Wednesday, July 4, 2012

International Humor Organization

Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.
Advocate for the creation of an 
International Humor Organization

36th International Humor Salon of Piracicaba 2009 
The GRAND PRIX Zélio Gold Trophy
Alberto Ribeiro Palmieri, de Meridiano, Brazil

An International Humor Organization would serve as the directing and coordinating authority for international humor within the United Nations system. It would be responsible for assessing the types of humor that bring nations together in order to better facilitate communication between world nations. 

Humor and laughter are a universal aspect of human experience, occurring in all cultures and virtually all individuals throughout the world (Apte, 1985; Lefcourt, 2001).   

While different cultures have their own subject and style preferences concerning socially acceptable humor and the types and situations in which laughter is considered appropriate, the sounds of laughter are indistinguishable from one culture to another. 

This common language "lightens burdens, inspires hope, connects us to others, increases our insight, keeps us grounded, focused, alert, and happy." 

Laughter is not limited to human beings. Charles Darwin (1872), was the first to describe laughter emitted by young chimpanzees. Similar types of laughter have also been observed in other apes, including bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas (Preuschoft and van Hooff, 1997; van Hooff and Preuschoft, 2003). Although the sound is distinct from that of humans, it occurs in similar social contexts as laughter does in human infants and young children. 

If Chimpanzees and gorillas can be taught to communicate by means of sign language in ways that are reminiscent of humor, such as punning, humorous insults, and incongruous word use (Gamble, 2001), evidence suggests that humor and laughter can be taught at the most basic level of communication according to evolutionary research on natural selection (Gervais and Wilson, 2005). Given that laughter, as a nonverbal "gesture-call" system, predates the development of language (Burling, 1993), we can assume humor to be genetically inherent, and as such, relevant to social communication. 

With the evolution of greater intellectual and linguistic abilities, humans developed laughter-generating play activities toward the more modern mental play with words and ideas that we now call humor (Caron, 2002). The evolutionary origins of humor and laughter contributed to our survival as a species. With humor having a biological basis rooted in our genes, it is evident that, when used accordingly, it could strengthen cultural ties. 

As technology continues to advance, we are developing new methods and styles of social communication between nations, from spontaneous interpersonal joking on Facebook to television shows, movies, humorous literature, and a plethora of jokes and cartoons being disseminated over the Internet. Besides being a form of playful entertainment, humor has diminished the barriers of culture via shared laughter. 

Joke sharing enhances social cohesion. While some humor intended to out groups utilizes the tactic of laughing "at" someone rather than "with" someone, humorous devices can be utilized for the sole purpose of brining people together to laugh in solidarity. 

As a social play, humor is a valuable form of communication that should be utilized by world organizations in order to foster positive communications. If you will, a return of the court jester, that brilliantly witty court conscious who could speak the unspoken in a way that peoples of different beliefs could laugh and react to but not feel slighted by given the origin of the information was cloaked in puns, banter, and wordplay. 

A court jester. 
Miniature - 15th century French Bible.
From Science and Literature in the Middle Ages by Paul Lacroix, 1878.

In order to communicate with neighbor nations on matters perceived as ludicrous or amusing, or while expressing in speech, writing, or other composition the imagination and hope of a nation, nothing beats humor to the punch like a well-delivered punchline. 


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