Satire, Sanity, and Laughter
I don’t know about you, but I’m addicted to Jon Stewart and the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report. Their satirical insights and political double entendres are both funny, and have a curiously calming effect. That is, they help to put things into perspective. And they poke fun at, and defang, the pomposity of politicians and pundits alike. They allow me to laugh at some of the absurd political complexities of life.
I’m also a big fan of Joel McHale’s popular comedy show, The Soup. I love McHale’s smug analysis of the world of TV, glitz and glamour. He does a great job of making fun of the cult of personality that pervades our media saturated society. And I’m absolutely amazed by the totally off-beat and outrageous show Tosh.0. For Daniel Tosh, nothing is sacred. Nothing is above ridicule.
For me, the essence of humor is the ability to laugh both with and at life. It is the ability to appreciate the whimsical, the comical, the silly, as well as the absolutely ludicrous and absurdly incongruous aspects of life. It is the ability to step back and be amused, delighted, or surprised by life. Perhaps most importantly, humor prevents us from perceiving reality as a personally attack or a personal affront.
Humor is about the ability to transcend self. The ability to celebrate our collective experience and essential sameness. Humor allows us to laugh at our personal and collective vulnerability.
The humorless person is often too self-absorbed, too aggressively self-centered, too myopic to see beyond the needs, wants and desires of self. Humor has to do with transcending the ambivalence, absurdity, despair, fragility, narcissism, and nonsense of life. Humor allows us to take a step back and wax philosophical.
Humor accepts the human condition as sad – scary, and then talks about it, pokes fun at it, laughs at it, and laughs at our feeble response to it. In doing so, it frees us from dread. It softens the blow of reality. Humor is a form of joyful disillusionment; that is, humor allows us to endure without false illusion or fear the paradoxes and perils of life. In the words of the philosopher comedian Joan Rivers, “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it”