View Full Version : Humour

11-06-02, 10:29 AM
I've been struggling with something lately. It's been going on for several years now, really. Humour. Although many people appreciate humour, it seems that much that I do in this venue is becoming almost impossible. It would seem that no matter what I come up with, someone is offended and I hear about it. I don't mind that so much. I can take it. What I wonder about is their thinking in response to my, or others, humour.

The responses of those offended have very little to do with politically correct thought or concern for others feelings, using expletives and obscenities and calling others all sorts of various names while making all sorts of unwarranted and unjust accusations. Their response has little to do with clear or rational thought. They respond automatically, not considering that what they do is the very thing that they rail so heartily against. However they cannot seem to see this. Their concern seems to be only with what they want need or desire. It would appear, also, that they have a need to control all that is around them, no matter the cost to others or to their own soul. Without humour, where is your soul? It is surely in a deep and dark place. It is a societal illness. One that needs to be addressed.Political correstness is only a way of controlling others. Denying others their own freedom and attempting to further remove responsibility from the individual and placing it in the hands of those who know best what is good for all of us. This is frightening at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. To allow those with little or no experience outside your own life, or locality to run your life is not freedom at all. It is tyranny.

When we have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves, both individually, and as a people, we have lost also that which is most dear to us. Freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Freedom to be ourselves as responsible individuals in a larger society.Without freedom of thought, with others attempting to control our lives, we have no place to go from here. We stagnate. As a people. And as individuals. Stagnation is one of the signs of doom to any society. Worse in many ways than war. It leads to a lack of originality in our thinking and in our living. Without originality there can be no progress in any society. Without growth and progress we die. Without having personal responsibility as a people, as individuals, we die.When we attempt to control individual thought as a people, we are already lost. Our soul, as a people and as individuals is lost already.

There should be reasonable controls in any society, although I do not enjion the controls so often placed upon us presently, I do agree that without reasonable laws, any society is doomed to begin with. Haveing these laws superceded in any way, in any form, making them to become unreasonable in any form is beyond the scope of humanity towards your fellows. So it is with political correctness.

We must be able to laugh at ourselves. We must be allowed to laugh at the foolishness of our fellows. We must. Or we are doomed. Humour is a potent tool. It can reveal what is wrong withourselves and our society with lesser pain than revolutions or the enforcment of unjust, impossible and unenforceable laws. It can reveal our weaknesses to ourselves as individuals. We often become our own foibles, and if just a bit foolish, the foibles of others. We learn. We grow. We become renewed, if only for a few moments.

This is just my thinking on this. Off the cuff. Extemporaneously, if you will. I know that my thoughts as they are put here are incomplete, but this will do for now.

Learn to laugh at yerselves, folks. Ain't none of us gettin out of this alive! LOL

11-06-02, 11:42 AM
Political Correctness: Ones inability or unwillingness to think for ones self.

11-06-02, 12:02 PM
I prefer NOT to be Politically Correct.

The term 'politically' is a limiting modifier and places a restriction on the word 'correct".

I prefer to be "correct", without a limiting modifier such as 'seldom', 'partially', 'occassionally' or 'politically".

I strive to be "correct", but on the other hand, when I have ALL the correct answers, I am always accused of cheating.

That which is 'politically correct' is as changeable as the weather.

Therefore, if I wait long enough, eventually you'll come around to my way of thinking, and then I'LL be politically correct too.

I prefer the dictum "To thine own self be true, and it follows as night the day, thou can be false to no one."

(Being perfect is a lousy job, but what the hell, somebody has to do it.)

Semper Fi

11-06-02, 02:50 PM

11-06-02, 03:25 PM

Professor Richard Kroll, UCI

1. “Where praise is undeserv’d, ‘tis Satyr.” (Dryden)

2. “Satire comes both from satyr and satura: a dish of mixed foods served by a rough-speaking goat. Satirical works are always satiricus, often satyricus.” (Alan Roper)

3. “Satire consists of an attack by means of a manifest fiction upon discernable historical particulars.” (Edward R. Rosenheim, Jr.)

4. “Discernable satire is therefore topical, often ephemeral.” (Alan Roper, glossing Rosenheim)

5. “The satiric muse is strictly urban. You can satirize urban attitudes toward the country, but not the country itself.” (Alan Roper)

6. “Good satire is always in bad taste.” (Kenneth Tynan)

7. “For satire to exist at all, it must move from clearly-discernible moral premises; but at the same time it always involves an attack on vices or flaws that the satirist can never entirely escape. Consequently, the author must at once persuade his reader of his identification with humanity, and clarify the particular moral ground from which he proceeds.” (Criticus obscurus)

8. “Satire is thus identifiable, if not identified with the wider literary problem of how an author establishes his peculiar form of superior or special knowledge, and how he is to present or dramatize it.” (Gloss on Criticus obscurus)

11-06-02, 03:28 PM

11-06-02, 03:37 PM
"I personally believe we were put here to build and not to destroy. So if by chance, some day you're not feeling well, and you should remember some silly little thing I've said or done and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled."

