Sunday, May 30, 2004

It takes innocence

The best of tricks and scams require more than just a slick tongue and fast brain. They need a straight man.

For every world weary slick devil there must be an ingenue. For every con-artist, a mark. Every George Burns and Charlie Chaplin requires the assistance of a Gracie Allen or Edna Purviance.

Without a believing, stalwart soul a trick is nothing more than obvious sleight-of-hand, easily recognized and easily forgotten. Trust is the needed ingredient to make any theatrical performance real. Faced with an audience equally jaded and cynical, the joke loses its foundation.

Some may humor the performance because it suits their own needs. Not the same. As satisfying as your mother insisting you're pretty, a life filled with the false "Yes!" leaves you wanting. It's as soulless, fleeting and disingenuous as aspartame - the bitter taste of being completely alone.

But what, then, becomes of the straight man? After some fleeting laughs, a sense of satisfaction derived from your the echo of your comedic ball hitting a solid and trustworthy target, what becomes of the dupe? Naturally, having been tricked, they are ridiculed and dismissed as being easy and foolish. Your superior intellect would have it no other way than to dismiss them for their failings.

Without them, however, you are just a voice screaming, laughing, howling into the wind -- with nothing concrete to reflect back. Nothing exists to gauge failure or success. All that is left is the sound of your own voice, endlessly mocking you, its hollow, singular echo reminding you that you are truly alone in this world.

It's the trusting soul - the person who cannot be false, who refuses to become jaded, even after being fooled many times - that retains all that is good and innocent in this world. The act exists because they exist. It's through their eyes we find meaning, a sense of place, a goodness that reaffirms everything we want most to believe.

In this world of ever-increasing falsehood, I'll keep playing the straight man. Not only is it honest, but it's necessary.
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