Re "Dear Edna: Why Can't We Laugh Anymore?" Opinion, Feb. 16: Three cheers for Richard Rodriguez and his generous, cosmopolitan take on Dame Edna Everage. U.S. Latinos and Latin Americans can, and constantly do, laugh at themselves; and they know how to laugh along with those who laugh at them. But why did the staff at Vanity Fair think (if they stopped to think) that their readers would get the joke? Its butt, of course, is the self-styled romantic, Dame Edna herself, and the whole "agony aunt" business, not the hapless, Spanish-speaking potential conquests.
Barry Humphries' humor is an acquired taste; he always negotiates a slippery course between the hilarious and the nauseating. As a kid in Australia, I howled in laughter at Sir Les Patterson, Humphries' repulsive parody of a dignitary from that country. But I had the benefit of knowing the ground rules. Vanity Fair readers, for the most part, did not.
Ten years ago, Rodriguez's incomparable "postcards" on PBS' "MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour" helped me (as a recently arrived foreigner) come to grips with U.S. culture. He deftly straddles the fault lines that separate us from each other. Now -- perhaps as never before -- the intervention of urbane, humanist voices like his is needed. Incidentally, Dame Edna would enjoy the allusion to Nietzsche in the lead of Rodriguez's article, as she's always fancied herself a thinking man's gal.
Rodriquez hopes that some persons, not accustomed to English comedic nuance, would figure out the subtle humor of Dame Edna. Well, Possums, please get this: Although a person of American heritage, Irish on one side and Kirgisian on the other (just above Afghanistan), I have always believed myself to be English. Yes, English. Yes, English. Yes, English. So, as an Irish-American, a Kirgisian and as a Brit, may I say, Dear Dame Edna: God save the queen! Whoever you are.
Carol A. Kirgis
I thoroughly enjoyed Rodriguez's article on Dame Edna. I'm a Vanity Fair subscriber, and at the time I read Dame Edna's column I figured there would be considerable backlash. I agree with Rodriguez that people no longer have a sense of humor and become highly indignant over many things that should simply be ignored. Did you notice the thought-provoking article in the same issue of Vanity Fair by Christopher Hitchens on Roe vs. Wade? Vanity Fair isn't all bad.
Rodriguez's essay is little more than a lame defense of a bad joke. While Vanity Fair had the sense to apologize for drag queen Dame Edna's "advice," Rodriguez apparently believes that people who were offended by the column should thank him for explaining all the intricacies of Dame Edna's quirky humor that should have left everyone "screaming" with laughter. But if a joke takes that much explaining, then Dame Edna should have expected a chorus line of boos.
Really, I don't need Rodriguez as a kind of go-to Hispanic Hermes to help me distinguish between serious worldly matters and satire. A bad joke is a bad joke is a bad joke. Get it?
Gilberto Y. Moreno
Bravo to Rodriguez. Satire has always had the power to irritate and is not understood by the majority. I was particularly amused by his comment regarding the futility of duct tape; I have recently e-mailed several friends that if there were a biological attack on the U.S., Scotch tape would probably be as effective as duct tape.
Thinking back to emergency drills in school: We would be told to get down on the floor, with our heads beneath the desks. What I remember is the wry and probably accurate comment: "Bend down, put your head under the desk and kiss your tail goodbye," which is what would happen in such a cataclysmic event.