Can you tell me who said that, and often.

11-06-02, 04:01 PM
A little education concerning satire


11-06-02, 04:39 PM
EH 375 Satire
Some Essential Terms Defined

Adapted from entries in A Handbook to Literature, C. Hugh Holman, ed.
Indianapolis and New York: Odyssey, 1972

A literary manner that blends a critical attitude with humor and wit to the end that human institutions or society may be improved. The true satirist is conscious of the frailty of human institutions and attempts through laughter not so much to tear them down as to inspire a remodeling. Satire is fundamentally of two types, named for their most distinguished classical practitioners: Horatian satire is gentle, urbane, and smiling, and it aims to correct apparent wrongs by gentle and broadly sympathetic laughter; Juvenalian satire is biting, bitter, and angry, and it points with contempt and moral indignation to the corruption and evil of human beings and their institutions. For centuries the word satire, which literally means "a dish filled with mixed fruits," was reserved for long poems, including some of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Samuel Butler's Hudibras, and Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock. Almost from its origins, however, the drama has been suited to the satiric spirit, and from Aristophanes to G. B. Shaw and Noel Coward to Tennessee Williams and Caryl Churchill, it has commented with penetrating irony on human foibles. In particular, using most often the Horatian mode, the Comedy of Manners during the later 17th century in England acted as a genial ironic comment on polite society. It has been in fiction, however, that satire has found its most common literary vehicle since the middle of the 18th century. Other powerful vehicles for satire in the late 20th century include motion pictures, the plastic and graphic arts, the newspaper comic strip, and the political cartoon. Satiric methods include irony,sarcasm, invective, innuendo, burlesque, and parody.

A broad term referring to the recognition of a reality different from its masking appearance. Verbal irony is a figure of speech in which the actual intent is expressed in words that carry the opposite meaning. In some circles, the ability to recognize irony is considered one of the surest tests of intelligence and sophistication. Irony's presence is marked by a sort of grim humor, a detachment and cool expression on the part of the writer when emotions are actually heated. Irony may be confused with sarcasm (a caustic and bitter expression of disapproval under the guise of praise) but it differs in that irony is usually lighter and less harsh in its wording, though in its effect it can be more cutting than sarcasm because of its indirectness. Irony, too, bears a close relationship to innuendo, an indirect suggestion or insinuation. In general, irony is most often achieved by either hyperbole or understatement. In the drama, irony refers specifically to the knowledge held by the audience but hidden from the relevant characters. Tragic irony is a form of dramatic irony in which characters use words that mean one thing to them but have a foreboding meaning to those who understand the situation better.

A form of satire or comedy characterized by ridiculous exaggeration. Such a distortion may occur in a variety of ways: the sublime may be made absurd, honest emotions may be turned into sentimentality, a serious subject may be treated frivolously or a frivolous one seriously. Perhaps the essential quality that makes for burlesque is the discrepancy between subject matter and style. For example, a style ordinarily dignified may be used for nonsensical matter or a nonsensical style may be used to ridicule a weighty subject. Burlesque, as a form of art, manifests itself not only in literature but also in sculpture, painting, and even architecture. One can make the distinction between burlesque and parody in that burlesque is a distortion of a form or genre whereas parody is the distortion of a particular work.

The Ridiculous
An Excerpt from Henry Fielding's "Preface" to Joseph Andrews
The only source of the true ridiculous (as it appears to me) is affectation. But though it arises from one spring only, when we consider the infinite streams into which this one branches, we shall presently cease to admire at the copious field it affords to an observer. Now, affectation proceeds from one of these two causes--vanity or hypocrisy: for as vanity puts us on affecting false characters, in order to purchase applause; so hypocrisy sets us on an endeavor to avoid censure, by concealing our vices under an appearance of their opposite virtues. And though these two causes are often confounded (for there is some difficulty in distinguishing them) yet as they proceed from very different motives, so they are as clearly distinct in their operations: for indeed the affectation which arises from vanity is nearer to truth than the other, as it hath not that violent repugnancy of nature to struggle with, which that of the hypocrite hath. It may be likewise noted, that affectation doth not imply an absolute negation of those qualities which are affected; and, therefore, though, when it proceeds from hypocrisy, it be nearly allied to deceit; yet when it comes from vanity only, it partakes of the nature of ostentation: for instance, the affectation of liberality in a vain man differs visibly from the same affectation in the avaricious; for though the vain man is not what he would appear, or hath not the virtue he affects to the degree that he would be thought to have it; yet it sits less awkwardly on him than on the avaricious man, who is the very reverse of what he would seem to be.
From the discovery of this affectation arises the Ridiculous, which always strikes the reader with surprise and pleasure; and that in a higher and stronger degree when affectation arises from hypocrisy than when from vanity; for to discover any one to be the exact reverse of what he affects is more surprising, and consequently more ridiculous, than to find him a little deficient in the quality he desires the reputation of. I might observe that our Ben Jonson, who of all men understood the Ridiculous the best, hath chiefly used the hypocritical affectation.

