Taking Humor S E R I O U S LY

"Humor must not professedly teach and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever." Mark Twain

I see humor as the higher capability and disposition of Intelligence, 1 which enables persons who develop this organ to comprehend Goodness, Truth and Beauty. Humor is a part of the philosopher's armamentarium with which he seeks wisdom. It is not the mere ability to laugh at ribald buffoonery or mindless inanity--as is now supposed. It is a definite organ of comprehension which requires disciplined practice and a finely honed sensibility. Humor is a fundamental power of the human soul and an objective criterion by which we distinguish between the good and the bad, the true and the false, the genuine and the counterfeit, and the mature and the immature. If most people no longer possess this higher capability--do not even know of its existence--this does not mean that this organ is not presently active in those who apprehend and exercise it. True humor has been employed by sages from the beginning of recorded history. We see Socrates' subtle humor in Plato's Ion in which the pomposity and self-deception of the self-appointed Homer-expert is made embarassingly apparent. As with all Perennialist sages, Socrates fought against the degrading tendencies and institutions of his day with the higher powers of humor. Plato attacked the excesses of the sophists who trained young men in nothing other than propaganda and pompous oratory, by revealing their vain pedantry and pomposity in his dialogues.

which was used most successfully by many others as well. . humor played a major role in freeing humankind from the degredation and ignorance of the Dark Ages.In his Encomium Moraie (In Praise of Folly) Erasmus [1466-1536] introduced the Medieval literary form. Throughout the entire Renaissance period. to combat dogmatic and literal religious faith and pedantic and pretentious clerics. In this work. Erasmus satirizes the officious scholar who can explain everything as though he were privy to the eternal secrets of the universe.

nevertheless. Renaissance emancipation from all the forces that were binding it to the past. It was first in the realm of the comic that this spirit celebrated its highest triumphs and won its decisive victories. . . . the Renaissance also endowed the comic with new force and new meaning. they are nationally coloured and conditioned in the extreme."Along with all the other fundamental powers of the intellect to which it gave new form. is really achieved only when it succeeds in reflecting these forces in the comic mirror. . . Our conception of the Renaissance would remain fragmentary and incomplete. to tradition and to authority. the goal of liberation. a certain similar intellectual task. But in all its variations the comic performs. Everywhere it is striving towards one principal goal. These types of the comic are most diverse. if we were to forget this aspect of the comic.

The Platonic Renaissance in England. . that does not mean that people were not in good spirits. It does not entertain feelings of hatred towards the world which its free play is destroying. and Cervantes chivalry. but it retains in the image that which must perish in reality. its effect was. Love cannot check the process of destruction. and his inimitable ways of affecting us as hearers and readers. that Shakespeare is playing word games or creating a word-image or moving us to feel in most surprising ways. or anything of that sort. but something much deeper and more important" Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). 1953 "Humor is not a mood but a way of looking at the world." Words take on a life of their own and at times we suddenly recognize.In this mirror Boccaccio in the Decameron views monasticism. the comic spirit forms rather the last glorification of this decadent world. on the other hand. The Renaissance power of comic representation thus belongs inseparably and essentially to its power of action. For the comic spirit contains also an element of balance and reconciliation. to take away the violence and bitterness of that struggle out of which the modern era arose. if the comic thus became the strongest aggressive weapon of modern times. on the contrary. Austrian philosopher We can gain the clearest understanding of how humor can be used to overcome the dark agencies of ignorance and tyranny. Yet. So if it is correct to say that humor was stamped out in Nazi Germany. . We realize that with Shakespeare. by studying how Shakespeare used comedy to defeat the noxious influences of his day. to its vital and creative energies. unaware. Thus in this power of the comic lives the power of love which will and can understand even that form of the world which the intellect must abandon and surmount." Ernst Cassirer. words are not mere denotations of "things. his mood-tones. his ideas. We must first recognize that with Shakespeare language is a distinct higher realm with a literal magic of its own. . which it cannot but negate. He creates a palpable medium with language within which operate his characters.

