A Look at Funny Conversations
Humour or comedy is the natural tendency of encounters to elicit mirth and provide laughter. The word comes from the Greek root humus, meaning “blood” or “humor”, and medicine, meaning the treatment of diseases. Humour is a natural mood elevator that provides an escape from serious thinking and stress. The Greeks associated with many disorders with emotional imbalance and sought to find quick remedies by using humour as a cure for all ills.
Theory of Comedy refers to the study of how the received concept can be applied to current events in light of its analogy, where it can either be used to enhance or undermine a perspective. The most famous example would be the joke, where the apparently pathological act is revealed to be just a manifestation of the larger joke that we all know. Theory of humour then becomes a complex interaction between language, the audience and the culture. The history of jokes therefore traces the evolution of comedy and the incongruity between the received theory and reality.
Theories of Funny are not hard to find. As mentioned above, the earliest definition of the word “comedy” is the mixing of words or phrases in such a way that they make fun of something or someone. However, funny is not the same as absurd. The earliest definition of “comedy” is “a form of artistic entertainment built to mimic the manner of other people”. From this comes the conclusion that funny is something that makes people feel good while absurd is something that is meant to be laughed at. It therefore follows that funny is subjective and divorced from reality and the objective truth.
From this theoretical insight a lot of theories about the nature of humour came into being. Most significantly was the joke theory, propounded by Benjamin Franklin who postulated that humour is a mode of self-deception used to trick others into finding a vein of truth within a routine speech or conversation. This theory has since been modified many times over the centuries with the progress of science and technology. The key idea however remains the same that humour is a way of diverting the attention of others in a subtle and often humorous manner. Another important theory of humour was brought about by Socrates, who in ancient Athens was famous for his dialogues, in which he poked fun at established ideals and philosophies. The most famous of his funny lines are the ones wherein he lampoons his fellow student of Socrates.
Some people considered themselves to be funny, while others found themselves simply foolish. In 1844, English philosopher and satirist Robespado Durrheimer came up with the theory of inside jokes, which argued that the secret of success lies in providing a few really good inside jokes that can be shared among friends. According to the inside jokes theory, a joke provides the necessary diversion for serious topics like politics, war and crime in a social circle without necessarily becoming an embarrassment to the listeners. A few years later, the French thinker Montaigne put forward a similar theory of comedy writing, wherein he claimed that serious and commonplace subjects could be the basis for hilarious one liners. In fact, Montaigne maintained that there is a difference between comedy and tragedy.
The British philosopher John Locke agreed with the ideas of Socrates and Durrheimer and came up with his own funny theory. His funny quote, “Punch is merely the imitation of the real thing,” was meant to suggest that alluding to a specific event in history helps create a parallel. For Locke, the parallel was between human and animal comedy. He claimed that laughter was necessary because all animals find pleasure in mimicking actions of their predators. Locke’s theory of humour therefore became one of the cornerstones of Western thought on humor and continues to influence debate even today. In fact, many lawyers argue that laws that ban “abusive” language or ‘racist’ humour do not go against the rights of freedom of speech and expression as outlined by the UK’s Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights.