Sunday, January 24, 2010

Funny Or Die

Somebody once said "All humor is anarchic."

Indeed, what makes something funny? My Philo prof taught us that humor is triggered by absurdity - the dissonance between "what is" and "what should be." Which must be why I find pratfalls intrinsically and helplessly entertaining: because upright two-legged apes shouldn't fall. But they do, and often with hilarious results:

Okay, she wasn't really blind; just playing Helen Keller.

Now, just like the Janus Masks , there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Even though we I may laugh at events that cause actual physical injury to the subjects, it is the degree of injury - barring death, of course, which is seldom funny - plus the amount of time elapsed since the incident occurred that makes it fine to laugh at something. Case in point, below:

That's Canadian skater Jessica Dube, who got hit by her partner's ice skates during a competition in Colorado in 2007. She had to have surgery to her left cheek and nose, but suffered no broken bones and survived to skate another day.

That was so not funny.

But now that you know she's all right, and it being three years later, see how you feel about the same event - but this time set to music and sound effects:

You've heard about Gallows Humor, right? Basically, it's finding amusement even in the face of something most of humanity finds the most terrifying thing of all: death. Particularly, one's own.

In his 1927 essay Humour (Der Humour), Freud theorized about gallows humor:

"The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure."

Denial? Nah, that's a river in Egypt.

Puns aside, Oscar Wilde, that great gay hero, was a pundit to the end. Fallen from grace, destitute, and dying of cerebral meningitis in some dingy Parisian room plastered with what must have been hideously tacky decor, he is famously said to have remarked "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."

And then he died.

I don't know if Wilde had specified it in his will, but even his headstone in Pere Lachaise speaks of a sense of humor :

According to Wiki :

"The modernist angel depicted as a relief on the tomb was originally complete with male genitals which were broken off and kept as a paperweight by a succession of cemetery keepers; their current whereabouts are unknown."

Hm - gallows humor and a dick joke, too!

Now, we find humor in movies that use death and funerals as take-off points. Case in point: Soxy Topacio's Ded Na Si Lolo, which I must confess I haven't had the pleasure of watching, so I don't know if it featured that Pinoy staple of horrifically-amusing goings-on at a funeral - like this incident in Romania :

I gasped, then I howled at that video because it reminded me of a TRUE incident that happened when we were laying my grandfather down to his final earthly resting place. After a very formal and somber ceremony, dear old gramps' coffin was being lowered into the ground, as the female members of my clan started sobbing softly (my histrionic grand-aunt was absent, thankfully.) At that precise moment, my cellphone beeped, and fool that I was, I actually looked at the message.

It was my best friend, who had texted this :

So, kumusta naman ang libing?
Successful ba?

Needless to say, I burst out laughing. Luckily, I was enough of an actor to quickly mask my guffaws to approximate something of a howling sob, thus escaping the ghoulish fate of being hurled into the pit by my glaring kinsmen to keep granddad company.

Of course, religion isn't spared from humor, although fanatics are often marked by their general humorlessness. Although they can sometimes be inadvertently laughable - like, oh, televangelists, Sarah Palin, and incompetent Nigerian bombers - I've never met an intentionally- funny zealot, except perhaps in The Naked Gun movies.

Perhaps the lack of a sense of humor has a correlation to the propensity to impose one's religious and/or political views on others, and judge them accordingly and, need it be said, harshly. Maybe Freud was on to something in his Relief Theory, where he stated that :

"there are powerful censors in the mind that form unconscious barriers to prevent us thinking about 'forbidden thoughts.' In this view, the laughable (ideally, a naughty joke) liberates the laugher from inhibitions about forbidden thoughts and feelings. The result is a discharge of nervous energy that distracts the inner censor from what is going on. Freud suggests that the release of this energy is a pleasurable experience as demonstrated by the good feeling that laughter provides."


"In his view, jokes happen when the conscious allows forbidden thoughts which society suppresses. The superego allows the ego to generate humor. A benevolent superego allows a light and comforting type of humor while a harsh superego creates a biting and sarcastic type of humor. A very harsh superego suppresses humor all together. Freud's humor theory was based on the dynamic among id, ego, and superego. The commanding superego will impede the ego to continue its pleasure-seeking from the id, or to momentarily adapt itself to  the demands of reality. Moreover Freud also contributes to the development of the relief theory of laughter in which he proposed that emotional energy is released by humor sense. 

Later Freud returned his attention to humor noting that not everyone is capable of formulating humor."

Then again, zealots and fanatics DO have minds that are closed as tightly as a fist, which isn't good for anything but knocking things down.

And speaking of knockdowns, I present to you a remix of that Pope-Tackling affair just late last year. For the record, I didn't find the incident hilarious - at first. But once it was established that The Ratz was fine and that the Empire was still solidly in his clutches hands, well, all bets were off.

Thus, see His Holiness and his biggest fan tussling to the music of that glorious internet sensation Keyboard Cat :

What does one's sense of humor say about one's self? I suppose it indicates one's view of the world, one's take on life. I think the human condition is generally ridiculous, and choose to laugh at its many and varied absurdities. Others may opt for a different route, and rail bitterly at life's slings and arrows.

