Last class, we talked about why pain and humor exist in the same space and how/ why they coexist. In class, we said that humor is the coping mechanism to pain, humor can indict certain painful topics/ traditions, and sometimes crying (in grief/pain) and laughing can be equally cathartic feelings. The readings for today shed a lot of light on this dichotomy between humor and pain. Plato thinks comedy is pleasure and pain in that we always laugh at someone’s misfortune. Someone needs to do or say something funny for another person to laugh; laughter is not generated from nothing, something has to provoke laughter. So, in this way, we feel malice and laugh. Hobbes holds a similar view that many times we laugh at someone else’s imperfections. Woody Allen’s stories also take painful topics—death and prostitution—and somehow he makes them into really funny scenes.
What I gleaned from all of these essays is that humor does not take the place of pain or grief or sadness, rather it is the only complementary antidote to pain. For example, with the story on death, we could all just lament about our impending deaths or our own misfortunes and that is an appropriate response to death. Humor is merely a second stage that can take place after our initial grieving or embarrassment. Humor is a coping mechanism that takes place after our initial reaction simply because there is nothing more we can really do. If we only had pain without humor, we would dwell on our embarrassments, our pain in the past, or our difficulties. In that way, maybe humor can be found in every topic because it is just another response, and an appropriate response, to the topic at some point in time (maybe not initially). Kierkgaard discussed knowing when to laugh and when humor is appropriate, and I think this is true. A painful experience will yield mostly a pained reaction, but once we wallow in that pain for long enough, humor is a well-thought out second response to the situation. When we can laugh at something painful, it demonstrates that we have contemplated and reflected about the situation long enough, and at this point, we are so superior to what has happened/ what another person has done to us that we can laugh at the situation. When we can laugh at our pain, that is the true sign that we are no longer succumbing to that pain (not to say that the pain doesn’t exist, we have just chosen to overcome it).