Rogues, Ne'er do wells, and Sad-sacks

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Comedy is easy to understand—and typically wrongly understood—as all fluff, froth, and fancy. Easy, that is, as long as the comedy centers on heroes, couples—normally romantic--and ordinary Joes making good. Comedy is less easy to understand when it centers on rogues who defy all the standards of society and get away with it, on ne’er do wells who continue to continue in doing nothing well and yet survive, or on general victims of a world they don’t understand and with which they can’t cope, and yet who also survive.

It turns out that comedies that focus on these three are nevertheless among the most discussed and most valued of comedies.  From time to time, some critic even comes up with a theory that all comedy is simply a variant on the sad-sack in Charlie Chaplin or the rogue in Falstaff or the incompetents in Cherry Orchard or some Steve Martin combination of all three. For those who are fascinated by such rogues, ne’er do wells, and sad-sacks, the following essays offer a variety of related perspectives based in ITCH’s theories of comedy and humor. 

Theoretical Background: 

Villains, Butts, and Fools,  Excerpt from Comedy in Space, Time, and the Imagination.

Butts and Villains, Excerpt from Comedy in a New Mood

1.  Shakespeare’s rogue, John Falstaff: “The Irrepressibly Complex Falstaff.” 

1.  Shakespeare’s rogue, John Falstaff: “The Irrepressibly Complex Falstaff.” 

2.  Chekhov’s ne’er do wells: “A Case in Point:  The Cherry Orchard.

3.  Ibsen’s rogue, Peer Gynt: “The Humor Grim of Henrik Ibsen.”

4.  Ne’er do wells from the sixties: The Big Chill’s Entropic Humor.”

5.  Rogue salesman: Rain Man:  The Recent Rapid Development of Comedy.”

6.  Classic sad-sack: Father of the Bride:  A Long Line of Over-reactors”

7.  Rogue con men:Dirty Rotten Scoundrels:  Let’s Go Get ‘Em.”

8.  Chicago’s ne’er do wells:The Blues Brothers:  On a Mission from God”

9.  Rogue salesman: The Music Man:  Think ‘The Minuet in G.’”

10. Ne’er do wells from the sixties: A Mighty Wind: Getting the Right Genre.”

11. Rogue street rat: Aladdin:  Do You Trust Me?”

12. False sad-sack Forrest Gump: “Twelve Forms of Irony:  The Theoretical Significance of Forrest Gump.”

13. False ne’er do well ring fighter: “Fall Vitalism:  Rocky.”

14. False rogue Clarence Day: “Fall Vitalism: Life with Father.