Now, from affectation only, the misfortunes and calamities of life, or the imperfections of nature, may become the objects of ridicule. Surely he hath a very ill-framed mind who can look on ugliness, infirmity, or poverty as ridiculous in themselves: nor do I believe any man living, who meets a dirty fellow riding through the streets in a cart, is struck with the idea of the Ridiculous from it; but if he should see the same figure descend from his coach and six, or bolt from his chair with his hat under his arm [two modes of travel frequently used by the rich in Fielding's time], he would then begin to laugh, and with justice. In the same manner, were we to enter a poor house and behold a wretched family shivering with cold and languishing with hunger, it would not incline us to laughter (at least we should have very diabolical natures if it would); but should we discover there a grate, instead of coals, adorned with flowers, empty plate [that is, plated with a precious metal] or china dishes on the sideboard, or any other affectation of riches and finery, either on their persons or in their furniture, we might then indeed be excused for ridiculing so fantastical an appearance. Much less are natural imperfections the objects of derision; but when ugliness aims at the applause of beauty, or lameness endeavors to display agility, it is then that these unfortunate circumstances, which at first moved our compassion, tend only to raise our mirth. . . . Great vices are the proper objects of our detestation, smaller faults, of our pity; but affectation appears to me the only true source of the Ridiculous.

John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, jtatter@bsc.edu

11-06-02, 05:50 PM
Improv Primer

How do you teach someone to be a strong improviser? There are so many things that they need to know, but most of them derive from a few, specific concepts.

This is a list of the most common exercises that I use. It isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, complete. I probably use about thirty more, including variations on the ones mentioned, but this should be a good springboard for those that are looking for new material or bright ideas. (Bright ideas? What are you doing here?)


1.) Give and Take: This is an underlying theme to all improvisation and theatre. It is best explained as the style with which the actors move the audiences focus to what is happening on stage. During a scene, all focus is given to the person or persons performing, speaking or making a presentation. Students will be asked to give until it is their turn to take the focus away from the current action, and bring it to themselves. Taking should be done succinctly and with purpose, or else not at all.

In a stage environment, Give and Take is essential to creating the reality of the script or scene, following of cues (both spoken and movement) and in enhancing the lines and movements of others. Give and Take is a constant exercise for the theater. It is always a goal.

2.) Trust: Before a group can work together as an ensemble, there must be trust and unity within the group. All members of an ensemble must be able to work with each other as equals, with everyone giving ideas and giving each idea thought. There are few "wrong" answers in improvisation, just different interpretations. No idea is turned aside without reason, even if it is denounced by the person who originated it. If a member falters in an ensemble, the entire group has to be there to catch them.

3.) Characterization: As an actor, the role is the thing. Each character is like a new suit. You have to break it in and get a feel for it, and let it get a feel for you. A good improviser has to get inside their emotions and bring them to the surface and associate these emotions to the characters that they are portraying.

4.) Motion and Creating "Where": Nothing maintains connection with an audience better than motion. Do dancers need words to portray ideas? Neither does a good actor, improviser or otherwise. Talking heads humor ™ is one of the pitfalls of amateur and professional theatre alike. If the wit dies, so does the scene. Unfortunately for most of us, if we try and think too hard, we'll loose what it is we are thinking about. If our improv resides in our bodies, and not our heads, our brains are free to actually create, and the wit happens.

The Place the action happens is next. Even if the actor doesn't actually act in Elsinore during Hamlet, he has to feel that he is there, and see his surroundings thus. An improviser must improvise and focus on their surroundings. Either with mime and action or just connecting to an actual set; they need to portray the places, and draw upon the characterization work done prior to help make the idea of person in a place concrete to the audience.

