The best comedies always begin on a note of solemnity. Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid opens with an unwed mother driven to abandon her newborn. Buster Keaton’s The General opens with news arriving in Marietta, Georgia, that the South has fired on Fort Sumner and the Civil War is on.

Thus did Congressman Bennie Thompson open Thursday's January 6 Pageant with a solemn story about the "conspiracy to thwart the will of the people," in which an insurrection "put two and a half centuries of constitutional democracy at risk." He was followed by the even more solemn...

The best comedies always begin on a note of solemnity. Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid opens with an unwed mother driven to abandon her newborn. Buster Keaton’s The General opens with news arriving in Marietta, Georgia, that the South has fired on Fort Sumner and the Civil War is on.

Thus did Congressman Bennie Thompson open Thursday’s January 6 Pageant with a solemn story about the “conspiracy to thwart the will of the people,” in which an insurrection “put two and a half centuries of constitutional democracy at risk.” He was followed by the even more solemn Liz Cheney, who promised a thrilling line-up of testimony that will prove beyond the shadow of a sunspot that Donald Trump planned the whole thing.

Well, maybe so. Who am I to contest a single syllable of this expertly told and cinematic spectacle? Plainly the republic teetered on the edge of dissolution that day in January 2021, and we should have nothing but gratitude for the brave members of Congress who since July 1 of last year have devoted every living moment to ferreting out the truth about what happened.

Of course, for the comedy to proceed, we need to introduce a subplot or complication. Somehow Chaplin’s Little Tramp character ends up raising the abandoned child, and Keaton’s train engineer, denied enlistment in the Confederate Army, bests the Union troops.

Sure enough, perfectly timed with the Bernie Thompson/Liz Cheney Show, the FBI this morning arrested the front-running Republican in the race to unseat Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Hilarity ensued. Ryan Kelley, the candidate, is a real estate agent and a conservative political activist. He was taken into custody and his house was searched on the basis that he was involved in some tangential way with the Great Insurrection. Four charges were filed, including “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.” That translates to Kelley standing on the Capitol steps that fateful day.

Given that the United States almost collapsed as a self-governing entity under the rule of law on January 6, it makes perfect sense that Mr. Kelley should be detained by the FBI. And the feds’ timing serves as a fine object lesson to other would-be insurrectionists who even now may be plotting against our elected government. Blunting Kelley’s challenge to Governor Whitmer is just a sweet coincidence.

The law often provides the best comic elaborations. In The Kid, the authorities attempt to rescue the orphan (played by Jackie Coogan) from the Tramp’s loving care. In The General, a Union spy and a general plot to steal the vital train and cut the South’s rail links. Either story could be played as melodrama or tragedy, and it is only through the brilliant and heart-tugging performances of great actors that these movies are turned into comic masterpieces.

The setup provided by Thompson and Cheney for day two couldn’t be better. The tension has built to D-Day proportions. Every precipice in the nation’s history has been overshadowed by that mob intent on disrupting the certification of the electoral vote in the 2020 election. The Capitol Police are the militia assembled on the Lexington Green against the Trumpian Redcoats. The Insurrectionists were like the revenge-minded British troops who burned the White House in the War of 1812. And let us not forget 9/11, when a massive terrorist attack brought America to a gut-wrenching halt, but not nearly so upsetting as the QAnon Shaman raging though the halls of Congress.

Clearly day two will require the talents of a Chaplin or a Keaton, or perhaps the stylings of Mel Brooks to bring this over-the-top setup back to historical reality. I don’t fault the Democrats for wanting to create a riveting spectacle that will make us forget about inflation, crime, Covid lockdowns, the border, Ukraine, Afghanistan, drag queen story time, and the entire dizzying descent into Bidenesque chaos. But for this to work, they have to give us a second act with a little charm and some well-earned laughs.

If Chaplin could win laughter from child abandonment and homelessness, and Keaton from America’s most destructive war, surely something can be mined from the hapless bungling of unarmed Trumpists barging into the Capitol while the high and mighty cowered in the corners. I’m not the scriptwriter, but I’d look for something like the Proud Boys running to Chuck Schumer and asking for directions or Maxine Waters mistaking the black clad rioters for a BLM contingent and praising their commitment to social justice.

Alas, I suspect the dour detour through pseudo-history will continue as it has begun, with nothing but righteous indignation on parade from beginning to end. Those professional TV producers who were called in to give the show gravitas should have consulted Chaplin who began The Kid with a title card that says it is “a picture with a smile—and perhaps a tear.”