Thursday, September 07, 2006

Using TV to Understand Life: Steve Irwin and Chuckles the Clown

Copyright © 2006 Laurie D. T. Mann
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Like I said a few days back, I don't normally get upset when I'm updating Dead People Server. Not that I don't care, but I'm just a realist about death. I did find Steve Irwin's death upsetting, however. He was so youthful, so enthusiastic, and he left a young family. He was literally just getting started.

But, this morning, I was recording a segment on the Ugly Phil Morning Show, a radio show on Kerang in Birmingham, England. I'm unfamiliar with ths show, but it sounded like it was kind of a comedy show, and that's fine.

We talked about Dead People Server and about the shock of Steve Irwin's death.

And suddenly, thinking about a man who wrestled hundreds of crocs during his life, dozens of poisonous snakes and probably other encounters not recorded, to be cut down by a stingray barb, made us all laugh. We really didn't mean to. We don't look at Irwin's death as a, when you get right down to it.

Back in the '70s, The Mary Tyler Moore Show comically dealt with the very odd death of Chuckles the Clown (dressed like a giant peanut and trampled by an elephant). Everyone in the newsroom laughed about Chuckles' death, except for Mary. She kept getting angry at the people who laughed. Suddenly, in the middle of Chuckles' funeral, it was Mary who couldn't stop laughing.

There is normally nothing funny about death, but, sometimes, the situation around it can be. If Jim and I die from a common cause like cancer or heart disease or a car accident, that's not so funny. If we die because a bookcase falls on us (we're avid book collectors)!

If, say, Rick Santorum died of a heart attack, well, that wouldn't be funny (though it would make many of us breathe a sigh of relief). If he died of a heart attack during a homosexual tryst with a HYSTERICAL! Not because he collects leathermen (to the best of anyone's knowledge, he does not), but because he is so adamantly and so publicly homophobic.

So sometimes death...can be a scream.


S.P. said...

Hello, Laurie, found you through your Susie post... Good columns...

It's so true that most comedy stems from tragedy, in some fashion. I would imagine Irwin himself would find the irony in his death, considering his day job!!!


S.P. said...

...and sure enough, from Sept 15th...