Trevor Noah finds humour in tragedy

trevor-noah-born-a-crimeFor those of you who are fans of The Daily Show, you should get your paws on Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born a Crime. Better yet, get the audiobook version (read by Noah) like I did after my friend, C., highly recommended it. (Thanks C.!)

Like The Daily Show, Noah tackles tough topics in Born a Crime, like being a mixed-raced child growing up in apartheid South Africa, where mixed-raced relationships were legally prohibited. But Noah finds the humour in his predicament because if you think about the implications, it’s ridiculous.

Noah shifts between tragedy and comedy without skipping a beat, breaking down barriers for the taboo. I remember my high school drama teacher telling us that comedy is just tragedy plus time and Noah illustrates this like a true comedian. Spoiler alert, the last chapter is most devastating but also made me laugh the hardest.

Noah reminds us that people can’t be reduced down to their ethnic, religious and socio-economic groups. History shows that attempts to draw lines where they don’t belong (between people, within a person, between places) results in tragedy.

We’re better off if we can love and laugh together.

The Devil STILL Wears Prada

Lauren Weisberger has announced that she is writing a sequel for The Devil Wears Prada! Confession: I never actually read the book. But I did watch the movie over and over and over again. Partly because Meryl Streep is a genius and partly because it made me feel better after bad days at work.

But mostly because I love all the clothes.

I fully intend on reading the sequel when it’s published by HarperFiction next year. The sequel will feature Andy as an editor of bridal fashion magazine The Plunge. Wait, what? I thought she learned her lesson about fashion mag hell? So much for stickin’ it to the man, err.. Meryl Streep.

Emily will also making a return – which means a sequel movie will have to the future the awesome and hilarious Emily Blunt. My favourite Emily quote is:

“See, I’m on this new diet where I don’t eat for a week and when I think I’m going to faint, I eat a block of cheese. I figure I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight”.

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Broken Penguins does documentaries

One of my favourite festivals in Toronto is HotDocs. It’s film festival that showcases some of the best documentaries from Canada and around the world. Oh, and it’s half the price of TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and half the hassle. Of course, George Clooney is unlikely to show up for HotDocs but I’m too snooty to stalk celebrities anyways.

Another awesome thing about HotDocs is that students and seniors get in free before 6 p.m. screenings. So I got hooked when I was in university. This year’s HotDocs took place from April 26 to May 6.

Here are the docs I saw and what I thought:

The Final Member

The Final Member features an Icelandic man, Siggi, and his collection of penises (peni?). It seems creepy until you realize he merely collects them as a study in anthropology. As he puts it, “There’s nothing pornographic about it”. Siggi has penises from all over the animal kingdom, from field mice to sperm whales but he’s missing “The Final Member” – a human penis.

The doc turns super creepy when an American becomes hellbent on getting his penis in the gallery before anyone else, even if it means he must get it removed before he’s dead. This American is very, very creepy indeed. The doc is interesting but moved a little too slow to my liking.

The Job

We’ve all been on job interviews but The Job features a job interview from hell. A number of candidates are forced to complete a number of absurd activities to prove they are person for the job. But they are told almost nothing about the position they are applying for.  The first activity involves candidates trying to sell another candidate as the one best qualified for a job they know nothing about. At one point, most of the candidates are eliminated and subsequently asked to speculate as to why they’ve been eliminated.

It’s absurd and according to the director, it’s real. This company in France takes great pride in their interview methods, or should I say psychological torture. What’s more, the candidates learn at the end that the job pays minimum wage. Ouch.

Interesting doc but I found it too long and treacherous considering the entire film was talking heads.

The Ambassador

I saved my favourite for last. The Ambassador is like a Borat movie – only funnier because it’s real. And even sadder because it’s real. Danish journalist Mads Brunner buys a Liberian diplomatic passport on a quest to acquire blood diamonds from the Central Republic of Africa. “If Congo was the Heart of Darkness, the Central Republic of Africa is the appendage,” he says.

On his hilarious escapades while trying to acquire blood diamonds, he meets a number of other so-called diplomats on roughly the same path. They even offer themselves as mentors! This is, of course, a satire on the situation around blood diamonds. The Central Republic of Africa has all of the world’s most valuable resources (diamonds, uranium, oil) and yet, has managed to keep none of the wealth for itself. Mads shows just how easy it is to exploit a country and how it takes place every day.

The Tragic Comedy of The Sisters Brothers

I was taught in high school that comedy is simply tragedy and time. And in the case of Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, there is plenty of tragedy but the timing is all off. But for some reason, this only makes the story more tragic and even funnier.

The Sisters Brothers is a brilliant but easy read. The relationship between Eli and Charlie Sisters (who are brothers), two seemingly unfeeling contracted killers during California’s Gold Rush, take centre stage in the story. DeWitt doesn’t waste time describing tumble weed and landscapes. Narrated by Eli Sisters, the more sensitive brother who has an even more dangerous streak when angry, the story rolls out slowly with the voice of a simple cowboy.

I’ve read too many novels where the writer takes his or her merry time describing the setting. This isn’t that kind of book. There is plenty of plot and well orchestrated dialogue between the brothers. And while Eli might be a pansy of a killer, he breaks your heart because the poor guy wants nothing more but to be loved. It’s a struggle for me to explain why The Sisters Brothers is comedic. You’ll have to read it to understand. I think a lot of it has to do with Charlie laughing at the wrong times – or as I would like call them FML-moments.

While I was sad to finish this story because it was SO good, DeWitt is either an amazing writer or has a fantastic editor. There is not a second wasted moment or word in the book. Everything serves a brilliant purpose in this sad, sorry tale.

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