Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Heat-Seeking Missiles of Humor

Behind every great outburst of humor-induced laughter, a cloud of anger lurks. If you care to look further into the matter, you can find the source of the anger, an I-told-you-so smirk on its face, a smirk that is confirmation of the equation and the way the equation ties into the dramatic genome.

Humor is, indeed, human. Funny you should mention it, but when we see human aspects of humor in other species, that, too, is humor because--no surprise here--when we see such similarities, we are not laughing at the animals under observation, we are laughing at ourselves.

Of the various colors of humor on the palette, your own favorite is satire, which is the voice and dramatization of behavior bumped up a bit by exaggeration, but not so much as to suggest a commentary is being made. 

That particular degree of exaggerated satire is burlesque, which is often quite funny, but operates on a system where the performer and the audience are in collusion against another individual or type. 

We who observe burlesque are laughing at our own prejudices our own, if you will, bigotry. No matter how you slice the loaf, we are laughing at someone who does not quite have our own finely tuned sense of sophistication and balance. We are, although it pains me to say it, Donald Trump, in his burlesque of a news reporter afflicted with palsy.

Satire comes roaring from the anger of the satirist, who sees a behavior he or she finds intolerable, then manipulates as if to rationalize its toleration. See, for instance, Rev. Swift, rationalizing his solution to the Irish potato blight in his "A Modest Proposal." 

Irish families are notably well-populated, an observation that might well have come from Rev. Swift's Protestant view of the Catholic approach toward procreation and dealing with one's sexual nature. Large families, in particular those most affected by the potato blight, would not miss one of the younger ones in one's brood, and doesn't Rev. Swift tell us right there that he has it on recommendation of an American friend that a young child, prepared parboiled, is most delicious?  

Thus the solution to starvation, something taken with another kind of vision by the Donner Party, some years later in the freezing embrace of the snowy Sierras between Nevada and California.

Humor, as an entity, is the schoolyard bully, wanting to take down an individual, an --ism, a paradigm that has been held up as an embodiment of all that is meaningful, spiritual, and of cultural importance to us. 

Humor is a fighter, but it does not fight the way the schoolyard bully does; humor fights by exaggeration rather than intimidation; it fights by the flattery of making the target seem not only rational but based in some elevated moral precision. Humor fights not only by suggesting the emperor is indeed clothed, he is wearing a bespoke suit from Brioni.

Once you are aware of the anger management mechanism being firmly fixed in place, you can and do seek out targets for humor as though you were a heat-seeking missile out on reconnaissance. You have only to look about you.

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