Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sophy's Theory

A comedian, rich in intensities and sensitivities, cannot be brought down to "normal" range. Comedians should not be pressed to "fit in" with all the other grown-ups their same age. Rather, their capacity for intense experiencing is an asset that deserves to be understood and affirmed instead of squashed.

There are inner forces at work that on the one hand generate overstimulation, conflict, and pain, but on the other hand, provoke comedians to search for a funny way through the pain, strife, and disharmony. This drive, curiosity, and urge to challenge conformity, complacency, and smug self-satisfaction is from where the comedian draws their funniest material.

What can be funny about disintegration? one might ask.  Disintegration means breakdown, collapse, ruin, but it also means dismantling as a prelude to construction and subsequent creation at a higher level. If we think of the self as having many parts working together, we are relying on a concept of order or structure. Things can and do change in the self, as they do everywhere else in life.

The moment the comedian begins to question his or herself and realizes that others have lived through similar experiences, the comedian's got the makings of a punchline. Inner humor begins, a process of humorous development within the broader context of personality development.

The drama of inner seeking, figuring out the world, feeling anguish, questioning the meaning of human existence, testing one's values and ideals, growing in empathy and understanding of others - these are the elements that encompass the threads through which humor is woven.

Comedy falls into two concepts: (1) development potential, and (2) multilevelness. Development potential refers to the initial endowment that is humorous in an individual. The stronger the endowment, the greater the potential for advanced development (among other things). How it will be delivered depends on the life of the comedian and personality traits he or she has picked up along the way. Weaker endowment means that the comedian better have a really good personality otherwise known as Plan B.

Multilevelness presents the bold idea that comedic experience varies according to level or type of development. Human emotions, motivations, values, desires, and behaviors are expressed in strikingly different ways. For example, high brow humor could be experienced as feeling superior, defeating an opponent, succeeding by cunning, or from the feeling of power when cleverly manipulating others.

But to many people, such laughter that arises would be offensive because of its disregard for others. A different kind of humor would be the laughter that a joke evokes due to nostalgia, overcoming bad habits, self-discovery, creativity and inspiration, or being able to make another feel better (healing power of humor). In the first case, the laughter is egocentric, self-serving, self-protecting, and power-seeking. In the second case, the humor arises from respect and empathy towards others, from positive changes in oneself, and from expansive feelings of a higher order. The first case represents laughter at a low emotional level; the second case represents laughter on a high emotional level.

Talents, specific abilities, and high general intelligence constitute the initial and most obvious comedic component. Overexcitabilities or sensitivities to energetic fluctuations constitute the second comedic component. The sensitivity and capacityt o be intensely stimulated, and to stay stimulated, provide fuel for the development of comedic genius.

Another component is the capacity for self-directed comedic growth, self-determination, and autonomy. Though admittedly, this component may not be present in all comedians.
The innate tendency to respond in a comedic manner to various forms of stimuli, both external and internal makes comedians superstimulatable and superexcitable. It means that comedians require less stimulation to produce a comedic response, and have a stronger and more lasting reaction to stimuli that evokes comedic thoughts.

There are five forms of comedic overexcitability: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. Each have a wide range of expressions. The forms of comedic overexcitability appear to be necessary - but not sufficient - raw material for advanced, multilevel comedic development.

Comedic overexcitability means that life is experienced in a manner that is deeper, more vivid, and more acutely sensed. This does not mean that one experiences more curiosity, sensory enjoyment, imagination, and emotion, it is just that the experience of living is perceived as funny in its complexity. Comedy is therefore a richly textured quality.

Comedic overexcitabilities impart an intense aliveness to those who experience them. They may be thought of as distinct modes of experiencing or as comedic channels through which the flow of color tones, textures, insights, visions, emotional currents and energies of experience connect cables that pull on funny strings embedded deep within the person. Rather than wearing rabbit ear antennas limited to local channels only, this comedic mindset has wifi-like abilities to connect with humor on a larger scale.

Behaviors and characteristics that frequently typify the five forms of comedic overexcitability can be described as follows:

  • Psychomotor - movement, restlessness, drivenness, and augmented capacity for being active, energetic, tuned in, and poised for humor
  • Sensual - enhanced refinement and aliveness of sensual experience 
  • Intellectual - thirst for knowledge, discovery, questioning, love of ideas - especially funny ones - and theoretical analysis, search for truth
  • Imaginational - vividness of imagery, richness of comedic association, facility for dreams, fantasies, and inventions, endowing tows and other objects with personality (animism), preference for the unusual and unique
  • Emotional - great depth and intensity of emotional life expressed in a wide range of feelings, great happiness to profound sadness or despair, compassion, responsibility, self-examination 



Surplus of Energie

Rapid speech, marked excitation, intense physical activity (e.g., fast games and sports), word games (puns), pressure for action (e.g., organizing), marked competitiveness

Psychomotor expression of emotional tension

Compulsive talking and chattering, joking, impulsive actions, nervous habits (tics, nail biting), workaholism, acting out


Enhanced sensory and aesthetic pleasure

Seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing, delight in beautiful objects, sounds of words, music, form, color, balance

Sensual expression of emotional tension

Overeating, overindulgence, buying sprees, wanting to be in the limelight 


Intensified activity of the Mind

Curiosity, concentration, capacity for sustained intellectual effort, avid reading, keen observation, detailed visual recall, detailed planning, tendency to parody situations 

Penchant for probing questions and problem solving

Search for truth and understanding, forming new concepts, tenacity in problem solving, often times with the accompaniment of humorous devices

Reflective thought

Thinking about thinking, love of theory and analysis, preoccupation with logic, moral thinking, introspection (but without self-judgment), conceptual and intuitive integration, independence of thought (sometimes very critical), thinks about humor


Free play of the imagination 

Frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, facility for detailed visualization, poetic and dramatic perception, animistic and magical thinking

Capacity for living in a world of fantasy

Predilection for magic and fairy tales, creation of private worlds, imaginary companions, dramatization

Spontaneous imagery as an expression of emotional tension

Animistic imagery, mixing truth and fiction, elaborate dreams, illusions

Low tolerance for boredom

Need for novelty and variety


Feelings and emotions intensified

Positive feelings, negative feelings, extremes of emotion, complex emotions and feelings, identification with others' feelings, awareness of a whole range of feelings

Strong somatic expressions

Tense stomach, sinking heart, blushing, flushing, pounding heart, sweaty palms

Strong affective expressions

Inhibition (timidity, shyness), enthusiasm, euphoria, pride, strong affective memory, fears and anxieties, feelings of guilt, concern with death

Capacity for strong attachments, deep relationships 

Strong emotional ties and attachments to persons, living things, places, attachments to animals, difficulty adjusting to new environments, compassion, responsiveness to others, sensitivity in relationships, loneliness

Well-differentiated feelings toward self 

Inner dialogue and self-judgment 

The comedic experience tends to be of a much richer quality for those predisposed to it because so much more detail, texture, contrast, and distinction come into awareness. When emotional, intellectual, sensual, and comedic energies meet, there's no telling what will come out. 

Comedy completely depends on imagination to enable the inspiration, invention, and construction of new possibilities. Boredom is anathema; the need for novelty is absolute. The underlying dimensions of thinking outside the box, the urge to create beauty, the push for stark realism, and the unrelenting striving for truth, justice, and humor is innate.

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