I’ve been thinking this morning about humor and how it works for different people. My Dedi used to say, “Life is either laugh or cry and why cry?” One of the things that I’ve learned about humor is that a lot of the stuff we laugh at is actually based in hurt or cruelty. Think about it. Why do people laugh at the 3 Stooges? They’re always pounding on, hurting and insulting each other and yet many find them very, very funny. Or the Coyote and the Roadrunner? Granted, those are cartoons…. A lot of us watching the “Incredibles” got a real kick out of that quirky little costume designer mangling the “super-suits” to show what they could do, and laughed at the mom’s reaction. Hunh…. I’m just realizing that it *wouldn’t* have been funny without her interior panic, but muted outer reaction over what was happening to the baby-size suit and the designer’s utter obliviousness to it. Else, it would have been painful. Good writing there…
How many times have you laughed over an insult to someone else? I know I do, sometimes too often. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m trying to make myself more aware of some of these things.
How often have you laughed or grinned when someone does some sort of spectacular pratfall, especially if you know that they’re not really hurt, or as I learned to say from my Dad, “It’s only his dignity that’s mortally wounded, the rest of him is ok.”?
I think that a lot of laughter and humor is based in pain if you truly think about it. Even Grandma’s famous “George Bush, God help us all!” wouldn’t be funny without the situation; that she does have TIA’s and they are frightening and eventually her physical self is going to wear out completely. That’s why I laugh over that one. It’s either that or spend my time crying over the fact that it’s *my* Mommy that’s going to die and is gradually losing the parts that made her what she was.
There’s a part in “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein where Mike finally learns to laugh. It’s triggered off by the spectacle of a large monkey taking a peanut from a smaller and the smaller one goes and beats up a third because of his frustration. Funny or painful? Mike begins to laugh because he finally “gets it”. …Of course, when I go to track down the book I can’t find it…. So forgive me the paraphrase please? He says something along the lines of what my grandfather did, but that laughter at our own pain is the ultimate in courage, “spitting in the black camel’s eye”, not letting the grim things that happen in our physical bodies ever grind us down, not letting the even grimmer warp-ages of society and culture twist us into knots.
Humor from shared experiences seems to bring people closer together. Maybe it has something to do with “pain shared is pain halved” and that people who help each other to bear it can come closer to the joy that starts in “this too shall pass”. Yeah, you can cry on each other, but after a while that gets old….
If you ever get a chance to read the “Screwtape Letters” by C.S.Lewis (same guy who wrote Narnia) please do. There are some marvelous bits in there about humor and how it works. Yes, the whole book is from a very x-tian viewpoint, but it’s well-written.
Just some musings… I don’t know that I’m right, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Tell me what you think.
Page created and published 3/6/21
From the Daily Stuff 3/13/7 ©M. Bartlett
Last update 3/6/21