A Veil of Laughter

By Christopher MaacDonald

Being a human being is a complicated thing. anyone who has been added for any time at all already understands this and if you’re at all concerned with the question of the meaning of your life then you know that it’s all jumbled in there with a whole bunch of other issues and questions and family history it’s the list can seem a little bit endless and isn’t it interesting that sometimes when we get either overwhelmed or perhaps we get sad and by things that are going on in the world we look to Comedy or humor as not just a relief valve for some of the emotions that we’re feeling but also for some legitimate comfort and even perspective.

If you think about what the essence of stand-up comedy is it’s a man or a woman who stands up in front of a group of people and starts riffing about a variety of issues that we all share in common and usually they have sort of a different take on those things but because they’re a common experience we all find ourselves laughing at them.

I know this may sound at first a little clinical but someone wants to find comedy or humor as essentially pointing out” discrepancy” In its simplest form a social scientist will tell you that the reason that we laugh when someone who’s all dressed up and trying to act Superior slips on a banana peel and flops down on the ground it’s because the discrepancy between what he pretends to be and what he is is being demonstrated.

So, what does humor or comedy have to do with human meaning?  well, the first thing is that it has a way of disarming us of our pretenses and bringing us back to reality and also the things that we share in common.

I just finished reading the autobiography of Gene Wilder, that comic genius who brought us so many great laughs and was such a brilliant writer ( most especially when he was teamed up with Mel Brooks).  and there’s a story in there about when they were producing and filming Young Frankenstein and he and Mel Brooks got into an argument over the musical number where the creature tries to do a fancy musical act of” Putting on the Ritz.” You all remember the scene where both Peter Boyle as the Frankenstein monster and Gene Wilder as Dr Frankenstein are dressed in tails and are trying to perform a choreographed song and it’s pretty darn ridiculous most especially when the monster tries to speak his parts of the song.

Wilder prevailed in the argument because he continued to push for the fact that Dr Frankenstein was looking to overturn all the prejudices of the audience in one Fell Swoop via this musical number which is, I’d wonderfully ridiculous notion. Thankfully, Brooks finally succumbed to his argument and that’s one of the funnest parts of a very funny film.

But note that when you start looking at the top comics of the last 100 years almost all of them end up touching upon the core issues of life in human meaning:  Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Sam Kinison, Robin Williams, and even just to move things into the present our late night comedians are constantly sort of ripping the cover off of the pretense of politicians on both sides of the aisle and making good-hearted fun at the fact that we’re all just human beings with real foibles And we all make mistakes.

There’s power in humor and comedy. I’m not sure I would go as far as my example shown here of the world’s funniest joke ( done by Monty Python)  where the joke is so potent that anyone who hears the joke or reads the joke dies laughing, but it’s a fun idea isn’t it?

Comedy quite oftentimes has a very close relationship to truth-telling, in fact oftentimes it’s a subversive way of telling the truth about things that are too difficult to discuss seriously ( for many people).

I think perhaps the most concrete fruit that we can point to when it comes to Comedy in humans is how it causes a bond between people who share comedic experiences and how they in laughing hard together find that they have more in common than they thought otherwise.

I know that in one of my more significant friendships, initially, you would have said that we had absolutely nothing in common in any way shape, or form when we first met and that would be true. but almost immediately we found common ground in comedic movies that we had both seen and did bits from each one of those movies until we were just doubled over with laughter and a bond was formed between us that will never be broken.

In a world that presents us with too many opportunities for Tears, worry, and even anguish,  comedy and humor are healthy antidotes to wear those things might take us in an unhealthy way.

I realize, in closing, that it has become tougher for comedians To do their artistic work in these days of heightened political correctness where one can be thrown onto a shunned list for almost any comment that is not accepted by every group from every facet of American society ( which is, absolutely impossible). But this is just a phase that we are going through and a rather immature one at that and when we come out the other end we may find that We can be tolerant and even gracious with people but at the same time laugh at ourselves and our Humanity and that that makes us more human And life more meaningful than if we clamp down on everything out of fear and or anger.

Think of some comedic movies or television shows that have helped you or taught you things that you needed to learn or helped you through a hard time and you will begin to see how beneficial comedy and humor can be

I do have one small criticism, even though I like to keep all of these articles pretty much positive and that is that I am absolutely against” laugh tracks.”  If something is truly funny people are going to laugh and that laughter should be filled from actual live human beings not some sort of Pavlovian Q that something is supposedly funny. those should simply be banned as being an indicator that what you’re about to watch isn’t going to be funny at all

Live audience?  that’s a different thing because then you have real people having real laughter coming from a real response and reaction to what’s taking place. 

As for me, I’m not a particularly funny guy although I may be a bit of a smart-ass which means that given the fact that I’m nearly 6 ft 7 if you walk up to me and say” How’s the weather up there?”  I may well reply to you” There’s a phone on my butt why don’t you call and find out?” 

(In the comments section I am happy to address why so much humor is based on butt,  genitalia, Biological waste processing, and other things that have to do with the body). 

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