Sunday, March 18, 2012

Humor Playing Ground

"We delight, for mysterious reasons, in comic revelations about the inadequacies of the great as well as the absurdity of those all about us. We may even enjoy jokes at our own expense - unless there is too much of a loss of dignity and we feel, too directly, the hostility that is hidden in this humor. 

All of us can probably recall incidents in our lives that were funny and which made us feel good. And that seems to be one of the most important aspects of humor - it gives us pleasure, even if it does so in rather complicated ways. We even seem to derive pleasure figuring out how humor gives us pleasure." 

Arthur Asa Berger , 1993, An Anatomy of Humor

Arthur Asa Berger is a percipient interpreter of public mood. His explorations into Pop Culture's objects of affection tell us a lot about ourselves and other people. Berger recognizes humor in every subject, "there is no escaping humor and there is no subject...that hasn't been...joked about." 

Like many great thinkers before him, Berger recognizes that humor can be a subtle and powerful means of social control, but he also acknowledges that humor is just as much a force for resistance by subordinate elements in society. (p. 2)

In my mind, humor is the playground that narrows the discordance between the "have's and the have not's in society. In this way, humor really does bring us together

Those who have money and power, and those who do not. 

Those who are smart, and those who are not.

Those who are resourceful, and those who are not. 

Those who are mature, and those who are not. 

Those who are pushy, and those who are not. 

Those who are prudish, and those who are not. 

Those who are honest, and those who are not. 

Those who have manners, and those who do not. 

Those who know when to stop, and those who do not.

Samuel Beckett's Nonsensical Humor

"If life is absurd, as many existentialists suggest, then humor of absurdity can be seen as a means toward realism." 

Arthur Asa Berger, 1993, An Anatomy of Humor

Play by Samuel Beckett, Part 1

Freud, in his Jokes and the Unconscious, stated that "the nonsense in a joke is an end in itself, since the intention of recovering the old pleasure in nonsense is among the joke-work's motives. There are other ways of recovering the nonsense and of deriving pleasure from it: caricature, exaggeration, parody and travesty make use of them and so create 'comic nonsense'". 

Freud further cautioned that nonsense should not be confused with stupidity. While both are "inefficiencies of function", the former occurs because someone took "took much trouble" to do something, whereas the latter because they "took too little". Samuel Beckett's work clearly falls under Freud's "nonsensical" definition. 

Rhetorical Exuberance

A mechanic cut his hand. Several days later it became infected, 
so he went to the doctor. 

The doctor explained what had happened in highfalutin medical technology, treated the cut, and charged him a hundred and fifty dollars. 

The next week, the mechanic's assistant told him that the doctor's car was outside and had a flat tire. 

The mechanic said, "Diagnose it as an absence of flatulence of the perimeter caused by the penetration of a foreign object resulting in the dissipation of the compressed atmospheric contents and charge him accordingly." 

Rhetorical exuberance is a humor technique that derives its power from its extravagance, from our sense of the difference between what is said and how it is said. 

The note of pretentiousness on the part of the doctor is returned when he gets a taste of his own medicine. 

The Secret Technique Behind the Joke: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Why did the Chicken cross the Road? 

Disappointment and Defeated Expectations (logic) 

The technique of disappointment involves leading people on about something and then denies them the logical consequences they expect. 

This type of humor is very similar to "teasing" and is funny only to the extent that we find minor disappointment amusing. 

Eccentric Humor

Eccentric humor is based on the difference between what is customary, i.e., "normal," or what we are used to and what we find when we experience the abnormal or the deviant. 

Absurd humor violates our sense of logic, our sense of the way we think and behave. There is a difference between those people who are considered strange (different, from other cultures) and people who are eccentric (different, from our own culture and society who deviate from the norms). 

Arthur Asa Berger describes these people as "code violators." They do not live by our codes which, to us, seem quite reasonable and logical. 

In the right context, this code violation puzzles and amuses us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Logic of Humor - Coincidences

A young man was called up for a medical exam by his draft board. 
When he was examined by the doctor, he pretended he couldn't see. 

"Please read that chart," said the doctor. 

"What chart?" asked the young man. 

"The one on the wall," replied the doctor.

"What wall?" asked the young man. 

The doctor then classified him as 4-F and the young man left. 

That evening, the young man decided to celebrate and went to the movies. 

When the film ended, to his amazement, the doctor was sitting right next to him. 

Thinking quickly, the young man asked the doctor, 

"Is this the line for the bus to Hoboken?" 

Coincidental humor involves our sense of order in the universe and the way we perceive the concept "fate."  Primarily based on embarrassment: circumstances putting us, by chance, in an awkward situation. 

Coincidences strike us as funny or "uncanny" or even humorously strange. The draft joke above involves embarrassment and an attempt to escape from it. From a psychoanalytic perspective, we find an id attempting to avoid the strictures of the superego. Underlying this is a notion that the universe is just and that wrongdoers usually get caught. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Humor: A Manner of Speaking

I would say that manners are important, but that is a gross understatement for some while simultaneously being a ridiculous overstatement for others. 

There are some humorists whose storytelling ability is astounding. Their command of language and tireless capacity for rendering themselves intelligible, compelling, and delightfully entertaining is unmatched. 

Karl Marx thought that to pun was a sure sign of "the intellectual lumpen proletariat." 

Paradise was Lost, not found. The self-appointed arbiters of taste often consider laughing to be less dignified, much like those in the eighteenth-century self-appointed themselves as equal arbiters of taste and refinement did before them. 

Good humor is hilariously funny. It makes you laugh from the inside out. I lived in the serious world, it's not so great. The aristocracy offers with it a tradition that rises above all social ills; it is as close to Utopia as Sir Thomas More could have meticulously described. It is thought-provoking, all-encompassing, and deeply alluring. 

Yet, humor is contemporary, fresh, and select in its brilliance. It is soft, human, and assembled with the core of good intention, where the beauty of the ideal is neither country, nor civilized notion, it is unicity acknowledged and innocently accepted. It is genuine affection for life in a world obsessed with money, power, conquest, and sanctimonious bullshit. 

Every spot where the old world has not yet died out, places that are still overrun with oppression, are transparent against humor's denouement. We're not fugitives in our own land, long expelled from Eden as a manner of learned influence. No one is keeping us off the grass. The extreme fiction of life is that living is indeed subjective, which means we choose, perhaps not our experience, but our experience of experience. Humor dissolves the self and the part of us that thinks finally interacts without impediment. This interaction is where kindness can be found. 

Humor was Shakespeare's masterpiece of devices that could equally delight and entertain us in our follies over nothing. We're still slipping on the proverbial banana peel, but we laugh every time. Therefore humor is the art of knowing this, a glorious sublimity that praises us despite our many failings. Humor transcends and the monarch of wit himself has us in stitches, thinking and thanking in full recognition of our selves in slips and slides of others. 

We invent what we ruminate. Abandoning self-hearing is funny. It results in toxic levels of irony at its height and tragedy at its depth. Humor is not only a valid enterprise held within the origin of evolvement, it is a guide through the labyrinth of obscene intellect to a place where traces of angelic ideology dwells undaunted and unfallen.