Of all of tv’s “most beloved comedies” this one is probably the most belovedest, or at least the longest most-beloved: I Love Lucy. Not everyone loves the show, but chances are you do, since most people love it. Love her. Love Lucy.
What is it we love about Lucy? Probably front and center is her incessant drive to somehow find a way to “get in the show.” Even though Ricky, her husband, does everything he can to keep that from happening - and not because Lucy has no performing talent (which her character doesn’t) but because in the 1950’s world in which she and Ricky live, wives don’t work. No matter, Lucy is always coming up with some new harebrained scheme to fool Ricky and get what she wants…at least temporarily.
Often her shenanigans involve disguising herself in some wacky outfit (like a Spanish senorita or giant cello) in order to slip onto the stage unrecognized.
We love witnessing the crazy lengths Lucy will go as well as what happens when her ruse is uncovered by Ricky or some other authority figure. Even though she’s usually humiliated and punished (for example when Ricky sings “Babalu” whilst using her behind as a pair of bongos), we only continue laughing because (a) it’s “ridiculous suffering” she experiences and (b) we know she’ll be back next in the next episode with a hilarious new ploy.
Lucy is a primo example of a modern trickster, a character who relies on wits and guts to get what he/she wants, even though, in the end, it’s back to the drawing board. In trickster tales, the ending is way less important than the crazy, unpredictable, improper and very funny journey the trickster is inspired to take, completely upsetting many a previously assumed immovable apple cart in the process. We may find the trickster’s world a depressing one, for it’s clear they’re never going to have the clout to succeed in the way they wish. However, as we look at the trickster through the comic lens, he/she shows us we can nevertheless make those intractable times in our lives and places in our world incredibly lively, impacting, creative, joyful and extraordinary.
There are tricksters of all sorts in the Bible. Perhaps most notable is Jacob, the second-born son of Isaac. Like Lucy, Jacob is always trying to raise himself up from his intractably inferior position through God-given wits and guts. Perhaps the most notable example is found at Genesis 27 where he (with mother Rebecca’s mischievous help) puts on animal skins attempting to fool his blind old father Isaac into thinking he’s his older and much hairier (and oaf-ier) brother Esau in order to obtain the cherished family birthright, the extravagant gift that always goes to the first-born.
Like any a hilarious Lucy episode, the stunt succeeds for awhile, as blind Isaac pets and smells Jacob’s absurd costume assuming it to of course be his gamey older brother. Ridiculously convinced, disguised Jacob receives the blessing and birthright…for now. When Esau comes home and learns what’s been going on Jacob promptly skedaddles, knowing it’s now his hide everyone wants a piece of (pun totally intended); it’s as if he’d just been told in no uncertain terms (and in a thick Cuban accent) to get off the stage NOW!
What’s especially interesting is that in the biblical narrative, Jacob is the character to whom God gives the sacred rename “Israel.” The Chosen People are to always know front and center that they are descended from a consummate trickster. (Who is descended from Isaac, meaning "laughter"....)
From the comic lens, it makes sense that "Israel" would have this trickster heritage, because for most of her history she has found herself in a “low status” position in the eyes of the world: small in number, persecuted, maligned, vulnerable to extinction, among other things….
And yet, the Israelite/Jewish community, perhaps better than any other, has and continues to communicate to the world how God-given wit and chutzpah never ceases to bring liveliness, creativity, joy, wisdom, influence and, most notable of all, LAUGHTER in the midst and maybe because of all the tough stuff.
Much more to come about tricksters, Israel, and the sacred state of looking funny!
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