" [Act II. In the character of Malvolio we see the clear visage of the spoilsport. though he do nothing but reprove. a "civil war of wits. "Dost thou think." [I. Olivia pierces through to his true nature: "O! you are sick of self-love. Scene I] Shake speare used humor to put things into their rightful place in the scale of human value. because thou art virtuous. there shall be no more cakes and ale?" Malvolio--as the personification of Puritanism-is the sworn enemy of merriment and high spirit. guiltless. "and taste with a distempered appetite to be generous. There is no slander in an allowed fool. and of free disposition. with humor as one of his most potent weapons. and he struggled against it brilliantly. though he do nothing but rail.As in our present day. and Sir Toby denounces him.V] . Maria expressly calls him "a kind of puritan. nor no railing in a known discreet man. In describing Malvolio. Puritanism was Shakespeare's life-long enemy." [Act II. is to take those things for bird-bolts that you deem cannon-bullets." she accuses him. Scene III] Malvolio brings the conspiracy of Maria and the others on himself. so wit will have its day. Shakespeare recognized that he was in what he called in Love's Labour's Lost. Malvolio. He undermines Puritanism by creating the immortal figure of Malvolio in Twelfth Knight. viewing them as Satan's hotbed of temptation. and the pretender to virtue. We see clearly his self-righteousness and pomposity in his own behavior and words. Puritanism nursed a deadly animus against the theatre and all dramatic art. the over-fastidious. Shakespeare also lived in a time when political and religious forces were trying to destroy human intelligence and sensibility.

His humor helps us to realign our priorities and place things in their true perspective. we recognise their actual importance--and unimportance. using psychological. Through his creative use of humor." Henri Bergson.With his rapier-sharp wit. to understand our scene in a larger drama and how to play our role as is becoming and proper in the momentary theater of history. we are made to feel somewhat ashamed at the excess to which Malvolio's tormentors go. and he becomes in the end merely an unfortunate dunce. In an interesting psychic twist. Shakespeare exposes Malvolio's puritanical arrogance and pretentiousness as pomposity and grandiosity. Yet Shakespeare's humour never stoops to mere character assassination but a levelling out of seemingly unequal conditions. those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes and those who do not. physiological. in the end. And this. "A comic character is generally comic in proportion to his ignorance of himself. When we discern their true images mirrored by the elemental power of humor. "Laughter" "There may be said to be two classes of people in the world. . is our primary task: keeping clearly in mind the higher realities in the face of evil and corruption. Shakespeare allows us to see things as they really are." Robert Benchley Not Taking Humor Seriously By Studying Humor Scholastically Beginning in the late 1960s the first "serious" studies on laughter and humor began to appear in scientific journals.

it wasn't doing what I was doing. and the part that is original is not good. He was using a dotted line. Antony Chapman and Hugh Foot brought out their collection "Humour and Laughter: Theory. but the part that is good is not original.. I had to get rid of the other one -. I got a new shadow. Stephen Wright .7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.sociological and psychiatric approaches to the subject. the same year that they jointly chaired the First International Conference on Humour and Laughter under the auspices of the British Psychological Association in Cardiff." It was published in 1976. "Motivation in Humor. What's another word for thesaurus? Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali. He caught every other fish. I was walking down the street and all of a sudden the prescription for my eye-glasses ran out . Research and Applications. Samuel Johnson All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand. In 1969 Jacob Levine published his study. 42..." and in 1972 Jeffrey Goldstein and Paul McGhee edited a volume on "The Psychology of Humor. "Your manuscript is both good and original." In England.

in such a way as to play on two or more of the possible applications.' There developed in late 17th. And as every ecclesiastical dean knows so well.'" Take my wife jokes. 'practice makes prefect. fanciful word 'pundigrion. a play on words.and early 18thcentury England a short-lived.' hence a verbal quibble. A Tribute to Henny Youngman How to Watch a Chess Match . That has a Nice ring to it.' "In describing the various forms of verbal humor. and is most likely the source of the English 'punctilious. paronomasia is referred to as jeu de mots. please. it is widely thought that this is how and where the word 'pun' was created. Since snappy monosyllables produced by breaking off pieces of longer words were all the rage back then.What is a Pun? "In Italian. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica refers to a pun as 'two disparate strings of thought tied together by an acoustic knot. or of words which are formed or sounded alike but have different meanings.' which indeed was a term for what we now know as a pun. 'puntiglio' means 'a fine point. "A pun is defined by Webster as 'the humorous use of a word. n'est pas? "What is paronomasia? The act or practice of punning.' That analogy strikes a very pleasant cord! "In France.

