comic relief

jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
(Ralph) grabbed the two papers he bought every day: a Boston Globe and a USA Today. The Derry News came right to the house, courtesy of Pete the paperboy. Ralph sometimes told people that he was sure one of the three papers was comic relief, but he had never been able to make up his mind which one it was.
Source: Insomnia by Stephen King

Could I say ‘I am addicted to reading. It is comic relief’? Is this a correct use of the noun phrase comic relief?

Phrase I looked up:
comic relief:
Sometimes when life becomes too stressful, or a situation threatens to explode with drama, a humorous comment or action can relieve the tension. It may be a momentary distraction from the drama, or it may heighten the emotional impact by acting as a contrast to it. In literary works, this technique is called “comic relief.” Source: The Writing Place.

Thank you.
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    For something to be comic relief it has to be funny, and it has to be contrasted with something that isn't funny at all. The classic case is Shakespearean drama, where a serious tragic plot might include lighter scenes to make the audience laugh.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's unlikely that people in the UK would associate that phrase with writing, as Comic Relief (a.k.a. Red Nose Day) is a huge annual fundraising event.

     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's unlikely that people in the UK would associate that phrase with writing, as Comic Relief (a.k.a. Red Nose Day) is a huge annual fundraising event.
    The name of the event is a play on the literary term. I hope it hasn't completely eclipsed the original meaning for everyone.
    comic relief
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Ralph gets three newspapers. He jokes that he doesn't know which of the three is the 'comic relief'. (I certainly got the literary reference immediately, but then I am not just anybody).
    The two USA papers are serious reading (I think). I don't know what Derry Today is but let's say it's a local paper, very light-weight compared with the other national papers.
    It's a good joke about priorities and relative importance.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Ah yes, about the place name. 'Derry' to me means the place in Northern Ireland, a NI county I think, but no matter.
    It's very understandable that anybody living away from their national, local or regional, 'homeland', needs to keep in touch.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I don't think anyone knew the original meaning in the first place. :eek:
    Perhaps not in the UK. In AE "comic relief" is a common term.

    On the other hand, things written in Stephen King's books are often difficult to understand. In theory, he is using American English. In theory...
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Perhaps not in the UK. In AE "comic relief" is a common term.
    Interesting, Thanks. :) Its meaning is of course screamingly obvious when you know its literary/theatrical origins. But I still maintain that most Brits would be blissfully unaware of that connection (as I was :oops:).
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I don't think anyone knew the original meaning in the first place. :eek:
    Anyone?
    I guess all us Eng Lit teachers totally failed, then?

    Seriously, I think a lot of folks would have heard it in the course of their education. Hundreds who sat in front of me, at least. Whether or not they learned it is quite anothe matter, of course but even my scientific wife knows, and uses this term, from her O level /GCSE lessons.
     
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