, you’ve got the megastar Louis C.K. and a whole breed of comics for whom “the other” is only rarely as juicy a target as one’s self. C.K. (the letters serve as shorthand for his birth name, Szekely) is like a comedy shotgun fired in a tight room: no one’s safe, least of all himself. Taking a cue from the late George Carlin, C.K. creates a whole new act nearly every PHOTOBYADAMFREESE STILL FROM COMEDIANSINCARSGETTINGCOFFEE.COM SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 61 SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 61