Thursday, February 19, 2015

Harris Wittels, 1984-2015

Last year one of the funniest men on the planet took his own life. He was 63 years old and had spent his whole life fighting his own pain until he was too exhausted to keep it up.

This week, again one of the funniest men on the planet left us. He was 30 years old, and I don't know why or how he came to leave. He'd had his problems, he'd told the world about them, and it had seemed that he'd come through them to somewhere better. I don't know what happened that made it all fall apart.

In fact I don't really know anything about him, and it's kidding myself to act like I did. As much as I wished I could have met him, I never did. I didn't know him, but we so easily come to feel that we do know people who can make us laugh, even when it's just through the sound of their voice, recorded on the other side of the world. I didn't know Harris Wittels at all, I just knew he was brilliant and funny and what he did made my life better. There are countless people who would say exactly the same.

If losing someone so young and so suddenly is inexplicable, it feels all the more so when it's someone so full of that supreme talent for creating laughter. But there never was a way to turn the ability to make jokes into the ability to make yourself happy. Comedy doesn't protect you from pain or diseases or addictions or stupid meaningless accidents or any of the monsters that come to steal away young lives. All it does is paint the tragedy with a kind of sick irony, make it look on the surface to be so perverse that it paradoxically becomes easier for us to process - the juxtaposition of laughter and tears so extreme that it's somehow fitting.

But no, that's not all comedy does in these times - it also leaves something behind. Harris Wittels could have, should have, would have done so much more, but he'd also done so much already, and he's left us all a lot of beauty to remember him with.

That's something, but it's hard to see right now. Right now my heart hurts and all I can see is that there is so much sadness in the world, and it might be insurmountable.

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