Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Humor Is Cruel

Have you ever noticed, my fine readers, that humor is based on tragedy and pain? I was thinking about this today and it is true. Happiness is not funny. Terrible things, however, are amusing…as long as they are happening to someone else, that is. Imagine, if you will, someone telling you how they were driving down the highway, when the floorboard of their vehicle suddenly dropped out and skittered across the road and into the ditch.

“There I was, dude,” your friend says. “Going down the interstate at 75 mph, with no floorboard or brake! My feet were dangling mere inches from the asphalt and I was forced to hold myself up by the visor with one hand and steer with the other.”

“Wow!” you say, trying to maintain a straight face. “That must have been terrible!”

“Yeah!” Your friend nods enthusiastically or, at least, as enthusiastically as one can nod while wearing a neck brace. “And then things got annoying! The visor gave way and my feet hit the pavement! I was forced to run for my life, hanging onto the steering wheel with both hands and wishing I’d tried out for track like my old man wanted.” Your friend pauses in the narrative and waits while a doctor comes in, takes one look, shakes his head, and then goes out into the hallway to call the family. “Things were going all right,” he continues. “Until we came to a hill. The car started picking up speed and, with no brake, there was nothing I could do. I tried planting my heels, but from the smell of burning rubber I decided it wasn’t working and began running again. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill, I was running so fast that Eddie, who had scrambled into the back seat, had to lean into the front with a fire extinguisher and douse my heels every few seconds to keep them from bursting into flames.”

You turn away, presumably to admire some of your friend’s get-well flowers, but really to submerge a raucous laugh that has been struggling to escape.

Now, see, readers? This is a simple example, but it illustrates the humor of pain and anguish. Smashed toes are funny. Bonked heads are funny. Turn on America’s Funniest Home Videos any night and you will see many, many examples of hilarious pain: people falling from trees, off trampolines, through a roof, off a bike, getting their heads stuck in car windows, running head-first into closed patio doors… And AFV is a successful show. Why? Because pain, especially pain caused by stupidity, is hilarious as long as it happens to someone else. Honestly, I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps it makes those of us without the pain feel superior to those who were stupid enough to incur it. I don’t know. Maybe some of you have further insight into this topic.


Paul FooDaddy Brand said...

Insight? Why, yes I do! Every time they had a hamster video on that show, I laughed my nuts off, and I wholeheartedly expected that video to win.

And you know what? It never did.

Jack W. Regan said...

The funny ones never win, Foo. It's always the one of the kid barfing or the dad getting chopped in the groin with a rusty Buick. Oh, wait, I might vote for that last one myself.