Friday, January 18, 2008

The Humor of Laughing

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

This weekend we talk about humor and laughing. Not unusual topics for a Comedist homily, but this weekend we put the comedic cart before the horse. Usually the laughing comes as a result of the humor, but what if the laughing IS the humor.

We tend to laugh when we hear laughter. This is one of the reasons why laugh tracks are used to prop up poorly written mass produced sit-coms, those heretical impostors for true comedy. Laugh tracks are to Comedism what indulgences were to Catholicisms, false attempts to circumvent authentic paths to righteousness.

But they work. Laughter is itself funny. Some particular laughs are funny. My old friend Reed had the most contagious high pitched cackle. When Reed laughed, everyone laughed. But while some laughs are funnier than others, perhaps the funniest is the uncontrollable belly laugh. Even though that baby is laughing in German, people who don't speak a single word of the language surely find that funny.

Second only to the uncontrollable belly laugh, however, is the stifled laugh. Laughs that are allowed to come out because of the context. The harder someone tries not to laugh, the funnier it is. Think of the classic "Bigus Dickus" scene from Life of Brian or Carol Burnett and Dick Van Dyke trying not to laugh at Tim Comway's Siamese elephant story.

We laugh for many different reasons. Sometimes it's an odd juxtaposition -- the male chihuahua trying to mount the female great dane. Sometimes it's because we have certain expectations and we are shocked when something different comes about -- this was pretty much every single gag in Benny Hill. Sometimes it's because our brains are caught between competing interpretations and trying unsuccessfully to rectify them -- traditional set up/punchline style jokes. But here, it is the laughing itself that brings about the laughing. It is humor without a focus, it is the funny without the object of funny. It is the essence of pure humor, a step towards Comedic enlightenment, a perfect state of hilarity in which one is in touch with the unmediated funny-in-itself, "der Witz an sich" as Schopenhauer once put it after putting a whoopie cushion on Hegel's chair in a faculty meeting. The laugh that is both subject and object. The disembodied guffaw. The belly laugh without a belly. It is truly the chuckle of God.

We can laugh so hard we lose our bodily functions -- think milk through the nose. This is the first step to true Comedist holiness where you laugh so hard that you lose your body itself. Be the laugh, my dear friends, be the laugh.

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve