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Smiling can imply a sense of humour and a state of amusement, as in this painting of Falstaff by Eduard von Grützner.

Humour or humor (see spelling differences) is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement. The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humours (Greek: χυμός, chymos, literally juice or sap, metaphorically, flavour), control human health and emotion.

People of all ages and cultures respond to humour. The majority of people are able to experience humour, i.e., to be amused, to laugh or smile at something funny, and thus they are considered to have a sense of humour. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humour would likely find the behaviour induced by humour to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational. Though ultimately decided by personal taste, the extent to which an individual will find something humorous depends upon a host of variables, including geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, intelligence and context. For example, young children may favour slapstick, such as Punch and Judy puppet shows or cartoons such as Tom and Jerry. Satire may rely more on understanding the target of the humour and thus tends to appeal to more mature audiences. Nonsatirical humour can be specifically termed "recreational drollery".[1][2]

Many theories exist about what humour is and what social function it serves. The prevailing types of theories attempting to account for the existence of humour include psychological theories, the vast majority of which consider humour-induced behaviour to be very healthy; spiritual theories, which may, for instance, consider humour to be a "gift from God"; and theories which consider humour to be an unexplainable mystery, very much like a mystical experience.[3]

Contents

Understanding humour

Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the misuse of the term "humour" (a German loanword from English) to mean any type of comedy. However, both "humour" and "comic" are often used when theorizing about the subject. The connotation of "humour" is more that of response, while "comic" refers more to stimulus. "Humour" also originally had a connotation of a combined ridiculousness and wit in one individual, the paradigm case being Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff. The French were slow to adopt the term "humour" and in French, "humeur" and "humour" are still two different words, the former still referring only to the archaic concept of humours.

Western humour theory begins with Plato, who attributed to Socrates (as a semihistorical dialogue character) in the Philebus (p. 49b) the view that the essence of the ridiculous is an ignorance in the weak, who are thus unable to retaliate when ridiculed. Later, in Greek philosophy, Aristotle, in the Poetics (1449a, pp. 34–35), suggested that an ugliness that does not disgust is fundamental to humour.

In ancient Sanskrit drama, Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra defined humour (hāsyam) as one of the nine nava rasas, or principle rasas (emotional responses), which can be inspired in the audience by bhavas, the imitations of emotions that the actors perform. Each rasa was associated with a specific bhavas portrayed on stage. In the case of humour, it was associated with mirth (hasya).

The terms "comedy" and "satire" became synonymous after Aristotle's Poetics was translated into Arabic in the medieval Islamic world, where it was elaborated upon by Arabic writers and Islamic philosophers such as Abu Bischr, his pupil Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes. Due to cultural differences, they disassociated comedy from Greek dramatic representation, and instead identified it with Arabic poetic themes and forms, such as hija (satirical poetry). They viewed comedy as simply the "art of reprehension" and made no reference to light and cheerful events or troublous beginnings and happy endings associated with classical Greek comedy. After the Latin translations of the 12th century, the term "comedy" thus gained a new semantic meaning in Medieval literature.[4]

The Incongruity Theory originated mostly with Kant, who claimed that the comic is an expectation that comes to nothing. Henri Bergson attempted to perfect incongruity by reducing it to the "living" and "mechanical".[5]

An incongruity like Bergson's, in things juxtaposed simultaneously, is still in vogue. This is often debated against theories of the shifts in perspectives in humour; hence, the debate in the series Humor Research between John Morreall and Robert Latta.[6] Morreall presented mostly simultaneous juxtapositions,[7] with Latta countering that it requires a "cognitive shift" created by a discovery or solution to a puzzle or problem. Latta is criticized for having reduced jokes' essence to their own puzzling aspect.

Humour frequently contains an unexpected, often sudden, shift in perspective, which gets assimilated by the Incongruity Theory. This view has been defended by Latta (1998) and by Brian Boyd (2004).[8] Boyd views the shift as from seriousness to play. Nearly anything can be the object of this perspective twist; it is, however, in the areas of human creativity (science and art being the varieties) that the shift results from "structure mapping" (termed "bisociation" by Koestler) to create novel meanings.[9] Arthur Koestler argues that humour results when two different frames of reference are set up and a collision is engineered between them.

