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. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Green Stage in The Humorous Land of Monaco

So many of us are in a hurry to get somewhere or do something. While there's always someplace to travel, we don't all need to go. To the store. To the conference. To the meeting. To the land of enlightenment. Maybe the soul is the chosen landscape. Isn't heaven what you make of it? If no one is happy here, how are they prepared to dwell in eternity? If you can be happy here, you can be happy anywhere, right? Same thing visa versa, if you're not happy here, you won't be happy anywhere. 

Poise is composure, gracefulness, elegance, balance, and control. Grace Kelly was considered by many to be the epitome of equanimity. In the above picture with Louis Armstrong, who mindfully plays a tune toward the poised in all situations, Kelly, you can see just how nostalgia came into being. 

Monaco is, for me, the most nostalgic of locations. This sovereign city state on the French Riviera is vast becoming the world's green stage. Bordered on three sides by its fashionably dignified and highly cultured neighbor, France; its leader, Prince Albert II, is rising to our "common global challenge that requires urgent and concrete action in response to three major environmental issues: climate change, biodiversity and water." 

Prince Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, is the head of the House of Grimaldi. Prince Albert, the worlds' green prince, served as the International Patron of the 'Year of the Dolphin', stating that it gave him the opportunity to renew his firm commitment towards protecting marine biodiversity. Prince Albert, a key player in protecting the environment, could literally turn Monaco into the world's first modern day Utopia, and a haven for humanity's timeless dance - humor. 

Humor radiates from the enchantment and smiling delight of a young couple's first encounter. In the words of Baudelaire, "where madder hearts are winging, in their butterfly fashion, than these more jolly, that wander in the shadows over this Ball of whirling Folly." (The Beacons, 1965). 

Humor, in its highest attainment, delights us with hints of love; its courtesy waits for others, it is expected but still unknown, and offers only grace for those who willingly allow silence to be filled with happiness. 

"I am the land of their fathers,
In me the virtue stays. 
I will bring back my children
After certain days." 


Grace Kelly was preceded by Miss Lanchester, who became one of the most beautiful people in the world of Mrs. Everard Cotes. "A creature of perfect grace and deep, happy eyes; the flash of her smile, if you caught it, promptly turned your head to look again. Her face simply was, you admitted and acclaimed it, among the heaven-sent things in a world." 

Night falls and the Prince of Happiness, like Cotes, charms us into suspending disbelief. The silence is only broken by the sound of an overflowing fountain or a child's innocent giggle. In every direction, kindness abounds and open paths graciously appear before us, inviting leisurely wanderings in an almost imaginary dreamworld whose ambiance of literary, artistic and environmental impressionism sweep away the fast-paced modern frenzy with nuances of delectable vibrancy. 

If you listen closely, you can hear the elusive vibration of music as if it were playing from the smiles of each inhabitant's soul. A serenade of rapturous enchantment so contagious no one would resist. In turn, its musical cadence could dissolve the boundaries between Paradise and Hell with smiles that soften personal identity to a state where creative virtue co-exists as a life-fostering gift of creative imagination. Here, we can laugh again. 

When we laugh, all is alive and well. Puppet theaters entertain children and the society of constraint discovers that the true theater of life is the natural expression of living it. Laugher is a happy expression of beingness. Monaco, in my mind, is a state geared to stage the environmental performance of a lifetime, for the future benefit of all the world's inhabitants. 

The theatrical manipulation of triumphs over both religion and commerce has, throughout history, brought us to a state of constantly trying to upstage them. Like Antonio, who stands for wealth through trade, who hardly enjoys, despite his position; we, the audience of the world, are still playing the part of fool. The festive enjoyment of life and laughter have given way to the lowest theatrical level whereby we hold onto ideas and let slip tiny, innocent hands from our grip. (The Merchant of Venice)

We are allowing ourselves to play the part of Antonio. Alas, even Antonio had his shinning moments. Sadness did not stop him from helping others in their pursuit of happiness. Unstinting generosity produces abundance, onstage and off in the theater of our minds, the theater of our hearts, the theater of our souls, and in the environmental theater where all those entities dwell - Earth. 

The world fell in love with Monaco because it was the home of the lovely Princess Grace. Its landscape, the shape of a diamond ring; its fountains produce the offspring of gold, and its appreciation for life is its symbolic icon which has been brought to the forefront of the world by its very own Prince Albert II. 

Vitality sides with festivity and entertainment. Having applauded a humorous production at the theater, we all return to our homes with renewed bliss...bliss, which leads to altruistic spirit. 

