December 24, 2008
Is Humor Immoral?
9 years ago
In a famous scene from the film, Goodfellas, Joe Pesci’s character, Tommy Devito, shares a humorous anecdote with a group of fellow mobsters over drinks. Everyone laughs, and one person tells him he’s “funny.” Tommy Devito then breaks a bottle over this man’s head.
Heh? No, Pesci breaks the bottle over the bar proprieters head, not his friend "Hendry"'s head, who was the guy who called him funny.
Hmm, as the commenters there point out, there's kinds of humour that rely merely on incongruity or word-play or a sense of the absurd which it owuld be hard to ascribe any notions of superiority too. And then there's the function of mockery/fear of shame in enforcing morality, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Seems an odd way to formulate the question really.
Two fish in a tank. One turns to the other and says: “Do you know how to drive this?” I see nothing immoral about that. Well, unless they shoot at a duck crossing the road to change a lightbulb or something. Prof. Richard Wiseman seriously searched for the
worlds funniest joke
. 40,000 jokes were given 1.5 million ratings. Among his conclusions were:
"People from The Republic of Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand expressed a strong preference for jokes involving word plays... Americans and Canadians much preferred gags where there was a sense of superiority – either because a person looked stupid, or was made to look stupid by another person... many European countries, such as France, Denmark and Belgium, liked jokes that were somewhat surreal"
. So maybe Olivia Scheck is correct, for her own country.
Is humor immoral, or just a mixed up look-up table? Hmm. While hiking through the woods I came upon an absurdity: a hunter had cut the anus off his deer and placed it pronged upon the twig of a branch. There it was, an immoral gauchery to my bleeding heart, yet even I could tell that it was a mixed up joke. Take a more innocent example: a bra says to a hat, "you go on a-head, and I'll give these two a lift." The look-up tables are different for people and for articles of clothing. It's the conflation that makes it funny, although it might SEEM immoral (to a nudist). How about this one: a bear walks into a bar. Bar tender asks him what'll it be? Bear says "I'll have a... beer. Bar tender asks why the big pause? Bear looks at his paws, "Because I'm a BEAR!" The only thing immoral here is the possibility of a drunken bear. The real humor is a conflation of look-up tables, verbal and situational.
What's immoral is that Elf link kamus posted! Why, he ought to be horsewhipped for that. The most zen joke in the history of mankind: What's brown and sticky? A stick.
many European countries, such as France, Denmark and Belgium, liked jokes that were somewhat surreal".
TenaciousPettle hasn't chimed in with this story yet, so I'll do it for him. When his son was a few years younger, he came up with a joke that was a triumph of this school: Q: What did the lamp say to the table? A: Lamps do not talk. It works even better if you say it with a German accent.
Dan Folkus, I'm going to tell that bear joke to my bear-obsessed Dad, which WILL be immoral because I know he'll then tell it to everyone else he knows. Meanwhile: Q. What's yellow and invisible? A. (hold out empty hand) This lemon!
Because the bear ate it off his mug of Corona?
Yes. Yes, precisely.
Q: Have you ever hunted bear? A: No, but I've been shooting in my shorts!
Speaking of shooting how does the theory explain Groucho's joke: "One day I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know". Or what about my all time favorite: Q: What is the difference between a duck? A: One leg is both the same.