Thursday, August 6, 2009

Laughter, Humor, Sexual Attraction (2/3)

What is humor? I know, that's kind of an unusual question, one that can be handled from many different angles. As we've seen in Part 1 of this series, although humor provokes laughter, not everything that provokes laughter is humor. In my perspective, something contains humor when there is a sudden recognition of something unusual or unexpected in a logical pattern. A sudden anomaly in that pattern, a twist that surprises the subject.

This unifies different aspects of humor like:
  • Someone disappearing from a child's field of view and then reappearing again (peekaboo) when the child doesn't expect things to exist if they're not perceived.
  • A clown whose behavior is unusual.
  • A complicated political joke in a stand up comedy act, that establishes a background and provides some twist in a punchline.
  • Even something as simple as a photo. The sight of Santa Claus riding an Arley Davidson might be funny. Whether you start by recognizing Santa or the bike, the next thing you recognize is totally unexpected, even contradictory, it doesn't fit.
Note that the argument is not that you'll find everything that fits this criteria truly funny. The argument is that, even though a joke that I might present as an example might not be that funny after all, we'll probably still agree that it IS a joke and that it objectively contains humor. The subjectivity of our judgments about the degree to which something is funny is not the focus of this article so regardless of any exceptions or nuances that a complete definition would probably have, in it's core, humor can be defined as a sudden recognition of an anomaly in a logical pattern.

How does laughter fit in then? In this context, laughter seems to have the role of broadcasting our recognition of something funny to other persons.

Ironically, this seems surprisingly simple and banal for a description of something apparently so special and complex, but as anyone might ask at this point... Why did such an odd thing ever came into being? What's the reason and purpose behind the development of humor? Where does it fit in the framework of man's biological evolution? Why would natural selection favor men with a sense of humor?

More on Part 3/3.

1 comment:

  1. excellent blog! as for humor, as you said, there are several types. For me good comedy is defined by being above all non-american. The US- lampoon, teen or TV studio sitcom unnatural written by paid writers forced to force humor is not my cup-of-tea. British humor makes me laugh always.