Tuesday, May 01, 2007

In laughter, there is truth.

Great line from Jay Leno last night, on Amtrak's celebration of the snakebit commuter-rail line's 36th anniversary: "They wheeled out a giant cake, and rolled it down an embankment...."


Anonymous said...

What is a "snakebit" train accident?

I do not understand, why would Americans celebrate and laugh at the deaths? Am I missing the joke?

Steve Salerno said...

Ohhh, anon, such a can of worms, you open. You are asking a question whose answer is far too complex for a single blog item--or even a single blog. Clearly, based on your question, you are not of this country. I can only tell you that somewhere along the line, we Americans developed a peculiar defense mechanism that allows us to look at death (and disaster in general) through a slightly off-kilter lens--a lens that acknowledges the absurdity of life by satirizing it. That is why Jay Leno and the rest of our comedians now find it permissible to make jokes even about bin Laden. "Nothing is THAT serious." Sure, if a train were to derail tomorrow, we would observe a "respectful" period in which there would be no jokes (just as there were no jokes, for a time, after 9-11). But the jokes would return before long. Call it crazy, call it distasteful--it's just the way we are.

I'm sure that someone out there can provide a much more satisfying and elegant answer than I've given here.

RevRon's Rants said...

Perhaps our poking fun in response to death is our one minuscule act of deference to a fact that we so diligently struggle to avoid in every other forum: that death is inevitable and merely one aspect of life.

We put forth tremendous physical, psychological, spiritual, and economic efforts in attempts to repudiate the fact, yet ultimately, we are forced to acknowledge that nobody gets out alive. And if you can't defeat it, laughing at it is more enjoyable than worrying about it. Then again, it might just be our way of whistling past the graveyard.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, Ron. I needed the help.