The Good Lord Bird perfectly captures the great tragicomedy of America

Toward the end of his career, as he grew increasingly despairing and cynical, America’s greatest humorist soured on jokes. “The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow,” Mark Twain wrote in his 1897 travelogue, Following the Equator. “There is no humor in heaven.”

It is with this caveat that I describe The Good Lord Bird, a seven-part miniseries that premieres Sunday on Showtime, as a comedy. Yes, it includes Ethan Hawke, as the abolitionist John Brown, asking a rabbit earnestly, “Do you have fire in your heart for justice?” Yes, its main character wears a dress for pretty much the entire series after having his name, Henry, misheard as Henrietta, and never successfully managing to correct the mistake.


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