Thursday, September 13, 2012

Soph-isticated Humor

Tell me, is this animated photo sophisticated? Is it funny? Is it in itself either one of these things or is it somehow innovative to the point that it becomes humorous? And if so, when does it transition from being innovative to humorous? 

This gif is skillfully created utilizing techniques that give the appearance of a man vanishing into the wall and reemerging (in a different outfit) from another wall.

Colloquially, one might refer to it as "cool". So, is cool, funny? Maybe not in itself, but add in another element, and voilá, funny - create these artifacts purposely and you've got sophisticated humor. 

Can sophistication - knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment, cultivation, refinement, elegance, style - be funny in themselves or do they require an added feature, such as shown in this social networking ecard linking Facebook to birthday reminders.  

The element of a concept like Facebook sharing the same conscious space as birthdays and the guilt we associate with "forgetting someone's birthday" is what makes this ecard funny. 

The honesty of saying, "You're so important to me, that I did not need Facebook to remind me of your birthday," demonstrates sincerity utilizing a humorous delivery device. 

Two distinct concepts when thrown together (such as remembering birthdays & the value of Facebook applications or disappearing into a wall & reemerging from another time/space) work like concept flashcards for comedians. All that is required is that you change the noun, pronoun, verb, preposition, and object of the preposition, and voilá, you have a new joke with a new punchline (which explains why jokes from Ancient Rome are still today today). 

Can honesty really be funny? Maybe not in and of itself, but when attached to a seemingly separate or distinct concept for our conscious consideration and dissection it is. The humor arises from ourselves when we fill in the blanks that link the two concepts. 

In the old days, before Facebook, we had to birthdays on the calendar by hand. This by definition was a conscious act.  If someone was important to us, we took the time to know exactly when their birthday was and by golly, we didn't need to be reminded that we wanna be there celebrating with them! 

Therefore, this animated gif:

and this ecard:

appear to be different types of jokes, but really both are marriaging two distinct concepts together leaving out the punchline for others to fill in with their understanding of the links that tie them. 

Brining us back full-circle: Is sophistication, honesty, or enlightenment funny? Maybe not in and of itself, but when combined with something else, it can be.

But it's not that simple... we don't laugh at two things simply because they're different. We laugh when something we once thought was completely different is now undeniably connected by an idea, concept, or event. The sudden shift in awareness causes us to laugh (consciously). 

Some theorists may refer to the technique of bringing together two distinct concepts under the humorous microscope as incongruous, whereby two seemingly different - but interestingly related things - are funny by association. While these concepts may be initially characterized as unrelated, the punchline or sophistication of the technique likes in the fact that we (1) initially considered them separate concepts; (2) before recognizing the relationship between the two, (3) which causes us to come to the conclusion that the two were connected all along; (4) the combination of these insights makes us laugh. 

Simply put, caviar isn't funny. Give an ordinary alley cat a jar of Beluga caviar and all of a sudden, the scene is funny, and we laugh. 

Knowing which concepts to put together is the sophistication behind joke telling, irrespective of the subject matter. 


It makes no difference

what subject matter you use...

as long as you talk of Star Wars Polo,

for it truly is the greatest sport on Earth! 

For a joke to be funny, we have to fill-in in the missing blanks. So really, comedy is a cognition test. The comedian puts together random concepts, and then shares them. If someone in the audience doesn't laugh, either (1) they haven't made the association or filled in the missing link, (2) they are offended by the missing link and consciously choose not to laugh; (3) they suffer from Gelotophobia; (4) they don't get the joke (see #1). 

Sophistication in humor cannot have just one aesthetic look, feel, or sound, which is why I've been experimenting with humor in this blog in what might seem to be random, unrelated ways.  

What humor must instead have is the ability to generate within us a lasting feeling that leaves us with the impression that it did have all three of these elements - a certain look, feel, or sound - in harmony... a harmony that illuminated the missing link for our conscious awareness, the place where humor resides. 

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