Wednesday, January 28, 2009


You DO NEED humor to survive. Humor is the human way to process and accept the ironies of life. If you see that you have made a mistake and can laugh at your own foolishness, this is humor. It is also humor to be able to accept the weaknesses of others and to recognize the absurdities of the world around you without giving up hope. Nothing in the world is perfect, and you need humor to grease the wheels so it works anyway.

That doesn't mean you need comedy, however. Comedy is a consumer product (entertainment) designed to entertain a passive audience. Comedy can contain humor, but they are not the same thing. More often comedy is masked aggression. It will cynically do whatever is necessary to get a laugh.

Just because something makes you laugh doesn't mean it is good for you, just like something sweet and sugary isn't necessarily good for your health. There must also be substance behind the comedy for it to be USEFUL.

A sitcom is comedy, but it may contain almost no real humor. A stand-up routine is comedy, but your life is rarely improved by sitting through it. Humor is natural, while comedy is usually forced, because the comedian is desperately trying to make people laugh. Comedy knows that it has to make you laugh or it won't be paid, and this corrupts the humor within it. Humor, on the other hand, happens naturally and arises out of the current situation.

Comedy can be useful when it's truly fresh, new and insightful, but that rarely lasts for long in any commercial venue. Comedy can also be a crutch and an addiction, and people who happen to be funny may come to rely on it rather than fixing problems and taking action. Humor shared with others can help smooth social interactions and release people's tensions when they are trapped, but the best thing to work toward is not being trapped at all. The more comfortable and self-actualized you are, the less need you have for overt comedy.

I draw a distinction between "honest" humor and commercial laugh-driven comedy, which is fundamentally dishonest. Honest humor doesn't necessarily involve open laughter; it is simply a grasp of an absurdity, perhaps only within oneself. Commercial comedy, however, requires an audience and has to produce laughs. Once someone sets out to make you laugh, his honesty has already been compromised, and you probably don't need his product. If, on the other hand, someone sets out to say something meaningful and it turns out to be funny, that is true humor.

Comedians are a sad bunch. Once they set out to be funny, their innocence and honesty is lost. If their goals are realized and someone buys their product, they will be enslaved forever serving the "beast"—the dumb audience that expects to laugh and is paying for it. This applies to big-name comedians as well as your local class clown. Comedy is a prison, and although it may harmless to visit, you don't want to be trapped there.

Humor is certainly part of ones arsenal in any art form, but it can't be an end itself. You don't want to consume a product just because it makes you laugh any more than you would buy cocaine just to feel good. You want to be doing real things and pursuing meaningful goals, and if humor happens along the way, so be it.

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