On Saturday, November 24, 2012 7:51:00 PM UTC+1, archytas wrote:
While there is only speculation about how humor developed in early--
humans, we know that by the 6th century BCE the Greeks had
institutionalized it in the ritual known as comedy, and that it was
performed with a contrasting dramatic form known as tragedy. Both were
based on the violation of mental patterns and expectations, and in
both the world is a tangle of conflicting systems where humans live in
the shadow of failure, folly, and death. Like tragedy, comedy
represents life as full of tension, danger, and struggle, with success
or failure often depending on chance factors. Where they differ is in
the responses of the lead characters to life's incongruities.
Identifying with these characters, audiences at comedies and tragedies
have contrasting responses to events in the dramas. And because these
responses carry over to similar situations in life, comedy and tragedy
embody contrasting responses to the incongruities in life.
Tragedy valorizes serious, emotional engagement with life's problems,
even struggle to the death. Along with epic, it is part of the Western
heroic tradition that extols ideals, the willingness to fight for
them, and honor. The tragic ethos is linked to patriarchy and
militarism—many of its heroes are kings and conquerors—and it
valorizes what Conrad Hyers (1996) calls Warrior Virtues—blind
obedience, the willingness to kill or die on command, unquestioning
loyalty, single-mindedness, resoluteness of purpose, and pride.
Comedy, by contrast, embodies an anti-heroic, pragmatic attitude
toward life's incongruities. From Aristophanes' Lysistrata to Charlie
Chaplin's The Great Dictator to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11,
comedy has mocked the irrationality of militarism and blind respect
for authority. Its own methods of handling conflict include deal-
making, trickery, getting an enemy drunk, and running away. As the
Irish saying goes, you're only a coward for a moment, but you're dead
for the rest of your life. In place of Warrior Virtues, it extols
critical thinking, cleverness, adaptability, and an appreciation of
physical pleasures like eating, drinking, and sex.
Much humour is cruel - but try and read cruelty in to 'Doctor, doctor,
I've lost an electron'. 'Are you sure'? 'Yes, I'm positive'.
What do we think humour is?