Day 826: The difference between tragedy and comedy

I got a paper-cut on my finger three days ago  at work, and it’s been hurting me ever since.

I don’t know if Oscar — or you — can see that cut, but it’s reminding me of this definition of the difference between tragedy  and comedy, from Mel Brooks as The 2000 Year Old Man:

Tragedy is when I get a paper-cut on my finger. It hurts, I’ll run around, I’ll cry, and I’ll go to the hospital.

Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.

Even though I can’t find that particular tragedy/comedy clip right now,  that’s no tragedy, since there’s lots more comedy where that came from :

You can find Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner performing the amazing comedy of The 2000 Year Old Man on YouTube and — I hope — many other places.  It would be a tragedy if those jewels of improvisational comedy ever disappear.

Sometimes, I find it hard to decide what’s tragic and what’s comic, in my life. Sometimes, I laugh to keep from crying or find it all so funny, I cry.

Am I alone in this tragicomedy?

Whatever your thoughts about that or anything else in this post, it wouldn’t be a tragedy if you leave them in a comment, you know.

Here are some photos I took last night, when I was thinking about tragedy and comedy at our local supermarket.


I am hoping that nobody’s so tragically alone that they need a talking mouse like that, just to hear the words, “I like you.”

Here’s a tragedy for me (which may be comical to you):

My most favorite Skinny Cow dessert has tragically  disappeared from the freezer section of my supermarket.   I fear the yummy and low calorie chocolate mousse ganache cones I love  will never, ever return.

If my thoughts turn tragic about that loss or about anything else (like the upcoming surgery for my unusual heart), I’ll just remember this:

Yes, I have survived disco, so I’ll probably survive a whole lot more.

There’s a specific personal tragedy I’d like to transform here, before I end this post. Last week, a doctor I met for the first time said things I found negative, frightening, and tragically hope-diminishing. As I’ve oft written in this blog, negative words and thoughts  can tragically push out the positive.

In the here and now, I resolve to turn that tragedy into comedy.


Well, as I’ve found in individual and group psychotherapy, it’s possible to reduce the power of toxic people by changing your thoughts about them. For example, I could picture that cardiologist as a clown  or as a standup comedian, delivering a routine (rather than delivering dire predictions about my health).

Also, I could turn that personal tragedy into comedy here,  with some jokes about doctors:

“Doctor, you have to help me out!” “Certainly, which way did you come in?”

“Doctor, you’ve taken out my tonsils, my adenoids, my gall bladder, and my appendix, but I still don’t feel well.” “That’s enough out of you!”

“Doctor, my leg hurts! What can I do?” “Limp.”

“Doctor, I’ve hurt my arm in several places.” “Don’t go there any more.”

What’s the difference between God and a doctor?
God doesn’t think He’s a doctor. 

As that last joke reminds me, that doomsday doctor I saw last week is not God. No human being, doctor or otherwise, is psychic about the future. We all have to wait and see what really happens, with all of us.

Maybe I’ll run into this doctor years from now, still looking as good as I do now, and give him some sort of comic gesture.

What do you think that gesture should be?

When you have about 25 minutes for some great comedy, watch this episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show for a perfect suggestion:

(Note: that episode is no longer available on YouTube, perhaps because of the tragedy of Mary Tyler Moore’s death.  The gesture, in “The Critic” episode,  was  a pie in the face.)

Well! I have to go to the hospital now, not because of my paper-cut or any other tragedy, but because I need to get to work.

Here’s what it looks like outside, right now:

Is that a tragedy or a comedy? It might depend on how close it is, to you.

Tragically sincere thanks to Mel Brooks, to Carl Reiner, to the wonderful writers and actors from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, to people who live a thousand years or less,  to good doctors, to bunnies of all colors, to skinny cows, and to you — of course! —  for sharing my comedies and tragedies, here and now.

Categories: humor, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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34 thoughts on “Day 826: The difference between tragedy and comedy

  1. I will share with you my comedy tragedy story. My mother in law was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. The first doctor she went to told her the prognosis was 3 months. My mother in law was 68 at the time and left the office and went to another doctor. She lived for 12 years with the care of her new doctor. The doomsday doctor, a young man, was hit by a car while riding his bicycle in Central Park a few months after he had made his doomsday diagnosis, and died. True story, once again proving many doctors may think they are God, but they aren’t, and putting ourselves in the care of someone who is positive and hopeful makes a difference.

