cover image Holy Fools and Funny Gods: The Link Between Religion and Humor

Holy Fools and Funny Gods: The Link Between Religion and Humor

Izar Lunaček, trans. from the Slovenian by Nejc Juren. Uncivilized, $24.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-94125-0570

Slovenian philosopher and cartoonist Lunacek (Animal Noir) lays out a rambling yet stimulating treatise on the relationship between comedy and religion. Drawing squiggly, grotesque caricatures in an open-page layout, he contends that the sacred and the ridiculous often worked hand in hand in belief systems around the world and over the ages, until their union was severed with the advent of Christianity (“the demonising of laughing was a purely Christian hang-up”). Lunaček notes that even the biblical figure Jacob, the mischievous trickster who bamboozled his brother out of his birthright, has been recast as a noble figure in Christian tradition. Elsewhere, Lunaček buttresses his theories with a discussion of early 20th–century Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, whose writings about Carnival show carnal appetites that often power comedy as a temporary corrective to the rigidity of religion. Examples from myths around the world shed light on how humorous trickster gods were often the secret servants of creator gods. Ultimately, Lunaček concludes that the split between foolish and sacred elevated both; similarly to how “the holy invented a universal God... the funny’s move from myth to art freed it.” Though the surreal art and untethered text balloons can prove tricky to parse, Lunaček effectively threads together disparate elements and lands salient points. This is philosophy done up in flamboyant style. (Nov.)