Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

The One Hour Laugh

June 5

Currently on exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney is a piece called The One Hour Laugh. It is a Fifty-seven minute video of four women dressed in black body suits, each one with a different color neck scarf and dunce hat combo. The sound track is exactly as it sounds it should be. This conversation is inspired by the conversation Cat and I had while watching the first fifteen minutes. It is a slight re-imagining of the one we actually had.

“What is this piece called again?”

“The One Hour Laugh.”

“It is an interesting comedy in itself. You can see the woman on the right seems self-conscious.”

“Yeah, it is turning into an awkward comedy pretty fast. They are referencing cringe-worthy pieces like The Office and any Ben Stiller film.”

“Oh, so it’s a commentary on our standards of what is and isn’t funny. Does that make it inherently funny?”

“Does the laugh mean things are funny?”

“I suppose not. It could be merely an action to fill a space or a silence.”

“I think the woman on the right is a prime example of that. Look at her. She’s parroting the others, trying to copy their movements, trying to laugh along with them, but it just isn’t working. She’s faking it and it is just uncomfortable. She is the Muriel of the group.”

“You can tell that Yellow is the leader. She’s the one starting everything.”

“Yep, she’s the alpha. Purple is just trying to be her. And it is failing. Hard.”

“So what about Red?”

“Red is Kramer. Doing her own thing. Related to the rest, but not clearly influenced by or influencing.”

“So who is Elaine?”

[both point to Purple, who at the moment is making uncoordinated dance moves]

“How do you keep up laughing this long?”

“Hunger. Desperation. This is actually the last recording that exists of The Crayolas.”


“Yeah? You didn’t know that? Back thirty years ago there was a competition, battle of the bands-style, to find the next big children’s group. The Crayolas were narrowly edged out by The Wiggles. They were criticized for their costumes being gimmicky, but the irony of the whole thing was that while their lyrics were written for kids, they actually had a lot of deeper meaning and subtext to them. They were legitimately good songs, and a bit dark if you really dug into them. Something that parents could enjoy too. But losing that competition crushed them. They slowly fell from grace, went from playing concert halls to clubs to coffee houses; state fairs to country fairs.”

“They ended up competing with the noise of carrousels?”

“Yeah. They got bitter. This video was their last effort. They tried to go art-house and appeal to that crowd. They had the talent and the credibility, but at this point they really had the hunger. So they went extra avant garde, just making a show that was an hour of laughter.”

“They weren’t all into it were they? Red is laughing along, but there’s an angry edge under it.”

“Exactly. They were consummately professional and always went with a democracy, but you could always tell when one of them wasn’t in favor of what they were doing. It came out somehow. Red walked off set the second this was over.”

“What happened then?”

“Purple. She was depressed and feeling awkward, useless, unloved. She drank herself to death.”

“I feel like this is the point where they should pause the video, zoom in on her face, and put the epitaph below.”

“Yeah. Well, not right now. She looks pretty awkward at the moment.”

“But she is getting into it. She’s loosening up. She almost looks like she is having fun.”

“That’s the tragedy of the whole thing. She was awkward because she was self-conscious. But once they got into something, she would relax. She was still awkward, but she would get into it and clearly be having fun. And that is more powerful. You can connect to it more. She isn’t the cool kid being cool that you want to be, the one that causes you to have insecurities. She is the goofball who doesn’t care and is having fun anyway. The one you look at and think, ‘Well if she can be having fun dancing and acting like that, what the hell am I being reserved about?’”

“So in essence she is the core of the group. And in a way the leader. She is trying to ape the others, but they are all trying to open up and be inclusive, to let her in and to make her feel comfortable with who she is. So by being the uncomfortable one, she is dictating the actions of the others.”

“And to think she died without ever realizing her own power.”

“Yep. You can either let it depress you, or you can go out with a laugh.”

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This entry was posted on June 17, 2012 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney) and tagged , .

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