Tony Veal, who takes a more formalised computational approach than Koestler, has written on the role of metaphor and metonymy in humour,[10][11][12] using inspiration from Koestler as well as from Dedre Gentner's theory of structure-mapping, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's theory of conceptual metaphor, and Mark Turner and Gilles Fauconnier's theory of conceptual blending.

Some claim that humour cannot or should not be explained. Author E.B. White once said, "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."[13]

As with any form of art, acceptance depends on social demographics and varies from person to person. Throughout history, comedy has been used as a form of entertainment all over the world, whether in the courts of the Western kings or the villages of the Far East. Both a social etiquette and a certain intelligence can be displayed through forms of wit and sarcasm. Eighteenth-century German author Georg Lichtenberg said that "the more you know humour, the more you become demanding in fineness."

Evolutionary explanation of humour

Alastair Clarke explains: "The theory is an evolutionary and cognitive explanation of how and why any individual finds anything funny. Effectively, it explains that humour occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it, and that recognition of this sort is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast as laughter." The theory further identifies the importance of pattern recognition in human evolution: "An ability to recognize patterns instantly and unconsciously has proved a fundamental weapon in the cognitive arsenal of human beings. The humorous reward has encouraged the development of such faculties, leading to the unique perceptual and intellectual abilities of our species."[1]

Humour formulae


Humour can be verbal, visual, or physical.

Root components:

Methods:

Rowan Atkinson portraying one of his characters, Mr. Bean

Rowan Atkinson explains in his lecture in the documentary "Funny Business"[14] that an object or a person can become funny in three different ways. They are:

  • By behaving in an unusual way
  • By being in an unusual place
  • By being the wrong size

Most sight gags fit into one or more of these categories.

Humour is also sometimes described as an ingredient in spiritual life. Humour is also the act of being funny, such as making people laugh. Some synonyms of funny or humour are hilarious, spiritual, wise-minded, outgoing, and amusing. Some Masters have added it to their teachings in various forms. A famous figure in spiritual humour is the laughing Buddha.

References

  1. ^ Seth Benedict Graham A cultural analysis of the Russo-Soviet Anekdot 2003 p.13
  2. ^ Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World [1941, 1965]. Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press p.12
  3. ^ Raymond Smullyan, "The Planet Without Laughter", This Book Needs No Title
  4. ^ Webber, Edwin J. (January 1958), "Comedy as Satire in Hispano-Arabic Spain", Hispanic Review (University of Pennsylvania Press) 26 (1): 1–11, doi:10.2307/470561 
  5. ^ Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (1900) English translation 1914.
  6. ^ Robert L. Latta (1999) The Basic Humor Process: A Cognitive-Shift Theory and the Case against Incongruity, Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 3110161036 (Humor Research no. 5)
  7. ^ John Morreall (1983) Taking Laughter Seriously, Suny Press, ISBN 0873956427
  8. ^ Brian Boyd, Laughter and Literature: A Play Theory of Humor Philosophy and Literature - Volume 28, Number 1, April 2004, pp. 1-22
  9. ^ Koestler, Arthur (1964): "The Act of Creation".
  10. ^ Veal, Tony (2003): "Metaphor and Metonymy: The Cognitive Trump-Cards of Linguistic Humor" (Afflatus.uce.ie)
  11. ^ Veale, Tony (2006): "The Cognitive Mechanisms of Adversarial Humor"
  12. ^ Veale, Tony (2004): "Incongruity in Humour: Root Cause of Epiphenomonon?" (Afflatus.ucd.ie)
  13. ^ Quotationspage.com
  14. ^ Rowan Atkinson/David Hinton, Funny Business (tv series), Episode 1 - aired 22 November 1992, UK, Tiger Television Productions

Further reading

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Comedy article)

From Wikiquote

The Marx Brothers were a popular team of sibling comedians who appeared in vaudeville, stage plays, film, and television.