of course. ." said Nasrudin. "First things first. they really should be dead. ."The first problem confronting the chess spectator is to find some people who are playing. he'd been dead for five years. which would be a horrible ending for a little lark like this. but a mirror held to the lips of the nearest contestant will probably show moisture (unless. I once heard of a murderer who propped his two victims up against a chess board in sporting attitudes and was able to get as far as Seattle before his crime was discovered). The owner came forward to serve him. At first you may think that they are both dead." Tom Lehrer "The future ain't what it used to be." Yogi Berra The Mulla walked into a shop one day. The Sufis ." "Have you ever seen me before?" "Never in my life. ." "Then how do you know it is me?" Idries Shah. "did you see me walk into your shop?" "Of course." TIME "It's a sobering thought that by the time Mozart was my age.

He established monarchical and republican government. He created patriotism and taught nations war--founded theology. Ambrose Bierce. A person who pervades the domain of intellectual speculation and diffuses himself through the channels of moral activity. and in the twilight he prepares Man's evening meal of milk-and-morality and turns down the covers of the universal grave. omnipercipient. n.Fool. and in the noonday of existence headed the procession of being. and the circle of the sciences. And after the rest of us shall have retired for the night of eternal oblivion he will sit up to write a history of human civilization. illogical. He it was who invented letters. His grandmotherly hand has warmly tucked-in the set sun of civilization. and Chicago. The Devil's Dictionary Theories of Humor: • • Superiority: laughter is an expression of a person's feelings of superiority over other people Incongruity: amusement is an intellectual reaction to something that is unexpected. the telegraph. the platitude. the steamboat. In the morning of time he sang upon primitive hills. medicine. printing. omniscient. or inappropriate in some other way Relief: laughter is a venting of nervous energy • . law. the railroad. He is omnific. omnipotent. omniform. philosophy. He is from everlasting to everlasting--such as creation's dawn beheld he fooleth now.

all of the other psychologists in the room will laugh equally. a fool for skiing. as with jokes or antics. One who acts unwisely on a given occasion: I was a fool to have refused the job. 3. Informal. a jester. 6. 7. Archaic. sense." Garrison Keillor . 5. "Experiments with laboratory rats have shown that. A member of a royal or noble household who provided entertainment. One who is regarded as deficient in judgment.Fool: 1. A person with a talent or an enthusiasm for a certain activity: a dancing fool. a dupe: They made a fool of me by pretending I won the award. A dessert made of stewed or puréed fruit mixed with cream or custard and served cold. or understanding. A mentally deficient person. an idiot. 2. 4. One who has been tricked or made to appear ridiculous. if one psychologist in the room laughs at something a rat does.

old man. groaned. half-wit. declared. moron. witling. "The original Tom Swift was a fictional title character in a series of childrens books written by Edward L. buffoon. stupid. incompetent. idiot. turkey. The adverb 'condescendingly' makes a double pun on the related words 'con' (prisoner) and 'descending' (downstairs). averred. expostulated. born fool. clot. goose.Tom Swifty "Tom Swifty is a play on words that derives its humor on a punning relationship between the way an adverb describes a speaker. has been termed 'croaker' (coined by Roy Bongartz): 'I'm dying. congenital idiot. sciolist. jackass. Stratemeyer (1862-1930). wiseacre. Huh? Here's an example: "Take the prisoner downstairs. mooncalf. blunderer. crackpot. driveler. mongol. featherbrain. cuckoo. giddy-head. silly fool. The adventure stories depicted young Tom as an ingenious man whose amazing inventions took him to unusual places around the world. twit. and at the same time refers significantly to the context of the speaker's statement. rattlehead. nincompoop. smiled. quipped. Stratemeyer would add an adverb to provide a more colorful impact. dotard. stooge. and the Tom Swifty was born! A similar satirization whereby a verb supplies the pun instead of an adverb. odd fellow. perfect fool." he croaked. complete idiot. Stratemeyer always avoided using the word 'said' alone in describing Tom's utterances. desperado. . zany. Or if he was ever reported to have 'said' something. crank. humorist. fathead. grinned. Tom asserted. madman. old fogy. pinhead. donkey. natural. ass. eccentric. madcap. clown. dimwit. burbler. twerp. harlequin. muddlehead. grimaced. bungler. In these books. mental defective. babbler. "Eventually. flibbertigibbet. gaffer. zombie. birdbrain. jester. merry-andrew.'" Jester or Joker: fool. tomfool. laughingstock. ninny. cretin. entertainer. imbecile." Tom said condescendingly. etc. someone decided to satirize the mannerism by using punning adverbs. silly-billy. dingbat. sot. comic. addlehead. trifler. scatterbrains. silly. butt. chortled.

