An Alternative View: Humour
Why is it considered important to possess a sense of humour? Perhaps that should be the first thing to arouse our suspicions, since it is so universally regarded. People may be judged by which comedian they laugh at and which does not arouse their mirth. We all know the stress or embarrassment of making what we believe to be a witty or humorous remark and finding that no-one understand it, or, worse, they misinterpret it.
“If you fear something laugh at it and that will remove your fear.” It doesn’t work, so why has the cliché been perpetuated? Because it enables people to delude themselves (and others) that they do not fear whatever-it-is. So, instead of facing the thing, analysing it and your reasons for fearing it, you can hide it and pretend it doesn’t really bother you. Humour papers over the cracks, conceals them until they grow larger, it does not repair them.
Everyone is aware that he merits the accusation of pomposity uses “a little joke at his own expense” (another well-known cliché) to prove that he isn’t as self-satisfied as he sounds. The ability to laugh at oneself is useful – someone who takes himself too seriously becomes very dull – but the criterion is spontaneity.
Yet another cliché is “the saving grace of humour”, meaning that, without humour, everything would be exactly as it is anyway but without the self-delusion.
Consider the following joke:
Whose Famous Last Words were: ‘what the hell was that?’
Answer: the Mayor of Hiroshima.
First time you hear it, you laugh. Then you feel uncomfortable, even guilty, for having laughed at such a joke. Conversely, what happens when someone makes an unamusing joke? You smile, to be polite. Humour is a form of social conditioning and, as such, suspect.
Laughter may, in some circumstances, be spontaneous. Far more often, it is phoney. It’s an interrogation device: if I smile at you, I’m really on your side, sympathetic.
Watch a politician being interviewed: the number of smiles is in direct proportion to the immensity of the foul-up which he is trying to excuse.
We need a certain amount of laughter in our lives. My contention is that, when humour is taken too seriously, it reverses its polarity.
Anonymous article taken from the Dark Lily Journal No 8, Society of Dark Lily (London 1989).