Matthew Sweet presents a public battle between two team of debaters to decide which approach to life and art is more illuminating: comedy or tragedy.
Representing the tragedians are the comedian and trained classicist Natalie Haynes, and the Professor of English Carol Rutter. They face two passionate advocates of comedy, stand-up Janey Godley, once named 'Scotland's funniest woman' and the comic novelist Julian Gough.
It's an argument older than the Stoics and Epicureans or the Cavaliers and the Roundheads, and it has raged from Athens to Eastenders but still the dispute goes on. Do the British prefer to go through life with a laugh, taking care to never take things too seriously? Or are we to believe those writers who tell us that behind every good comedy lies a vale of tears?
Matthew Sweet chairs the event, recorded in front of an audience at the Sage Gateshead, as part of BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking festival of ideas 2010, whose central theme this year is "The Pursuit of Happiness".
Producer: Natalie Steed.