September 15, 2005

The Importance of Laughter.

In my last entry, I may have come across as a little harsh regarding comedy and its apparent abundance in today's society. I just wanted to note that, if I was, it was only really because I value comedy and laughter so much--as a way of connecting with others, expressing the pure joy and fun of being alive, and maybe most important of all, keeping things in perspective, getting away with fool's criticisms, and restoring and refreshing hope in dark times. Comedy in all of these uses, though, are to me a kind of enchantment, and not merely entertainment (in the way that Postman makes the distinction).

Comedy, like most things, can be abused. Perhaps I've been disillusioned about this recently. For example, I would not wish in a million years that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart go off the air (I don't even have cable, but I frequent the website to watch their video clips); on the other hand, I would have to be highly naive to think that everyone who laughed heartily at that show understands all of the truly subtle and subversive comedy that goes on there, let alone would be willing to act on it in a way that challenges how most people live their lives. We may all laugh at the media, but we still tune in. We may mock government officials, but we still are highly invested in our form of government and (that which has practically supplanted it) our form of economic, corporate power.

I do think there is a danger in taking ourselves too seriously, and comedy's greatest challenge to us is to laugh at ourselves and loosen up. That said, comedy can also distance us so much from our own flaws and those of our society that we may come to view those flaws as ultimately unimportant and not worth changing, maybe even valuable as fuel for comedy (as many people wondered aloud after the 2004 election why Jon Stewart wasn't happy Bush had won, since it would provide him with four more years of "material," to which he replied, "I may be a comedian, but I am a citizen first." Just the fact that the question arose, though, shows that at least some people did not realize that Jon Stewart wasn't "just being funny"). I'll end with another quote from Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death:

"For in the end, [Aldous Huxley] was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking."


Post a Comment

<< Home