By Brandt Roberts
When I am wandering the countryside like a rural maniac, the question I am most often asked is, “Where’s the nearest Wawa?” The second-most-often asked question is, “What’s a farce?” The answer is Hamburg, PA. The second question will require an in-depth exploration.
First and foremost, a farce is a comedy. A comedy is not a tragedy. The word tragedy comes from the Greek word tragoidia, meaning “goat song.” If you have ever heard screaming goats, then you now have a comprehensive knowledge of tragedy. Tragedy deals with the fall of a man from a high status. Comedy deals with men of a low status falling. Tragedy is focused on philosophical explorations while Comedy is focused on carnal explorations.
Naturally there is a spectrum to comedy. On the high end is comedy of manners, which satirizes high society and concentrates on wit. Farce is found on the low end and concentrates on the common man and his lack of wit.
The word farce is probably based on the French word farcir—to stuff. When dramatic presentations were more of an event farce was used to fill the time between the screaming goats. On a basic level, the word farcir also suggests the genre is stuffed chockfull of physical bits, gags and other tomfoolery like a Thanksgiving turkey at a boardinghouse for clowns.
The humor stems from an everyman wanting to have his cake and eat it too. As we follow the exploits of the fellow striving to achieve the ludicrously impossible, the situation becomes increasingly more absurd. Thus entertainment is born. After all, the main purpose of any comedy is to entertain. I have had a lifelong love affair with farce and clowning. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Throughout life I have found that laughter is indeed the best medicine.
The fact that farce is on the low end of the comedy spectrum does not mean that it is “less,” but that it is more accessible to an audience. A fall does not have an age restriction or a language barrier: it is universal. This is why clowns are sent into refugee camps and hospitals. They can impart their medicine freely without the need of a prescription. To me, there is no greater honor than to share a healing laugh with an audience.
If you are in need of medicinal laughter, then come and visit the Commonweal theatre and become immersed in the zany world of Boeing Boeing. You’ll be glad you did. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a closer Wawa…