How Does One Become a “Literary Absurdist”?
by Joe Buonfiglio
“I take offense at that,” I replied to her insinuation with an air of holy indignation. “What makes you think I play the clown?”
To my mind, there is a distinct difference to absurdist-based humor and clowning in the traditional sense of the profession. While it is true that at any given moment both may rely upon the arbitrary disarray whirling all about us, I can see that many of you may not appreciate the role the Literary Absurdist plays in the cosmic fart that is the universe.
So, I’m going to now take a moment here to step out of my usual strange-humor persona to break the fourth wall and speak directly to you in a more professorial fashion in order to offer up a little insight into my favorite subject matter … ME.
How does one become a “Literary Absurdist,” an absurd-humor writer? What dark forces of the universal landscape are at work there, eh?
Right out of the gate, you need to realize that I am a creature of Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome. (It’s a real condition. Google it, if you’re so inclined. I’m not your mommy; do your own homework.) I can be funny one second, and then turn on a dime with intense anger the next; jocular, and then for no obvious reason, turn hostile without warning. This creates a natural irrationality to my existence and, as you might expect, easily translates to the absurdity within my chosen craft. It is a life generating a haphazard bedlam that reveals itself in my view of the world that consequentially emerges in my literary works.
My angels and my demons are one and the same, and my Muse cannot distinguish between the two. Darkness from light, light from dark; comedy from tragedy; tragedy becoming comedy.
Even as far back as high school, I felt split in two; as if I had a foot in each of two worlds, but I never fit into either … never really felt comfortable … never really accepted. So now, I create my own little world unto itself; a world where I fit in; a world where I … make sense.
I see our ephemeral walk upon this Earth as both ridiculous and utterly meaningless outside of our own parochial perception of “self.” Once you recognize this, even the horror cutting into us as we slide along our mortal coil has a humor to it. It’s almost impossible not to see once you recognize life as an arcane vapor farted out of God’s ass due to an overconsumption of His own self-importance.
However, what was placed into the primordial ooze of my soul that evolved into this obscene thing, a preposterous hyena now attempting to enlighten you as if you give a pretty penguin poop about any of it?
Let me explain.
Ever since a dear friend of mine introduced me to Monty Pythons Flying Circus when I was but a mere child in middle school, my love of the absurd — specifically absurd humor — has been my life’s passion-project. (He also introduced me to The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil, but that’s another part of the story for another day.) My vocational pursuits became this peculiar blend of the ribald bizarre with an underlying intelligentsia influence. I craved British television (particularly comedy and sci-fi); this melded with a fascination of artists such as Salvador Dali. I realized that the artistry of the Marx Brothers was not just lowbrow antics, but a magnificently timed dance with a wonderful intelligence behind it.
I am a creature of fantasy. I don’t make sense in the “real” world. But in the realm of the blank page?
Not only do I fit in; I’M GOD! Nothing happens unless I will it to happen.
In the so-called real world, I’m just one more down-on-his-luck schmuck. In the worlds I create, I’m Superman, Batman, Deadpool, Doctor Who and Lou Costello all rolled into one brilliantly irrational package!
I remember, years ago, sitting on the old Warner Brothers’ lot with reps from a production company interested in a screenplay I had co-written. At one point, we were sitting outside eating while pieces of various sets were walked by us as we casually discussed how Fox had fucked up a real opportunity when it took on the long-running BBC science-fiction television program Doctor Who back in the 90s. Everyone took all this nonsense completely seriously in this atmosphere of make-believe revolving all around us as if it had anything to do with any sort of grounding in reality.
It was completely absurd and delightfully humorous within its own little esoteric context of authenticity.
For that brief, shining moment, I felt alive.
I felt at home.
I felt as if—
… as if—
… as if I made sense.
God, there are times when I really miss LA.
Humor? That’s my coping mechanism…. No, it’s my defense mechanism.
Absurdism? That’s just how I see the world, isn’t it? The pointless confusion of the cosmos.
Yet, these seemingly incompatible forces (Shouldn’t indiscriminate disorder cause distress, not levity?) help me hold on to my sanity. Well, at least what passes for sanity for me. Here’s a real-life example of what I’m talking about.
Not too long ago relative to the time of this writing, I pissed off the sponsor and co-producer of a local radio show by incessantly interrupting the dramatic reading during what was an integral part of the show’s format with my trademark inane, irrelevant, irreverent, absurd commentary.
I mean to tell you, this guy was red-faced angry. I felt as if I was being chided by my first-grade teacher for engaging in class-clown activities that demolished the day’s lesson. Now mind you, the reading was from The Ox-Bow Incident, so it was dry, tedious and most likely lulled listeners to sleep; “sleep,” as in a welcoming overdose of sleeping pills to end the misery of having to go on.
However, in his defense, I did break with the program’s sacrosanct format and I could see where he may have felt I betrayed a sacred trust of the Theatre of the Mind or some such bullshit.
But afterwards, over a few beers with the show’s co-hosts, I had to laugh. The producer/sponsor had no problem with the fact that I brought fresh-baked baguettes into the studio and, on-air, told them all to shove them up their asses while we all sang the national anthem of Canada. That was okay. But interrupt the reading of an outdated, boring piece of literature and I’m banned from the show for life.
You get what I mean now? Are you coming around to embracing the weirdness of the world?
© 2016 Joseph P. Buonfiglio All Rights Reserved.
All photos are © 2016 Joseph P. Buonfiglio with All Rights Reserved.