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Concrete comedy is a hallmark of the modern sensibility. It begins with Valentin, the first person to consistently create objects of comic intent, and with Marcel Duchamp, who was the first to thematize the question of the artist’s seriousness, and then it spreads. Warhol during his deadpan ’60s phase, Andy Kaufman, Martin Kippenberger—all can be regarded as concrete comedians. Something caused comedy to expand beyond merely verbal wit, and the innovation held. Why? We can only speculate. Perhaps a concrete comedy that engages the theaters of the real world felt more empowering than did just speaking funny lines. Comedy is always about a relation to power. There’s always a jester and always a king, even if the “king” now takes the form of mass media, capitalism, and the other ruling abstractions of our time. And the jester always represents a threat, because the jester, in accepting his role, has announced his intention not to seek the throne. He’s playing another game, and that makes him dangerous.

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