Improvisation and The Moment(tm);
Too often, improvisers go for the gag, instead of striving to make the scene work. The humor in a scene will take care of itself, just play the moment, and let the audience be entertained by the risk.

11-06-02, 05:53 PM
Each moment on stage opens a panorama of opportunities and choices that could ultimately determine the direction and color of a scene. If we are narrowing our focus to only encompass the "funny" bits, we are sacrificing the scene for our own need for gratification from the audience. We sacrifice the truth of the moment and the characters integrity and believability for a chuckle. Humor should come despite a characters best efforts to be serious and focused, not from a dogged pursuit of the laugh. It seems that one of the easiest things to do as an improviser is go for the laugh, the gag - and the hardest thing not to play it. Why the need to "Be Funny"? Psychologically speaking, perhaps it's because when you're up on stage without the safety net of a script or a director to blame, the satisfying sound of the audience laughing keeps you from the fear of failure. Unfortunately, it can also keep you from discovering something in the scene much more worthwhile. There's nothing wrong with discovering something funny in any situation, or outrageous events played honestly (Mr. and Mrs. Amoebae at home in their Beaker). The breakdown occurs when the honesty is lost.

The actors should have an honest goal in every scene. But the goal needs be set high, setting up the audience to witness a struggle (I'll talk about the humor of conflict later) and the inevitable failure to achieve the unattainable.

"Failure isn't an option... it is our goal".
Nobody wants to see the actors achieve something that is obviously within their grasp, they want to see the effort of reaching for something almost unattainable. The humor comes from the ball-breaking effort that it takes to complete the task.

Even though the actors haven't reached their goal per se, the scene can still be considered a success. The actors have moved ahead, hopefully showing a change, the integrity was kept, and honesty was never compromised.

If you do nothing but audience requests, then the audience has no one to blame but themselves for the failure of a scene. If this is the case, though, they usually get restless and want to see the players "redeem" themselves and be "funny". Then the ensemble is left doing Standup-like, talking heads comedy, and gags about bodily functions (although funny, not our goal).

The scene is right here and right now, if you stay there (Here) then the comedy will happen. If you force it, you will know it and so will the audience if you push too hard. We can't always have the perfect scene, but we can always try.

The Three Rules of Improvisational Comedy (tm);
The term "Improvisation" immediately invokes the image of Chevy Chase falling down stairs and an Englishman giving outrageous amounts of points for antics on a game show where score isn't really kept. Although not always the case, Improv and comedy are a common couple in the theatre.

If comedy is our goal, there are rules to remember to help the scenes run smoothly. I have made an attempt to distill comedy into three basic categories; Conflict, What's in Your pants, and What's in Somebody Else's Pants. These are the base forms of humor, and I hope that we can all get along and agree that we need to move beyond these lower norms. But the longest journey always begins with the first step.

In the attempt to make a strong foundation for the first three rules, I will mention two things. NEGATION and the size of our choices (size really does count). First, NEGATION.

NEGATION is bad. It is a serious Improv Faux Pas to say "No!" to a partner during improv unless your partner is prepared for it. It kills the momentum and the integrity of the scene. DON'T DO IT! This is the hardest foundation stone to lay for beginning improvisers, with all the great ideas running around in their heads. But it is one of the single most important rules of the theatre.

Second are choices, and their relative size to the scene. If you think the choice is too big, you are probably wrong. By big choices, I mean TAKE!! If you plan to take, and GIVE!! If you are giving. Make each motion succinct, defined and apparently spontaneous. Bigger is almost always better when it comes to comedy. Subtlety is often lost on the masses (Never assume your audience is intelligent). Usually, planned gags can have more subtle tones to them because the timing is rehearsed, and more attention can be focused on spontaneous detail, but be warned, "little" is lost in the shuffle.

And now for the rule that is the basis for all theatre…

Conflict - Three Stooges anyone? The concept of 'Slap Stick' has been around since the time of the Italian Renaissance and Commedia del'Arte, where the term was born. Physical comedy is one of the best methods of maintaining an audiences attention. It is omnilingual (everyone giggles when Curly gets Thwuped on the head) and if done properly, can be maintained for incredible lengths of time. Conflict is not, however, argument without resolve or communication. (no it isn't, yes it is, no it isn't, yes it is…etc.) Because this is NEGATION and NEGATION is bad (As we have discussed).

If you will recall high school English for a moment, you should remember that there are several forms of conflict. Man against Man, Man against Himself, Man against Nature, etc. These are all valid forms of conflict for comedy.

11-06-02, 05:54 PM
Man against Man is pretty self explanatory. Take the dialogue from "The Princess Bride"

Inigo: "You seem a pleasant fellow, I hate to kill you."
Wesley: "You seem a pleasant fellow, I hate to die."
There is about to be a battle, but it starts with a battle of wits.

