Comedy is a legitimacy crisis followed by the sudden appearance of a cornucopia. That’s the title of the afterword I wrote for the new edition of The Collected Jokes of Slavoj Žižek, a droll book by Berlin-based Norwegian artist Audun Mortensen, seen here hot off the presses.
The book contains every joke cited or paraphrased by Žižek as found in his English publications from The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989) to Living in the End Times (2010). Mortensen printed a single copy in coffee-table format in April 2011. Now the book has been published in an edition of 250 by Flamme Forlag. The catalogue number is Flamme F°117. It’s now on the Flamme website. The new cover is by Yokoland. It shows Freud’s “borrowed kettle”, discussed in my afterword and used twice in The Book of Jokes.
Here’s a short extract from my essay:
Žižek seems to have a brain very much suited to the recognition of particular situational shapes. Thinking about something in the real world, he suddenly recognises that it has the same basic structure as an absurd situation in a joke he’s heard, often from a highly respectable source; Derrida, or Lacan, or Freud.
This technique gives us a refreshing sense of what we might call “the lightness of profundity”. We see the charming playfulness of the great masters of philosophy, and perhaps begin to recognise philosophy itself, at its highest, lightest level, as something akin to laughter and joking; “the smile of the gods”. Certain scenarios in the real world can be as absurd as jokes, self-evidently laughable, no matter how tragic they are.
History, Žižek likes to remind us — citing Marx, himself citing Hegel — plays first as tragedy, then as farce. And laughter at the farcical has a sublime aspect; it allows us to imagine the redundancy of one set of ideas, and the birth of a dizzying plethora of alternatives. Comedy is a legitimacy crisis followed by the sudden appearance of a cornucopia.