Friday, August 11, 2006

Breaking News, Or At Least Wind

This week's Comedist meditation is on the universality of humor. There is no doubt that some jokes are contextual and that there are some things that some people find very funny, but others do not. Yet, surely there are some things that are at least nearly universally held to be funny. Say, something like this.

What is it about passing gas that is funny? When I was a lacrosse player, we would have to travel hours on a bus to get to games and this topic alone kept many of the other guys amused for much of that time. Is it the sound? It is cacophonous and punctuated. Such sounds do tend to be funny -- for a classic example, Spike Jones' Cocktails for Two (pay special attention to 1:48-2:08). Is it the smell? Is it that it is socially impolite and thereby embarassing? Are we laughing at the deviation from enforced norms? Or is it the combination of the two that makes the whoopie cushion one of the greatest human inventions of all times?

Even the ways we refer to it tend to be funny: farting, passing gas, breaking wind, floating an air biscuit, playing the gluteal tuba, cutting the cheese, the one gun salute, trouser coughs. Any others?

It certainly is a normal part of all human life -- on average people pass gas about 14 times each day. It even plays vital roles in nature -- researchers have discovered that herring farts have a language all of their own. Herring pass gas in order to communicate, but do so at a frequency that their preditors cannot hear -- making such fish farts silent, but not deadly.

To show you how deep the Comedist connection to farting runs, consider "The Creation of Adam" from the Sistine Chapel. Now, if you look very closely at the upper righthand side, you will find that Michelangelo has included the phrase "pulleth my finger" in Latin.

We leave you this weekend, with this classic:

An elderly lady complains to her doctor that she has been passing gas much more frequently than she usually does. "It's not a real problem," she says, "More of a nuisance because they are silent and don't smell at all." The doctor gives her a prescription and tells her to come back in a week.

A week later, she returns and says to the doctor, "I don't know what it was you gave me, doc, but I still pass gas all the time. It is still silent, but now it smells terribly!"

The doctor replies, "Now that we've cleared up your sinuses, let's see what we can do for your hearing."