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A political leader receives word that an opponent has called into question the size of his “jousting lance” and impulsively goes on the offensive. No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, but rather King Henry VIII in Pierre Brault’s WILL SOMERS now playing in the GCTC Studio.
Trump has quite a lot in common with the Henry VIII of our play. They’re both authoritarian, law-and-order-style rulers who have a checkered history with women. They both enjoy making sweeping statements of fact. And both are willing to do what it takes to silence those who would dare to disagree.
There’s no time like election season to highlight the relationship between comedy and politics. Be it Saturday Night Live, skewering the candidates, or the Al Smith dinner where the candidates skewer themselves, comedy provides an often needed relief from the vitriol of partisan politics.
This kind of welcome distraction from the day’s business is what Will Somers, the titular character of the play, provides. Except, Will’s “favoured tongue” doesn’t provide lampooning of the ruling class to the public; rather the issues of the day are mocked for an audience of the King himself. Of course, the stakes are a little higher - today a poor performance can mean bad ratings and lower ad revenues whereas for Will, a poor performance spells death.
Yet the goal remains the same: Comedy can highlight the absurdity of a serious situation and provide a perspective not necessarily seen by one too close to the action.
One criticism of Trump’s temperament is that the man has no sense of humour or even that he never laughs at all. Henry, however, at least recognizes the role a man like Will Somers fills - and over time, the King sees Somers less solely as his entertainment-on-demand and increasingly as a trusted sounding board.
Unlike Trump, who immediately tweets knee-jerk rebuttals to any perceived slight, Henry lets the “jousting lance” dig from his rival slide. It’s Will Somers who, through comedy, shows the King that such comments aren’t worth a response.
It makes one wonder: if Donald Trump had a trusted fool to provide some comic relief, would the world still see so many impulsive tweets at all hours of the morning? Would Trump be constantly crafting counter-attacks if he enjoyed a laugh now and again?