It has been said of Kafka’s work many times that the thing to remember is that it is funny. Kafka was known to laugh uncontrollably when reading his work aloud to friends, and though that sounds more like anxiety than hilarity to me, the funny point endures. But what kind of funny is he? Borges described Hawthorne’s story ‘Wakefield’ as a prefiguration of Kafka, noting ‘the protagonist’s profound triviality, which contrasts with the magnitude of his perdition’. What kind of funny is he?…The comedy of scale is always simultaneously a tragedy of scale, if viewed from the proper angle, and as articulated in the famous words Kafka wrote on a postcard: ‘The outside world is too small, too clear-cut, too truthful, to contain everything that a person has room for inside.’
In 2006 Stewart Lee travelled to Taos in New Mexico to see the Pueblo Clowns and make this two part documentary for Radio 4. The clowns, unlike the cartoonish, vaguely melancholy characters that occupy the edges of our own culture, are – literally – unrepresentable, figures who operate in some shadowy shamanic space between worlds and who still wield a terrifying raw power that approaches the sacred.