BY MICHAEL REISIG –
Over the years I’ve written quite a bit of humor and still I don’t quite understand it – the variety of forms and the contrasting views on what’s funny and what’s not. The American writer E.B. White once said, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” Nonetheless, I thought I’d take a scalpel to it.
A well-developed sense of humor is the fulcrum from which we balance life’s challenges. Along with courage, it’s the heart of our defense against the armies of disappointment and impropriety. Anyone with a light heart and a laugh that rests easily on their lips has a fairly good grasp on life, and a pretty good chance of winning at this game. It also pays to have a handle on irony, humor’s older, more serious brother. It takes irony to appreciate a joke when it’s on you. Humor provides insight and tolerance, but irony brings a deeper and less kind understanding.
Humor is also one of the formidable weapons against pain – sometimes it takes a close friend and foolish laughter to shelter you. Humor doesn’t necessarily bury the pain, it just insulates you from it for a while, and provides a small hiatus that allows you to establish some perspective. Like a summer shower, it can cleanse you, and the air around you. And humor is really all about perspective. Comedy and drollery are all around us – the more you look for them, the more you find them. It’s all a matter of point of view. Mel Brooks once said. “Humor is the great defense against the universe,” and he’s right.
While humor can have a bitter side, it is, by and large, a healthy sport. It’s like a silicone sword – it can allow you to make a point without drawing blood. I love the quote by Peter De Vries: “The satirist shoots to kill while the humorist brings his prey back alive and eventually releases them for another chance.”
It seems impossible to determine a formula for humor that everyone agrees upon (what one person finds hilarious another finds stupid at best or repulsive at worst), but think what a boring, robotic world this would be if we all had the same sense of humor. It is the essence of civilization, and in the strangest of contradictions, humor represents man’s perseverance and dignity. It’s a statement that defines his authority over all the calamity that befalls him – that he can still seek and find comedy is such a complicated and demanding existence.
I’ll leave you with a quote by Bill Kelly “Mordillo” – “After God created the world, He made man and woman. Then, to keep the whole thing from collapsing, He divined humor.”