In a recent discussion, and as a result of a small amount of outside research, I am coming to better understand Brecht's use of humor in his plays. As many of his works came from collaborative efforts—as discussed in previous posts—it would seem that not only is Brecht's sense of levity derived from literally having one's friends and close acquaintances present in the writing process, but also from his firm understanding of satire and the nature of his productions.
To clarify: it has recently been brought to my attention that Brecht was indeed a “fun-loving” genius. In an audio book by monologist Mike Daisey entitled “Great Men of Genius: Bertolt Brecht,” the performer explains a list of the reasons why Brecht is always pictured with a cigar and a smile. Among these reasons are the incredible amount of sex he was known to have had, as well as the fact that many of his lovers became friends and close collaborators. The intimacy of such connections speaks volumes, and the fact that he was comfortable with these people, to me, signals that they too probably shared in Brecht's sense of humor. For, as we all know, sometimes the best way to deal with a heavy subject is through poking fun—and this is an excellent time for having those closest to you right there.
Another interesting tidbit that I had failed to consider, was the early production history of many of Brecht's works. While in exile from the third Reich, the playwright's work went with him. As many of his early works had been work shopped into a repertoire this allowed the actors to take their shows into the towns and countries they stayed in. This means that they were presumably performed for audiences of varied levels of class, education, and sophistication. Thus, humor would be a necessary part of conveying the message of the play. Imagine, if you will, why “sophisticated” new dramas from Off Broadway so rarely make it down south...
It is the understanding of how to properly use humor that upped the level of satire in Brecht's cycle, and also softened the blow for some of the most heart breaking moments. For instance, in scene 5 of the Caucasian Chalk Circle, would we be more engaged with the seemingly tyrannical judgments of Azdak were they not so hilarious? No, we would sit there and judge him in an entirely different manner. Instead we are shown through his portrayal that he is little more than a representation of a public official.
This has been reoccurring theme of class, and one that I, personally, am going to explore further.