From the standpoint of the environmental landscape of the future, it would seem that Monaco would impress even that most splendid of playwrights, William Shakespeare, as being a land small enough in size and big enough in heart to raise, by example, the world toward a greener path. 

"All the world's a stage" ... treat it as such. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Etiquette of Humor V

The first time we greet someone presents us with a unique opportunity that cannot come our way again: the chance to make a positive first impression. While a tautology, this statement is both true and funny. However, this clever witticism is no joking matter for those who value propriety. 

Our appearance and our manners play an important part in forming an impression in someone else's mind, an impression that lingers for the entire course of the relationship.  

Couples who have been married for decades often times, and with ease, recant their first meeting. "She was wearing a lovely blue dress," my grandfather said of my grandmother recalling their first encounter at a military officer's dance. "Not a day went by that I didn't think about how beautiful she looked as she gaily colored the room with her radiant smile. Her eyes shown as brightly as that blue dress of hers."  

Today, formal greetings are primarily limited to business or political events and meetings. Often times, instead of a friendly, "Hello," we instead hear, "Yo," or "How ya doin'?" (used as a greeting, not as a sincere question about one's well-being). Rare is it in general discourse to hear, "How do you do," which is a nice way of saying, "Nice to meet you" without placing oneself in a position in which you are obligated to stand and listen to a complete stranger describe a rotten day. 

Many people consider formality to be a stilted form of communication of an bygone era. Greeting customs have historically been highly culture- and situation-specific and vary depending upon one's social status and relationship. Yet, they exist in every culture. In the West, verbal greetings are often met with a handshake and direct eye contact. 

Since general greetings, such as, "How are you?" are used in lieu of "Pleased to meet you," they should be considered as such and accompanied by a congenial, "Fine, thank you" response or a "Very well, thank you" response.  

Prematurely introducing humor into a first encounter, unless at a specific event or location whereby humor is expected, is inappropriate. However, once general rapport is established, or if the encounter is between an adult and a child, with the adult trying to alleviate nervousness on behalf of a child, humor, then, is perfectly acceptable and often times a pleasant attitude to encounter. 

Whether the event is large or small, it is definitely a "social," encounter, requiring that those involved make every effort to introduce themselves in a way that is both courteous and friendly. Put aside whatever you are thinking about for the moment to focus on the other person and convey a sense of interest.  

In the world of social networking, many people comment, unsolicited, on "feeds" between other people they do not know. When conversations occur between other people, it is inappropriate to chime in and voice an opinion (unless publicly invited to do so). However, it is inexcusably rude to voice a negative opinion about someone in public forum, unless said forum calls for it, such as in a political or otherwise type of public debate. Still, there are formalities and etiquette that should be followed in said occasions. 

In some countries, women are less involved in business transactions than they are in the United States. American women, accordingly, should be prepared to have their hands kissed instead of shaken in some European and South American countries, and to find some Oriental and Mideastern businessmen who are not prepared to shake hands with women as readily as they do with men. 

Many Europeans shake hands each time they meet, even if they have seen each other several times previously the same day. Americans traveling in Europe, male and female, should be prepared to shake hands enthusiastically and frequently. 

This does not include the use of a hand buzzer. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Etiquette of Humor IV

The Etiquette of Humor


The Bragger

There’s a big difference between sharing our accomplishments and those of our loved ones with close family members, and extolling their virtues to anyone we happen to meet. Close friends and family members allow us to brag a little because they are just as pleased as we are about positive, successful outcomes. Notwithstanding, it is those closest to us who witness to the internal fortitude, hard work, and heart that goes into such matters in the first place. In this respect, light bragging is less about singing our own praises as it is about celebrating life’s successes along the pathway of our shared journey.

Others are not as interested in our successes. Even when we’re bursting with pride, the good-humored conversationalist does not go on and on about what a wonderful job they did, or how bright their child is. Many recognize this due to past social blunders where they held someone uncomfortably captive with their good news story, and try to curtail it with self-deprecating humor. Rather than stoop to lower our self in the eyes of others, and most importantly, in our own eyes, the eyes with which are intended to navigate our success in life, a little lighthearted humor can go a long way. The subtlety of a photograph with a child wearing spectacles and reading a hardbound book delivers the same “kids are smart” punch line without anyone getting hit in along the way.

In the same respect, when the conversational captive of a braggart, comment politely about their remarks and try to redirect the conversation. Abruptly changing the subject can leave a proud parent feeling socially awkward for having shared their good news. As such, responding to another’s good fortune with a good-humored response can both acknowledge the other person’s pride while simultaneously and smoothly opening the pathway for more general conversation that can be shared in equal terms. Sociability is all about navigating the nuances of equality.