Whatever tickles your fancy, fellas.

In his Incongruity Theory, Kant weighs in on the role of incongruity in humor :

"In everything that is to excite a lively laugh there must be something absurd (in which the understanding, therefore, can find no satisfaction). Laughter is an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing."

Basically, we're supposed to find it funny when an expectation (a strained one, no less) comes to nothing. Which should be something we keep in mind the next time we expect lovers to make us happy. 

Buuuutttttttt I digress...

Since humor is based on cognitive shifts triggered by surprise deviations from expected patterns of reality, I suppose my own warped sense of it means that I actually have a very realistic view of life in general, and enough fortitude to laugh when it confounds my expectations. Or ironically, do I laugh because life delivers the absurdities I've learned to expect from it?

Then again, maybe I'm just a sick, sick boy.

All I know is if you didn't at the very least titter at one of the videos above, we can't be real friends.

Which, I guess, is how it should be. But hey, that's life. For me, it's often a toss-up between being an Ingmar Bergman film and a Tex Avery cartoon.

You can focus on the tragic:

Or see the comic in things :

Me, I'll take life as a cartoon any day - pratfalls, falling anvils, rocket-powered coyotes and all.

Aaaaannnddddd one more for the road:

Oh, and before you slap me - yes, I'm 12.

And when life slaps you - slap back.

Slap it silly.


  1. i love this post. Laughter is an evolutionary human survival tool for when tragedy has started to have a million more triggers on top of death, no food and no sex.

  2. the post and the videos made my day!!!

    how do you know kung successful ang libing? =P

  3. thanks for theorizing our funnybones.


  4. buti na lang may videos ka dito.

    hindi kinaya ng aking interpreter ang mga words and theories.

    at least nalaman ko din na hindi lang kabastusan ang alam ni freud

  5. @ Johnny Cursive : Glad you did. And yes, laughter is the best medicine.

    @ engel : "Go ahead, punk - make my day." How do you know kung successful ang libing? Well, after I regained my composure, I texted my friend back:

    "Ok naman. Maraming dumating. Maraming umiyak. Di naman bumangon si lolo."

    @ alimuom : I felt I had to rationalize the post with some psychoanalysis, lest people think I was just being my old meanie self :P

    @ Ming : Oh, Freud had many theories about many aspects of human behavior. In the end, Freudian thought suggests we can all just blame our mothers. For everything.

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  7. @ lost travailer : Hahaha, that's good enough.

  8. lovely collection. haha funny and thought provoking.

    i saw ded na si lolo. i really liked it. haha as for that message your friend sent you, it had me laughing too! haha

  9. "Slap it silly."

    is it just me or is there more to this line? haha oh rudeboy.. haha

  10. @ citybuoy : Oh, Nyl, Nyl - you're thinking of "Slappin' salami."

    You naughty, naughty boy.

  11. what's slappin' salami? *shy smile*

  12. @ Nyl : Oh, you know...spanking the monkey. Choking the chicken. A date with Pamela Handerson.
    *evil grin*

  13. (in a thick european accent) i'm not familiar with zese terms. perhaps you could, eh howyousay, illuminate my mind, yes?

  14. @ citybuoy : Can I you, baby?
    Many things get lost in translation, you see. And nothing like a rigid errrrrr VIVID demonstration to make everything crystal :p

  15. @ Eternal Wanderer : Well, well, look what the cat dragged in! Welcome back, stranger!

    As for the new saber - it's coming. Up. Soon.

  16. (small, small voice) hmm.. well... (finger in mouth) mmmkay. anything in the pursuit of knowledge! this VIVID demonstration sounds a little scary though. are you sure it's safe? ;?

  17. @ Nyl : Sweet little boy, you should never tease animals. They might...bite.


  18. City: you ho!

    ruddie's saber is mine.

    all mine!


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  20. nicely done. you totally made some research here huh daddy? Laughter will always be the best medicine. :D

  21. @ lost travailer : Aw, you're no fun. *puts whip and handcuffs away*

    @ Herbs D: For the psychobabble, yeah I had to recall a lot of Philo classes, and then some. But the vids are part of my growing "Goddammit, I need a good laugh right now" medicine stash.

  22. @rudeboy ~ i thought we were talking about salami. cold cuts don't bite! :D

    @ternie (pwede maki-ternie? hehe) ~ (pa-innocent voice with matching puppy dog eyes) i'm not a ho.. :(( sabi mo nga, you're melrose place. i'm just 90210. actually, more of seventh heaven. hehe

  23. @ citybuoy : They do when they're spicy. Oh, and don't let Ternie get to you with his Norma Desmond glare. He's still in Glenn Close dementia mode.

  24. yeah, i recall. haha if he's glenn close, can i be anne archer? i know my role won't be that big but *ahihi*

    as for spicy cold cuts, i just have one question- is your salami spicy or stale? haha

    (i should really learn to proof-read my comments)

    @ternie ~ peace tayo! :D