June 16, 2009
While it’s conventional to call Oliver Hardy a “straight man,” it would be more accurate to think of the character created by British comic actor STAN LAUREL (1890- 1965) as the duo’s “curved man.” Though he may seem idiotic, perhaps Stan’s character developed as a result of knowing too much. Ollie, who insists on recognizing every category of politeness and propriety, no matter how absurd, is a fool; Stan, however, refuses ever to recognize any categories. If he can’t differentiate, for example, between male and female — he sometimes replies to an admonishing male authority figure with a meek, “Yes, ma’am” — it’s because in Stan’s world the categories “male” and “female” don’t exist. So when Stan touches his chest, ruffles his hair, and lets the hysteria run through him — or does a languid double-take at the sight of a water fountain or some other mundane object — he’s not just being silly. He’s reflecting back to us our own doubts, our epistemological and phenomenological anxieties. He’s reflecting mine, anyway.
HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God
READ MORE about members of the Modernist Generation (1884–93).