From the Editor
When the Truth Hurts, Tell a Joke
In today’s political climate, it is especially important to remember to laugh. Besides being merely funny, beneath the humor lies a rich layer of social commentary.
Comedy is a tradition with deep historical roots. There is evidence of jokes based on political controversy at least as far back as ancient Europe, with court minstrels mocking the stench of the Visigoths. The fact that the content is encrusted with humor is like a sugar coating to bitter medicine. The laugh takes away the sting.
In America today, the minstrel still performs his duty, only now it has expanded from traditional stand up forms to rapidly traded memes and gifs. We need these comedic jokes to start conversations about taboo subjects that we are afraid to confront. Whether its confronting racism, bad government or anything else, what makes it work is the laugh. If it’s funny, people can treat heavy content lightly. Comics are our court jesters. There has to be an outlet for the unspeakable to be spoken in a way that’s acceptable.
You can’t stop laughing at things that aren’t funny, its too hard. Laughter is a lubricant, it’s expected, and it’s really hard not to do it when times are tough. And laughing together is even more therapeutic. It’s a connection, a communal thing; a release.
Comedy is more than just a pleasant way to pass the time, it’s interwoven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Whether you are sharing an amusing story at the pub, snorting (and yes, I snort) over a particularly funny meme, telling a dark joke at a funeral, humor is everywhere.
People have studied it’s effects on society. In his recent book “Ha! The science of when we laugh and why”, Scott Weems reviews studies including those that look a which parts of your brain respond to funny. He posits a theory essentially, humor is a form of processing, a coping mechanism that helps people deal with complex and contradictory messages.
Comedy can provide a counterbalance to bigotry and prejudice. And political comedy, when done right, is a delivery system for the truth. As Scott Weems said, “My first thought when I think about humor is it’s a great way for us to have evolved so we don’t have to hit each other with sticks.”