It is Ancient Greek Wednesday, and we have brought to you a line from our favorite comedian in the Ancient World, Aristophanes. In his play, “Birds” (first performed in 414 BCE); the comedian has Euelpides (notice Aristophanes pseudo-calling Euripides out), listen to Pisthetaerus say:
– I am bursting with desire to speak; I have already mixed the dough of my speech and nothing prevents me from kneading it….
to which Euelpides quickly replies:
– Δειπνήσειν μἐλλομεν, ἥ τί;
Are we planning to eat, or what?
¿Vamos a comer, o que?
Little pause is afforded the spectator who can then feel the frustration of the metaphorical Pisthetaerus
– By Zeus, no!
Aristophanes was a master of the quick rhetorical wit that made jokes work while slapstick was performed. The scene was frantic, filled with action, typical of 1960s Jewish humor. Some would argue the Greeks introduced slapstick to Judaism during the Hellenistic period (from 323 BCE on), and the tradition has remained ever since. This tradition of Jewish quick-witted humor transferred to film through imitators like Charles Chaplin, and actual Jewish comedians such as Belle Barth and Buddy Hacket; currently we enjoy the Jewish comedy of Ike Barinholtz, Rachel Dratch, and Adam Samberg, amongst others.
Are we to say Aristophanes is responsible for slapstick and witty comedy? Probably not, but I bet the playwright would have found something funny to say when “Birds” won second place for best comedy, instead of first, the year it came out.