Saturday, October 15, 2011

Humor Analysis 101: How to Analyze a Joke, Pt. 1

How many people automatically believe what they see and hear without giving it a second thought? 

The most famous argument for believing something for which you have no evidence is Pascal's Wager. Pascal claimed that it was rational to be a Christian even though the evidence available made the position quite improbable. If by chance Christianity (or any other theological doctrine) turns out to be true, then you win everlasting salvation. If it is false - well, better luck next time (says the Buddhist). 

If it is false - if there is no God and no heaven or hell - then we're no worse off than the correct atheist. If, however, we refuse to believe, we risk going to hell if we're wrong. 

In this respect, Pascal felt that an atheist could never win, but a Christian at least had a chance. 

This is not a sanctimonious post. On the contrary, the above example shows how people do not always think logically, but rather, from their emotions. 

The bogus logic we see in life trickles into every aspect of living, including into the jokes we tell and the comics we see and read. Why we laugh has long been a debate of philosophers and other academicians, but applying logic to humor cuts through the haze of ambiguity and double-talk and exposes the joke for its meaning rather than its reception (laughter or rotten tomatoes being hurled at the comic). 

Directing logic toward the joke to better understand the misconception helps us recognize faulty logic in humor and elsewhere in our lives, giving us an unique glimpse into the truth behind what we're being told. 

Comedians may benefit from an analytical review of their joke material to better understand why a joke falls flat, offends, or receives a standing ovation. I aim to build upon this theory and provide a platform by which jokes can be modified contextually to meet the true goal of the comedian - to make the audience laugh.  

I apologize in advance if I have analyzed to death what might ordinarily had been a "funny" comic... 

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