Wednesday, December 07, 2011

An incest joke

The other day I was teaching Irony, which I always do by first explaining why Alanis was wrong, although now kids don't even know that song anymore. Then I tell them the story of Oedipus. Then we read something ironic, in this case Kate Chopin's "Story of an Hour."

Irony is a tough concept to grasp for a lot of people, so you've got to triple the explanation. I'll probably have to explain it a few more times to really get it to sink in. But so far they seem to be following along okay. When I asked them why the ending of "Story of an Hour" is ironic, most of the kids got it.

I love teaching that story because it is two pages long, but it teaches about so very many literary concepts. Plus feminism. After the lesson we had a discussion about the purpose of marriage, and I thought the boys and girls were going to start a gender riot. They were seriously pissed off. Kids these days are jaded.

But that's not what this post is about.

While I was telling the story of Oedipus, I got to the part where he goes in and finds Jocasta hanging from the ceiling. I said "And then Oedipus found her dead. And he was distraught. He slapped himself and yelled MY MOTHER! (slap) MY WIFE!  (slap) MY MOTHER! (slap) MY WIFE!"

Although they enjoyed watching me slap myself, they did not get my Chinatown joke. And I thought, if one of you guys was there, you'd have laughed.

So often my brilliant comedy is lost on 16-year-olds.


  1. Anonymous9:07 AM

    Congrats on your logline placing!

  2. Thanks! That's my rock n roll logline. I wish they were all that successful.

  3. I've said it before, I'll say it again...You're one helluva teacher!

    You like teaching, you like the kids, and it shows. Even if Spielberg calls, don't give up can do both.

    In fact, one way to explain irony [I think] is this: You became a teacher in order to make a living while working on your screenplays...and gradually fell in love with teaching!

    So. 16 year olds didn't really get the joke?

    "Forget it, Emily. It's Chinatown."

  4. Thanks, man. I do like teaching. I'd still rather be writing screenplays, but this isn't a bad way to make a living in the meantime.

  5. Irony is all the more so hard to explain that sometimes it comes as a surprise and sometimes the audience knows it all from the beginning. The effect is not the same. There is a great chapter on irony, especially dramatic irony, in Yves Lavandier's Writing Drama. I recommend the book if you don't know it. Carole Sabine JPA


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