Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

These notes about Comic Potential were written by Alan Ayckbourn in 1998 in response to an enquiry about the play.

Notes on Comic Potential

I think the emphasis on comedy, laughter, why we laugh and so on, is at the heart of the play's theme. That is, what is it that makes us laugh? Why do we laugh? Is it that laughter that singles us out as a species? Is humour, having a sense of humour, the ability to make jokes, a 'fault' as Jacie, the android, in the play believes?

She identifies it as such because it is not logical. Humour inevitably brings about the breakdown of logic.

Then there is the accompanying theme: does laughter have any relationship with love. Is it mere coincidence that people seeking a mate in the lonely hearts column invariably specify GOSH (Good Sense Of Humour)? Laughing lovers are a common advertising/movie romantic image. But then love too is illogical. Logically there is no reason to prefer one person to another - particularly when, as so often happens, you don't even have that much in common!
In the end Jacie chooses to live rather than to die. She does this because, like most of us fortunately, she comes to terms with love and realises that the joy it brings far outweighs the heartache and uncertainty. At the same time she accepts the offer from Lester Trainsmith to further herself.

It struck me that, on an entirely different level, Jacie's journey very much reflects the journey of women through a lot of the 20th century. Emancipation - education - liberation - responsibility ...

The very end is deliberately ambiguous. I like to think, personally, that Jacie will manage to balance a career and a relationship. She is certainly not going to be a pushover in the business world.

It could be seen, at one extreme that the Jacies will soon inherit the earth. That we have in effect created out own successors. Having given them, or allowed them to develop, the qualities of humour and love have we given them the final key to independent life. Perhaps more optimistically we will see a co-existence between the two, human and android. Whichever way, the balance is changing. Just as it is in life. Where do we call a halt to artificial intelligence which already runs so much of our lives?

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