Humor and suffering

Mel Brooks once defined the difference between comedy and tragedy like this:

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”

Most of us understand what he was getting at. We never laugh at good fortune. We only laugh when something goes wrong. But to be funny, things need to go wrong in the right way.

When I think of the jokes I find really funny — I mean sidesplittingly funny — they always involve something terrible happening. I would never want to be the person in the joke that the terrible thing happened to.

Yet when I tell such a joke well, everybody feels immense pleasure. I think there is something profound in this contradictory connection between misfortune and pleasure, but I am not entirely sure I understand the nature of that connection.

Can there, in fact, be true humor without an element of misfortune? Can the two ever actually be disentangled?

2 Responses to “Humor and suffering”

  1. I can’t tell if this is you admitting that your many puns are not in fact truly funny, or if you are accepting that you are inflicting misfortune on the recipients…

  2. admin says:

    Ouch! Your comment is genuinely funny. 😉

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