Strange Horizons, November 3, 2014
Reviewed by Charles Payseur
Imagining a future where the undesirables of New York have all been forced into special housing, Meda Kahn‘s “That’s Entertainment” follows Gilly Caplan, a woman trying to accomplish something serious while those around her can only laugh. Suffering from a number of mental conditions, Gilly finds her one talent seems to be in getting people to laugh at her, to laugh at her condition, her attempts to make sense and convey meaning. And, using that talent, Gilly lets herself be recruited to do a comedy show in hopes that by serving in her own personal hell she will be able to gain enough notice and power to actually make a difference, to actually change something for the better. The story is uncomfortable and tense, as Gilly’s mental state fluctuates, as she endures the indignity and inhumanity of being a joke without meaning to be funny. Dealing with the intersection of disorder, class, and comedy, Gilly as a character becomes something like the ancient fool, performing not really to entertain but to hold a mirror to those laughing, to point out injustice and privilege where many might see only entertainment. The story begs the reader to consider the destructive power of humor, to examine why we laugh and what we are laughing at.
Charles Payseur lives with his partner and their growing herd of pets in the icy reaches of Wisconsin, where companionship, books, and craft beer get him through the long winters. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at Perihelion Science Fiction, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @ClowderofTwo