Comedy has a popular meaning (stand-up, along with any discourse generally intended to amuse), which differs from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in Ancient Greece. The theatrical genre can be simply described as a dramatic performance pitting two societies against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Comedy contains variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations, and there are many recognized genres.

Sourced

  • What we eventually run up against are the forces of humourlessness, and let me assure you that the humourless as a bunch don't just not know what's funny, they don't know what's serious. They have no common sense, either, and shouldn't be trusted with anything.
    • Martin Amis, "Political Correctness: Robert Bly and Philip Larkin" (1997)
  • By calling him humourless I mean to impugn his seriousness, categorically: such a man must rig up his probity ex nihilo.
    • Martin Amis, Experience (2000), Part I: "Failures of Tolerance"
  • Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
  • It is the duty of the humor of any given nation in time of high crisis to attack the catastrophe that faces it in such a manner as to cause the people to laugh at it in such a way that they cannot die before they are killed.
  • It is not funny that anything else should fall down, only that a man should fall down ... Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
  • A joke's a very serious thing.
  • Men will confess to treason, murder, arson, false teeth, or a wig. How many of them will own up to a lack of humour?
    • Frank Moore Colby, (1926) The Colby Essays, Vol. 1., "Satire and Teeth". Reported in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, Columbia University Press. (1993) ISBN 0231071949. p. 431.
  • Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.
    • Christopher Morley, as quoted in An Enchanted Life : An Adept's Guide to Masterful Magick‎ (2001) by Patricia Telesco, p. 189
  • I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes. Though I'm gonna be on for an hour.
  • Nothing is more curious than the almost savage hostility that Humour excites in those who lack it.
  • A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in "A View from the Asylum" in Philosophical Investigations from the Sanctity of the Press (2004), by Henry Dribble, p. 87

Attributed

  • Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.
    • Karl Barth, reported in Mary Cox Garner (2004). The Hidden Souls of Words, SelectBooks, Inc. p. 143. ISBN 1590790596.
  • As soon as You realize Everything's a Joke,being The Comedian is the only Thing that makes Sense
  • Comedy is tragedy plus time.
    • Carol Burnett, reported in Marty Grothe (2004). Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths, HarperCollins. p. 126. ISBN 0060536993.
  • There are two thoughts that will ensure success in all you do; (1) Don't tell everything you know, and (2) until Ace Ventura, no actor had considered talking through his ass.
    • Jim Carrey, reported in Patrick Combs; Jack Canfield (2003). Major in Success, Ten Speed Press. p. 60. ISBN 1580085326.
  • The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays the part.
    • Miguel de Cervantes, reported in Marty Grothe (2004). Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom from History's Greatest Wordsmiths, HarperCollins. p. 126. ISBN 0060536993.
  • If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And, if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point that I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge it as true.
    • John Cleese, reported in Nicki Joy (2003). What Winners Do to Win!: The 7 Minutes a Day That Can Change Your Life, John Wiley and Sons. p. 113. ISBN 0471265772.
  • Humor is the contemplation of the finite from the point of view of the infinite.
    • Christian Morgenstern, reported in Mary Cox Garner (2004). The Hidden Souls of Words, SelectBooks, Inc. p. 142. ISBN 1590790596.
  • Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.
    • Will Rogers, reported in Geoff Tibballs (2004). The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners, Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 0786714077.
  • Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.
    • Peter Ustinov, reported in Geoff Tibballs (2004). The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners, Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 0786714077.
  • The man with the real sense of humor is the man who can put himself in the spectator's place and laugh at his own misfortunes.
    • Bert Williams, reported in Jacqueline Sweeney (1997). Incredible Quotations: 230 Thought-Provoking Quotes With Prompts to Spark Students' Writing, Thinking and Discussion, Teaching Resources/Scholastic. p. 26. ISBN 0590963783.

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also humor

German

Noun

Humor m.

  1. humor (something funny)

This German entry was created from the translations listed at humor. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see Humor in the German Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) May 2009








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