Thinking Out Loud – 10/15

For those of you who don’t know, I write a weekly humor column for theDuquesne Duke student newspaper here on the bluff.  For your reading pleasure, I’ll be posting my column here when it comes out on Thursdays.  If you like what you see and would like to read more of the Duke, check out the Duke’s official website for the rest of this week’s issue.  If you’d like to read other stuff I’ve written, check out the archive page to see my other columns and pieces.


It Doesn’t Get Much More ‘Out There’ Than Space

If I was a famous actor and appeared on Inside the Actor’s Studio, and James Lipton asked me what my motto was, I’d probably reply: “Life’s too short to be taken seriously.”

It’s not the most original saying, but I buy into it more than any other nugget of wisdom. Alas, I am not a world-renowned actor; I am a humor columnist for a college newspaper, which is pretty indicative of my motto, really.

I also am not a billionaire entrepreneur who controls the most popular circus in the world. But one thing that I do have in common with Guy Laliberté, CEO of Cirque de Soleil, is a tendency to inject lighthearted fun into serious situations. This is exactly what Laliberté, who is a fire-eater and stilt-walker, did when he spent 10 days as a tourist in the International Space Station, becoming the “first clown in space.”

Of course, because space travel is a relatively new possibility in the course of history, the phrase “first _____ in space” will be used a lot in the next fifty years. I can’t wait until 2035 when I become the first tall, blonde, half-Albino economist/journalist from Philadelphia in space!

While most would consider a clown in space a generally humorous proposition, my (un)scientific hypothesis is that every other person you run into would list “clowns” as one of their biggest fears. Something about a colorful, makeup-drenched person whose only job is to entertain scares the living daylights out of people.

This is simply unfair. Clowns sacrifice a great deal of their dignity for our entertainment, and how do we respond? Terror. It’s like if someone invited you to a huge birthday party and you responded by running away screaming (assuming you actually liked the person who invited you).

Clowns are the more obnoxious evolution of mimes, which have been around since ancient Greece. Mimes developed into more comedic, outgoing entertainers such as court jesters, clowns, The Three Stooges and Fred Durst. Since anything a jester said was considered to be a joke or “in jest,” the jester was allowed to speak out on controversial issues even though free speech was at a premium, because nobody took what the jester said seriously (much like Fred Durst).

While mimes and jesters were sometimes the scapegoats for an angry civilian or king’s rage, they were never as overtly despised as they are in today’s society – and the most controversial thing clowns talk about nowadays is whether they prefer Dole or Chiquita bananas.

Laliberté is on the right track; clowns need to make more appearances in critical situations. Imagine if, during the intense G20 summit, a clown made his way through the protestors and pied an officer in the face. Would it be respectful? Absolutely not. But would it be even borderline funny? Absolutely, yes!

Supreme Court hearings, senior thesis defenses, Wimbledon and Radiohead concerts are all dreadfully stoic events in dire need of some mindless humor, not unlike this column. In fact, I would argue that 85 percent of “serious” events would be improved tenfold by the presence of at least one member of the foam-nosed elite. I would like to refer to this theory as the “Laliberté Corollary.”

Of course, there are limits to the Laliberté Corollary. Open-heart surgery is probably not the best time to queue up some crazy calliope music and send in a tiny car full of clowns. But if there’s one thing clowns are known for, it’s their innate sense of judgment; certainly, these professionals would know when the appropriate time to enter has appeared.

Laliberté might find himself on the business side of slapstick comedy these days, but he clearly hasn’t lost his flair for the lighthearted in the world of dollars and cents. He is an inspiration to those of us with the desire to entertain, albeit with far less talent. And if the world learned to embrace irreverent humor the way Laliberté has on his space trek, maybe the world could also learn to be a better place.

Matt Kasznel is a junior journalism major and can be reached at

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