Saturday, October 22, 2011

Smart People Like To Laugh

If you like to laugh, you're probably a very smart person or someone with a feeling for what is correct, congruous, or natural, without which, there could be no perception of what is incorrect, incongruous, or unnatural. 

I don't know about you, but even if I didn't have a good sense of humor, I wouldn't go around admitting it. I'd rather admit to gluttony or tax fraud than to not having a good sense of humor (Note to IRS agents: I have never knowingly committed tax fraud). 

There are some people, let's call them: automatons, whose minds are like a vast ocean of ill-perceived, incongruent waves (aka: mush, in the sense of being extremely loose and unstructured or as one might say, illogical). These are the people (dogmatists, idealogues, and others with one-track minds) who seem to lack the ability to step outside themselves and their systems in order to appreciate a joke. 

Understanding a joke requires us to almost instantly evaluate the relative importance of incongruity in thought, to perceive unstated relations and implicit ideas, and to be able to step back (where perspective was reportedly last seen, along with Elvis) in order to "compare meanings and shades of meaning, and put all this into appropriate context in order to grasp the situation as a whole." (John Allen Paulos)

I named this post, Smart People Like To Laugh, because a modicum of mental orderliness is necessary to appreciate humor. You have to be aware of the complexities of many ideas and their relative link to one another to appreciate their individuality and differences simultaneously - i.e., the joke.  

For me, life is kinda like being on a train that is headed for a cliff. The train has child protective locks on and I can't get off. A sense of humor is basically a general acceptance of the trajectory, while comedy is the expressive celebration despite it, happening in the party coach, where everyone knows your name and the round of doubles is on the house!

PS: Today is my 6-month anniversary exploring humor studies! 

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. I think jokes are funny to the extent that they enhance a positive idea or disparage a negative one. Jokes are funny when the good guy (positive idea) wins and the bad guy (negative idea) loses. When the bad guy wins (negativity) and the good guy (positivity) loses, it just isn't as funny. 

People may consequently laugh for many reasons, but not because the joke was funny. Academics have shared a number of theories as to why we laugh. For me personally, while both motives may be inherent or present, I use the following formula to determine if something is funny or not: 

If we're laughing together, then it's funny. 

If we're laughing at someone, then it's not funny. 

Plain and simple. 

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