Comments: The Humorology of Power

So in this essay, is there a difference between humor and amusement that I should be aware of?

(I never knew Ms. Silverman was so illustrative of humor. And, why not follow up with and explanatory linkage between Jooishness and comedy -- I've always been interested in the stereotype. Is it related to a culture of education?)

Posted by Labiche at October 22, 2008 02:05 PM

Dear Lord, Bernard - How big is that lake?

Posted by Aaron Datesman at October 22, 2008 02:50 PM

How does joyous laughter relate to humorous laughter? People seem to forget that we laugh when happy.

Posted by marcus at October 22, 2008 05:57 PM

Oh no, this blog is going to explode into metablog!

I wanted to register my complaint with management before I Continue Reading.

Posted by buermann at October 23, 2008 02:59 AM

Most laughter has little to do with humor (tickling, surprise, nervous tick). Conversely some of the best humor only makes you smile.

Slapstick humor relies on knocking down empathy (can't think of anyone getting hurt). And it's often punishment humor. People love seeing others being punished for their stupidity. (Because stupidity can kill.)

Laughing has much to do with nervous tension/release. So any cognitive shift that suppresses fear is bound to provide laughter (candid camera subjects always laugh once they found out it was just a joke).

Rationality vs anti-Semitism: there is a scene in Schindler's List that explores precisely that theme. Not a happy ending.

Borat's humor is as totalitarian as it gets. What's disturbing is that it is genuinely funny. I guess we're all little fascists at heart. But Borat simply claims to make social commentary. A latterday "Persian Letters"... Oy. If you're going to be a bully whose pleasure is to humiliate others, then I can see the benefit of calling yourself the new Montesquieu. Bush called himself the liberator of the Mesopotamians, so why not?

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at October 23, 2008 11:46 AM

I gotta laugh to keep from crying.

Posted by Mike Meyer at October 23, 2008 12:46 PM

at the unique capacity humans have to make others laugh.

I don't think it's so unique. I know some very humorous parrots. (I know dogs and cats who are funny, but parrots can have a sense of humor, which is different.)

Posted by Marshall at October 23, 2008 09:09 PM

The brutality with which the doctor announces with complete authority that he has no authority whatsoever.

Animals can be playful but they are neither funny nor do they have a sense of humor: those things are human projections of human situations.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at October 23, 2008 10:32 PM

Horses have a sense of humor and they laugh. I have one horse that is DEEP into practical jokes, deep. In the winter when we burn brush one horse will run up to the fire, inhale a lung full of smoke and blow smoke rings and laugh. She will do that for an hour or so until she's tired of it. She's self taught and its funny and impressive.

Posted by Mike Meyer at October 24, 2008 12:43 AM

Liveblogging the inside of my head while reading a Chazelle post:

That's an interesting take on a subject that rarely invites academic scrutiny.

Hey, so's that.

Hmm. That seems to beg the question, but he's earned some latitude, so I'll just go with it.

Okay, I looked those words up but I still don't know what that sentence means.

Jesus, this guy couldn't do a write-up for Zagat's without mentioning how arrogant atheists are.

Anyway, good stuff, though that car-crash gag could use some streamlining. Thanks for giving me a much deeper appreciation for the stand-up comedy of Cedric the Iterative Dialectic Producer.

Posted by gil mann at October 24, 2008 04:24 PM

The italics were supposed to end after the Zagat's line. My HTML skills are, fittingly, a joke.

Posted by gil mann at October 24, 2008 04:28 PM

Mike: Maybe your horse gets high on smoke.
Or maybe your horse is funny. I have found that every rule about humor has exceptions.
(That's the only rule with no exception.)

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at October 24, 2008 07:15 PM

Bernard: I've ofter wondered about that. Brush smoke doesn't do much for me, but then I'm not a horse. Ive met some horses that seem to enjoy second hand smoke (both kinds) with a feller but this isn't one. She likes to dance to the radio sometimes (blues) so I think its more of a performance thing with her.

Posted by Mike Meyer at October 24, 2008 08:50 PM

I think some of your earlier examples fit into the "Reflexivity" category. The "Race to the cure," for example--I think it's reflexive. I don't think the analysis you did of it quite holds up. When I laughed at the joke, I wasn't thinking or feeling anything about racing for cures being loony. I just thought that was an amusing way of expressing desperation through reference to something unexpected.

Posted by LadyVetinari at October 26, 2008 01:41 PM