Man against himself, you ask? Listen to yourself next time you are trying to get up the nerve to ask someone out on a date, and tell me the internal argument wouldn't be hilarious verbalized on stage.

Man against Nature can be something as simple as a dog walking up and piddling on someone's shoe (but, as I have said, we are trying to move away from these base forms of humor). Use you imagination.

The Next two rules stem from the first rule, as do almost all other forms of comedy (and life, if you ask me).

What's in your Pants - Making fun of yourself. Now that's funny. If we can't laugh at ourselves, what gives us the right to make fun of others? Of course the most base form of this rule is sexual connotation. But who cares, we're above that, aren't we? Making reference to ourselves or comparing our selves to others for a laugh is a standard stand-up hook. We are allowed to conflict with ourselves as much as we want, because everyone enjoys a laugh at someone else's expense.

What's in Somebody Else's pants - Making fun of someone else in a stereotypical or straight forward manner. A dangerous rule, but almost always funny to everyone (except maybe the person of whom you are making fun). Again, the basest form of this rule is sexual.

As you can see, both of the last two rules relies on conflict. The conflict is merely focused in a specific manner to reach an expected outcome. If conflict is what makes us laugh, how do we conflict and not fight?

That's your problem, not mine. Welcome to Zen and the Art of Improv, I guess.

11-06-02, 08:48 PM
"Does anyone know why this guy couldn't make a living in America anymore?"

(Picture of Charlie Chaplin included)

Could it be because he's dead?

11-06-02, 09:14 PM
Got it right on the first try!

He made a film concerning politics a few years prior to WWII that didn't line up with what Hollywood or the Government liked to see or hear.

Bein' dead doesn't help......

11-06-02, 11:42 PM
No I ain't yer Pop, and I don't come in a variety of frozen flavors!LOL.

What is my point thus far, however unorganised the content?

or are there several different and inter-related points here?

11-06-02, 11:57 PM
The Psychology of Humour
Dr Mike Lowis, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University College, Northampton.

"It's a funny thing, humour" is a book title I would have loved to have been the first to think of but, to my regret, I was beaten to it by Chapman and Foot (1977, Oxford: Pergamon).

So what is humour, and why do we laugh? Humour is a personal disposition, a state of mind, a way of looking at the the world. Humour, like art, is all around us; we will observe it if we use a little creativity and adopt a playful attitude. Freud regarded humour as a defense mechanism, noting that it was one of the greatest measures devised by humankind to avoid the compulsion to suffer. My own research showed that the necessary conditions for joke appreciation included at least an adequate intelligence, the development of appropriate language skills (for verbal humour), and sufficient life experience to know what is "normal" (humour has a way of twisting "normality"). For example, we find jokes about awkward bosses more amusing if we have worked for people like this; we laugh more at jokes about wives, husbands and children if we ourselves have a family. Perhaps humour has survived because it helps us deal with ambiguous or strange situations, or a seemingly unjust world, without us always having to explain things in terms of logic and reasoning.

Humour has many uses: it encourages group cohesion, it is a social lubricant, it allows us to exercise quite a lot of control over members of the group who may stray from the fold. Political satirists of today continue the work of court jesters and buffoons that dates right back to ancient Greece: such people were the only ones who could get away with criticising those in power. Humour can be used in teaching and learning, to help students to become more receptive to the serious message. An editor of the Jewish Talmud wrote in about 350AD: "start every lesson with a humorous illustration".

Perhaps the greatest interest is in the use of humour in healing and psychotherapy. Psychologists may encourage clients to tell jokes so that they can gauge their level of self-esteem or neurosis; they can link humour to creativity and encourage the client to explore a variety of causes and solutions for their difficulties. Laughing itself releases endorphins, catecholamines and immunoglobulin-A, all of which help the body to heal itself. Humour therapy is a truly holistic approach to medicine, as it both promotes physiological healing whilst developing psychological coping mechanisms.

For more on this interesting topic, you can find three of my articles on either PsychLit or BIDS journal abstracts.

11-06-02, 11:59 PM
the psychology of humopur as a college course


11-07-02, 12:00 AM
More than you really want to know......


11-07-02, 12:10 AM
More education on humour


11-07-02, 12:15 AM
dark humour defined
the psychology of humour
slap stick comedy defined
satire defined
sarcasm defined
American comedy

These are some of the terms I used in my search. There are thousands more references on the net concerning this topic.

It seems hunour is a serious sort of business.....not to be taken lightly!