it’s funny because it’s true

What does humor have to do with reality?

Last time, I wrote about living the tension of reconciling dreams and reality. So here’s the next step, laughing.

Laughing is magical. It has the power to make even the most difficult situations that much easier. Now, I’ve found myself awkwardly laughing during inappropriate situations, and not being able to ‘control’ it. But I’d be laughing alone in those cases. I’m not talking about that kind of laughter. I’m talking about the laughter which is shared. Where one person cracks a joke and the room fills with laughter. Why does that happen?

Suddenly you find yourselves showing each other that you all agree on something, implicitly, without any words needed. You laugh. Laughing is agreement. An agreement that doesn’t need to be explained, defined or delineated. An agreement which is plain and simply enjoyed by all joining in on the laughter. You can get two people to agree without even making them talk, just get them to laugh and they will both know that they agree on the same thing. In fact the opposite is also true. I’m sure you’ve all experienced situations where an inopportune joke was passed, or a joke made at the wrong moment. All one needs to do to show their disagreement is not laugh.

Humor uses reality as it’s foundation. Why are some jokes funny and others not? One of the reasons is their dependence on truth, and reality.  Starting from the truth, the comedian leads you into a story. Your mind starts running ahead, imagining the possibilities of the story, given the reality you started from. Then the art of joke saying lies in finding the right moment to ambush and surprise your audience. Out of the blue, you twist the story, taking an aspect of reality ‘out of context’ or pushed to an extreme, or even to surreal  levels. All the while using reality as your launch pad.

There is an overlooked ‘benefit’ or value in humor. When a comedian takes you on this journey, the story of the joke, they bring you to acknowledge reality. To laugh at the punch line of the joke, and be in agreement, you also need to accept the preconceptions. You find yourself taken for a ride. Especially when the preconceptions of the joke, the truth, are hard to look at or accept jokes can help us reach that acceptance. Through the punch line of the joke, the story, reality, becomes easier to acknowledge and accept.

This is the power Jesters had with kings. Jesters used their wittiness to outdo those who ruled over them. Getting their rulers to acknowledge and accept a reality they were avoiding. And once the ruler laughs the jester knew he had them, they would then be able to see the truth they were hiding from.

Humor bursts the bubble we would like to remain in. Humor criticizes dreams bringing them in line with reality, and it criticizes reality reminding us of our dreams.

Now start looking out for artful humor –  obviously not those one liners in your Christmas crackers. Notice the power of humor in accompanying you to recognize reality. And when you find yourself laughing, take the time to ask yourself, “What is the truth that is being revealed here?” Is it something you would like to do away with, or something you would like to cultivate? Sometimes it will be something to grow from such as derogatory jokes. Other times it will be something to appreciate. Like when someone dear passes away and a family member tells of a particular incident in their life which makes everyone laugh.

Photo by Omar Lopez

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