In ‘Loyal Daughters’, humor effective, necessary
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, February 20, 2007
In his Feb. 20 letter to The Observer (“‘Loyal Daughters’ humor detracts from true dialogue”) Jon Buttaci argues that the play “Loyal Daughters” is “dangerous” because it uses humor to keep students from actually thinking about the ideas it presents. The first flaw in Buttaci’s argument is that anyone who actually saw “Loyal Daughters” is aware that for ninety percent of the play, there was nothing to laugh about. The performance dealt seriously with heavy issues of sexual assault on Notre Dame’s campus.
That said, let’s go ahead and talk about that lighter 10 percent. Clearly, Buttaci seems to feel that we, as Notre Dame students, are sheep, incapable of laughing and thinking at the same time, and therefore we should not be allowed to view anything that may lead us astray by requiring individual thought. Buttaci’s argument also denies the important power of humor to convey ideas in a thought-provoking manner. Humor, it would seem, can only be propaganda.
Contrary to Buttaci’s narrow definition of the function of humor, playwrights and other authors throughout history have been using humor to pose serious questions and demand critical thought from their audiences. I will give one significant example: playwright Luigi Pirandello defined humor not as something that merely makes an audience laugh, but rather as something that evokes what he called a “sentimento del contrario,” or a feeling that something is contrary to what it should be. The audience may laugh for a minute, but will then be forced to ponder whatever it is that is out of place. Something that is humorous, according to Pirandello, can actually be quite serious, even sad. The monologue that Buttaci discusses, called “Logic,” is not only laugh-out-loud humorous. Sure, the audience laughed when actor Patrick Tighe stormed on to the stage waving Du Lac around. However, as a member of the “Loyal Daughters” cast, I can honestly say that I never once saw an audience that was still laughing when Tighe delivered his final line, in the form of a question, to the audience. So, with respect to Buttaci’s argument, I challenge the thoughtful reader to take up the same question that Tighe posed to those who saw the performance: “Is this valid? Anyone?”