What makes you laugh? I don’t find many things funny. Once upon a very long time ago, I undertook a quest to uncover why so many things people find funny are not a laughing matter to me. That is when I looked into the psychology of comedy and start understanding it better.
The Psychology of Comedy: Meanness Under the Guise of Laughter
The simple explanation of my Debbie Downer syndrome is the following: comedy, laughter, or teasing is not always benevolent.
Comedy can be hidden under:
- Mean remarks
- Snark social media comments, masked under the guise of friendly banter
- Openly offensive, hidden and contemptuous comments with intent to hurt
- A political weapon to ridicule opponents.
The boundary between politics and comedy is so blurry that if you type political comedy in the Google search bar you will get a list of (all!) most popular political satire shows that are on the air today:
Comedy is so powerful that it works the other way around, too: as comedians’ politics.
Apart from electing comedians directly into the political arena, and actors and reality show hosts becoming presidents, there is the pervasive trend to turn political rallies into stand up comedy shows. Capitalizing on the contagious energy of laugh, politicians use the power of the funny story to score points.
But most of us are not here to win elections.
If you are more interested in being kind that in winning at any cost, take a look at this Art Parasites post which does an honest job of displaying what it means to use your words freely in a social context: The Difference Between Freedom of Speech, Bullying, and Criticism.
How to Take a Joke at Your Own Expense
I’d wish more people paid more attention to the dark side of comedy.
Try to make myself laugh by knacking jokes at your own expense. They allow you not to take yourself too seriously when facing disempowering circumstances. It is the safest way to walk the comedy scene (because it is, in a way, a scene, now that we all use social media).
But beware— don’t make comedy become a defense mechanism or an escapism method from dealing with life gravitas.
Don’t be the duty clown. Don’t be the on-call monkey.
1. If you are on the giving end of a bad joke:
Most people will like you but you may end up wasting precious hours on making people laugh and having no capacity for self-support when things get serious. Because in life, things do get serious, sometimes devastatingly so.
2. If you are on the receiving end of a bad joke:
Next time, when someone tells you not to make a big deal out of a joke and you feel your heart swelling from the pain or your blood boiling with anger, don’t take it softly. Say that it hurts. If the person doesn’t give a damn and evades responsibility based on freedom of speech, walk away, and never turn back.
Of course, there is the opposite situation in which you can perpetually play the victim and make everyone around you walk on eggshells. Context matters.
But it’s better to veer on the safe side. Avoid making people who show vulnerability hurt even more. When someone asks you gently and politely not to make fun of things that are not a joke for them, don’t dismiss their seriousness. Prefer to choose kindness instead of the insidiousness of my excessive right to comedy.
Psychology of Comedy and the Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech? It is a chimerical web that can only be absolute on a one-man’s island. In social networks, its intricate boundaries are revealed when we remember we cannot walk and talk around like ravaging bulls. True freedom resides on the line of the consequence that is shaped by us bumping into each other while making sure everyone gets out of the interaction unscathed. This is the most important thing you need to keep in mind about the psychology of comedy if you want to make people laugh, and not cry.