comedian. the telling of a joke could be an act against the Fuehrer. Joe Miller. comic. comic writer. tease. life and soul of the party. raconteur. bel-esprit. deceiver. gagsman. conversationalist. joker. leg-puller. caricaturist. comedienne. wag. practical joker. punster. hoaxer.' As Hermann Goering instructed the Academy of German Law. epigrammatist. japer. persifleur. cartoonist. kidder. satirist. wisecracker. impersonator. detracter.wit. jokesmith. against the state. gagster. ironist. or even against the whole Nazi Weltanschaung. slapstick comic. punishing people who named their dogs and horses 'Adolph. character. burlesquer. affecter. imitator. card. reparteeist. lampooner. standup comic. knockabout comic." Taking Laughter Seriously by John Morreall . parodist. banterer. scoffer. among other things. mocker. raconteuse "Hitler was so wary of the danger of humor to the Third Reich that he had special 'joke courts' set up for. funny man.

to the last man. England. wrote to ask if he could use the essay in "a comedy class which I will be teaching in a French (yes) Engineering (yes again) school (triple yes). "The Humor Paradox." So according to David. B. nevertheless."Every American. W. a distinguised Anglican clergyman and warden of New College. Spooner (1844-1930). 27 September. David Herz." . in two or more words. Examples: 'hush my brat' for 'brush my hat' or 'scoop of boy trouts' for 'troop of boy scouts' or 'I have a half-warmed fish in my mind' for 'I have a half-formed wish in my mind." David says that "according to Le Robert Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Française fiente in French from the popular (wildly!) 12th Century Latin femita which gives us fumier (both compost and lowlife) is animal excrement (usually birds). 1952 Victor Hugo: "Le calembour est la fiente de l'esprit qui vole. yet rejects humor as a contaminating element wherever found." "Puns are the feints of soaring wits. often with a resultant comical effect. lays claim to a 'sense' of humor and guards it as his most significant spiritual trait.' Spooner was reportedly a nervous man who committed many of these verbal witticisms. Hugo's definition should read: "Puns are the bird droppings of soaring wits." Spoonerisms "Named after Rev.A. Oxford. a spoonerism is an unintential interchange of sounds." A reader of this article. usually initial sounds. albeit unintentionally." E. America is a nation of comics and comedians. White." New Yorker . humor has no stature and is accepted only after the death of the perpetrator.

to understand. will find other ways of motion to relieve themselves in their constraint. the ability to apply knowledge to act appropriately in one's environment . . to deal with new or challenging situations. .Two of the Marx Brothers "Time wounds all heels. and whether it be burlesque." Lord Shaftesbury __________ 1 I've chosen the term "Intelligence" to distinguish between: • Ordinary intelligence: the ability to learn. mimicry or buffoonery. and be revenged on their constrainers ." "The natural free spirits of ingenious men. they will be glad at any rate to vent themselves. 'Tis the persecuting spirit has raised the bantering one. if imprisoned or controlled.

whether physical. This intervention may enhance health or be used as a complementary treatment of illness to facilitate healing or coping. extraordinary facility or organ which possesses the capabilities of ordinary intelligence. or spiritual. social. cognitive. but also has the power of discernment: o to comprehend with other than the ordinary senses or mental abilities to experience and understand what is not evident to the average mind to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent to penetrate beyond what is obvious or superficial to employ keen practical judgment o o o o Links: 11/7/02: Humor Is Good For You Nasreddin/Hodja Nasreddin Hoca The Pun Faqtory Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor Therapeutic humor is defined to be: any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research Australian Journal of Comedy American Humor Studies Association . emotional. expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life's situations.• Higher intelligence: a super-sensory.

Humor Links Books: o o o The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin by Idries Shah Humor and Humanity by Stephen Leacock Taking Humor Seriously in Children's Literature by Patricia L.hermes-press. Roberts Taking Humour Seriously by Jerry Palmer Taking Laughter Seriously by John Morreall o o http://www.com/humorb.htm .

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