  2. yeseventhistoowillpass

    It would be pathetic to need a mouse that says I like you…. More pathetic than tragic…

  3. Comedy and Tragedy are linked forever. Humour comes from tragedy of one sort or another. I guess that’s why it’s good for us to be able to laugh at ourselves, right Ann? ❤
    Diana xo

  4. I think of all words created for human languages were “created”; I don’t mean that they do not exist, they do, but they are “words” still. If we didn’t speak, we would use sign language anyway, trying to convey the same meanings. Look what I found in Wiki: “The Greeks and Romans confined their use of the word “comedy” to descriptions of stage-plays with happy endings. It is in this sense that Dante used the term in the title of his poem, La Commedia. Tragedy is a form of drama based on human suffering that invokes in its audience an accompanying catharsis or pleasure in the viewing. Then “parody;( also called spoof, send-up or lampoon), in use, is a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of satiric or ironic imitation.”-Wiki

    With the passage of time, however, neither tragedy or comedy fulfill me, instead I love the “absurd”. “Absurdity in Philosophy”: written by Thomas Nagel in his paper “The Absurd”, Nagel explains the perpetual absurdity of human life. Absurdity in life becomes apparent when we realize the fact that we take our lives seriously, while simultaneously perceiving that there is a certain arbitrariness to everything we do. His suggestion is to meet this absurd world with irony and continue on with this realization of the absurd world we live in.” I think you do this very well Ann. You have this knack for puns and absurdity, this is why I like your blog so much. I find life is indeed “absurd”, but I like to be discreet about it, because there is a tendency to lean towards tragic or comical views.

  5. I think it is a tragedy that I have never before heard of Skinny Cows dessert!

    Hope you have a comical with no tragedy kind of day!

  6. I hate paper cuts! There are zillions of nerve endings on our fingertips, and they hurt so much! I had one two weeks ago and put some antibiotic ointment on it at bedtime. It was better next day. I thought of the tragedy vs comedy thing, and I think irony fits into it somewhere. May your Mobday be a good one!

    • Thanks to you, I took time during my tragically busy day today and got some antibiotic for my finger. I am very grateful.

  7. A man says to his doctor, “Doctor, I woke up this morning and I couldn’t pee.” Doctor says, “How old are you?” Man says, “94.” Doctor says, “You peed enough.”

    I invented the Really Wow Doll™ in 2000. It has a sensor that let’s it know when you’re speaking. When you’re finished speaking, no matter what you’ve said, it responds, “Really? Wow!!” Try it, it’s great (like Yoo-Hoo)!

  8. Fab post. I was between doing a themed quiz on chocolate or bunnies. Every time i write Easter in my phone it comes up as faster. Hope you had a wonderful Faster 😉

  9. I guess “Life is a state of mind”:

    • Thanks for this clip from that amazing movie, Maria.

      • Ann, I finally saw the whole movie last night (Being There). It’s what it’s called a “black comedy”, or “black humor”. Black comedy is often controversial due to its subject matter, so it’s not like you can laugh about it but something about it is ridiculously absurd. I actually liked it a lot.

      • I should watch that movie again, Maria. I remember admiring it very much, several decades ago. Thanks for reminding me about it.

    • You’re welcome. It reminded me of another movie which is called “Life Is Beautiful”, the 1997 Italian tragicomedy comedy-drama film directed by and starring Roberto Benigni of a boy in a Nazi concentration camp. It is not considered black humor, but a mixture of comedy and drama. I wouldn’t watch that one again though. I liked the message, I just don’t like movies about concentration camps. Some say his positivism (the father’s) was a bit overdone. It’s just opinion, though.

      • I actually haven’t seen “Life is Beautiful.” Maybe someday.

      • That movie got Benigni an Oscar, but he’s actually a comedian, and my mother who is Jewish thought the movie was just flawed because he was making jokes and acting like a clown in a concentration camp. He did that to save his son’s life, but my mother could not see this type of comical behaviour in the middle of much chaos. Well, if you see t, you’ll perhaps see what I mean.

      • I’ve heard similar reactions to this movie, and perhaps that’s why I have never seen it. I’ll let you know if I do.

  10. Why is a paper cut the most painful, really it seems so painfully makes me wonder if I was stabbed would it be as painful as a paper cut

    • According to Sonnische above, Joanne, it’s the concentration of nerve endings in our fingers. It is tragic isn’t it ? I’m glad I won’t feel it when I get stabbed during my operation on May 4 … just saying.

  11. Life is so full of…TC LOL
    Here’s one of mine:
    Hope that your doctor’s visits keep getting helpful & more hopeful. And – keep the faith. 😉

  12. If life goes right, Ann, doomsday doc’s dire diagnosis disappears and Skinny Cow’s delicious ganosh shows back up that same week in May, my friend.

  13. Thank you, as always, for the good advice. I’m having to do some transformational work on a personal problem, and re-imagining it in comic mode is very helpful.

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