I know many fans of the old BBC show Fawlty Towers. People love to laugh at lead character Basil Fawlty, who’s perpetually unhinged, rude and ridiculous. Viewers can laugh at Basil’s expense and even feel a little grateful for not being that guy. But I have to confess that I despise the show.
When I watch an episode, I actually get stressed out. My anxiety goes through the roof every time Basil puts his foot in his mouth or hapless waiter Manuel drops food on a dining room guest.
If you’re thinking my reaction is absurd, you’re probably right. It is, after all, just a TV show — a comedy at that.
But Basil flips an old switch deep in my brain. It’s the switch that used to trigger my own episodes of bat-shit madness. I probably was never that off the wall outwardly. But I felt that out of control inside all the time. I was like Basil Fawlty, haphazardly running from one calamity to the next. And there was nothing funny about it.
That was the old fear and anxiety at work in my soul, with disaster and sorrow lurking around every corner. Fear of not measuring up at work. Fear of losing more loved ones.
Things were never that bad. It just felt that way to me all the time.
There are a lot of fictional characters out there who entertain me with their insane behavior. Lord Business, the villain in the Lego Movie, is a pretty good example. So is Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb. I love those characters because I see a bit of myself in them and they comfort me because I know I’m not alone.
We laugh at these characters because we all see some of ourselves in them.
That being the case, my hatred of Fawlty Towers makes no sense. It really doesn’t. And yet I can’t stand it.
Maybe someday I’ll figure it out.