Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sociology of Humor

Humor is a pretty much a social phenomenon. Jokes and other humorous expressions are a form of communication that is shared from one person to the next. These expressions are socially and culturally influenced, and generally reflective of a specific time and place. The topics and themes people joke about are usually focused on social, cultural and moral order of a society or community. 

Sociology, when it emerged as a discipline during the nineteenth century, was overwhelmingly devoted to the study of social problems, great transformations, and less than humorous matters such as race and ethnicity, political conflict, social resistance, and gender inequalities. 

Philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists and forklorists have systematically addressed the meanings of humor and its many functions, but sociological interest in humor didn't truly emerge until after the 1970s - with the exception of Arthur Asa Berger's pioneering work in the subject.  

In Berger's quintessential work, An Anatomy of Humor, he examines the less than humorous matters discussed above, each with their own comic dimension, as well as laughter in terms of its benefits to both our physical and mental health. He discerns a multiplicity of ironies that are intrinsic to the analysis of humor, uncovering the complexities and ambiguities of cartoon and other social communications.

"I don't think anyone is born funny. What happens is that some people learn how to be funny, for one reason or another. People develop their capacities to be funny in order to cope with problems, to help socialize with others, to earn a living, and to deal with anxieties and hostility, among other things. But we have to learn how to be funny just as we have to learn most everything else. And we usually learn how to be funny by a process of trial and error." 

This is how I feel much of the time trying to explore, analyze, and process the concept of humor. Rather than limit my writing, which would be a far easier task, to the analytical review of humor, I have instead, perhaps to my own detriment at times, chosen to dabble - to try to learn how to be funny. 

Why, you ask? 

I think it would be a far difficult thing to accurately analyze a subject without some firsthand knowledge of it. Unfortunately, not everything I write is funny, of course, I'm not always trying to be funny. Some days, I simply don't "feel" like being funny. Some days I simply write to get things "off my chest" so that I can loosen up more easily and get back to that "funny" space where I'm more willing to take chances, to push limits, and mix mediums or concepts in a way that a new humorous color emerges. 

Walter Scott said, "All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education." 

So, for the individual who wrote to me complaining that my blog was a waste of his time

I hope this post clears things up as to why I 
"bother writing at all"

No comments: