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make 'em laugh?

quick, what was the last comedy to win an academy award for best picture? got it? how many primarily comedic writers have won the nobel prize for literature? (you can have a few minutes to look that one up.)


have a glance through the personals section of any newspaper or on the internet and probably the most important characteristic for both men and women is that the person they date must have a sense of humour. everyone knows that one of the things that’s ultimately going to make or break a relationship is whether or not you’re able to truly, deeply laugh together, at each other and at the world. it’s a truism, something so obvious that you hardly have to say it. someone can be beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated and still bore you to death. it doesn’t take long for a lack of humour to become unnerving, to set you on edge.

so if this is so obvious in relationships, why should it be such a big secret when it comes to art? plenty of art includes humour. the dadaists would probably be shocked (and privately amused) that their work is taken as seriously as it is today. thomas pynchon routinely incoporates absurdism of a similar stripe into his novels. we show our appreciation when artists can inject humour into their work, while still being able to project a serious message, but the last part is the more important in our evaluation. we love to laugh, but the generation of laughter shouldn’t be a goal of anything we refer to as work.

(that makes the creation of art very different from entertainment, which is entirely humour based. in television, seriousness takes a back seat to comedy and its close cousin, melodrama (where we are given the opportunity to laugh at something “serious” because of its innate absurdity). on the other hand, entertainment is generally seen as disposable (and a lot of it could do with being disposed of a lot faster).)

being, in some ways, an average person. i like to laugh. i like to laugh a lot. in fact, there are very few things i enjoy more. i’m one of those people who, while i’m perfectly capable of maintaining a serious conversation, doesn’t have a lot of interest in doing so most of the time. i have, however, generally avoided letting that side of myself loose on in my writing, because, like most of us, i have an underlying assumption that that which is funny is somehow disqualified from being artistically worthy.

realistically, i know that this is rubbish, and that those rules are imaginary. but somehow, a lot of people, very intelligent people, abide by them without thinking. the rule is that great art reveals something about humanity or about life, while at the same time making an emotional connection with the individual, and that this is done by appealing to the individual’s more serious side. but why?

is it that much harder to connect with something if it makes you laugh, as opposed to if it makes you cry? or enraged? no, it isn’t. but the assumption is that if you are laughing, it means you aren’t thinking, which would be antithetical to finding a larger meaning. but that isn’t the case. the best comedy, the bits that will stick with you, is that which does make you think about both what was said or written and about why it is funny.

perhaps it’s the internalisation of those lessons of youth, that laughter is unproductive, that in order to succeed in life, we need to be serious, we need to have gravitas, or else we will never accomplish anything. this is drilled into us in school, that laughter and humour are somehow antithetical to learning. and it’s complete nonsense.

people in marketing have figured this out already. think of as many advertisements as you can. how many of them use humour? i’ll bet it’s a significantly larger than the number of humour writers who have won a nobel prize.


as long as you're here, why not read more?

mental health mondays :: where even the depressed ones are happy

this past week saw the publication of the annual world happiness report, a look at nations around the world and how people in each of them feel about their lot in life. i started following this a few years ago, and this year it occurred to me that it would be fun to look at how the happy places compared to the crazy places. i mean, what if those countries aren't really all that happy, but just have an extremely high rate of psychotic/ delusional disorders?

so, i set to work putting together a comparison. as it happens, that's a bit trickier than it sounds, because information on any kind of disability is more difficult to come by than you might think. and no type of disability is more controversial than a mental illness, which means that there are even more complications around definitions, seeking treatment, prognoses, record-keeping... it's hard to tell how reliable anything you're looking at is. [not that there aren't some good sources.]

and what sources there …


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…