Where Comedy Meets Tragedy

By Claudia Felske – It’s official: Ruby Ruhf, “Star English Teacher” is the top pick in the National High School Draft will receive $80 million over 6 years with $40 million in incentives.

No wonder this Key & Peele comedy sketch, “Teaching Center” has received over 4 million YouTube views in a few weeks.

Hilarious, right?

Here’s the hilarious part:  Imagine if teachers received the fanfare and hero worship akin to our sports figures. Imagine money thrown at them in a no-holds-bar draft in the hopes of landing the best in your child’s school. Imagine national play-by-play analysis of master teaching. Imagine fawning fans, screaming crowds, signing bonuses, hype, excitement, and RESPECT.

Therein lies the humor. The sheer ridiculousness of it! It is so laughable, so inconceivable, so counter to all things logical and realistic that TEACHING would be held up as the vocation to be admired, emulated, and valued at our society’s highest levels—that we can’t stop laughing about it.

on-the-daily-show

Arne Duncan on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

There’s much pain in humor.

The departing Jon Stewart comes to mind as he was perhaps the modern day example of comedy-wrapped tragedy. The Daily Show was the preferred source of news for millennials: today’s big events stripped down to its dirty underpants. Stewart and his brilliant writers exposed the hypocrisies of the media and of politicians, causing us to laugh, but it was a bitter, cynical laugh.  This wasn’t Benny Hill chasing a busty woman to a vaudeville beat. It was a painful, reality-laced laugh at things that matter: politics, public health, the economy, the environment, education.  Stewart’s humor made palatable the viewing of the profane.

Key & Peele and The Daily Show: these are satires meant to shock us into realizing our ugly truths. Parody is a succinct rendering of how screwed up our values are. It’s hilarious and it’s tragic. The Key & Peele “Teaching Center” video is hilarious because it’s so far from our reality, and tragic because if we were a  principled society, it would be our reality.

Here’s the greater tragedy: While a free and open democracy in the 21st century is more dependent on an educated citizenry than ever, we are clearly moving in the opposite direction.

So watch the video and have a laugh…and then a cry.

For what is humor if not an acknowledgement of the garish degrees of human folly?

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