May 17, 2010

There are 2 reactions to the knowledge that we're all going to die.

"One: religion. You create an afterlife. Now I think it's a good idea, it makes people calmer. And then there's humor. At its basis humor is a very strange, nervous reaction to, you know, death. To me that's the only explanation of why so much of what makes people laugh really hard is scary. There are so many death jokes, so many movies where the humor situation is based on great danger—just a slight twist and it would be a horror movie. So to me that's how we're coping with it. We see right through our own narrative that everything's OK, and the way we handle the resulting anxiety is to make jokes about it."

Says Dave Barry.

12 comments:

HKatz said...

and the way we handle the resulting anxiety is to make jokes about it

Gallows humor, for sure.

I was at a medical museum yesterday - different preserved bodies/skeletons and body parts on display, a wide range of diseased and injured tissue... and people there were joking and laughing nervously as they were taking in all these different ways the human body can malfunction.

Another reaction is to call something 'freakish' or 'monstrous', because then it can't be human like us; it has to be something else that doesn't share our fate.

PatCA said...

I like Oscard Wilde's purported last words: "Either this wallpaper goes, or I do."

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

There's a third way--to ignore it. Not even active denial. That's how we get 90 year old people with advanced Alzheimer's or other illnesses whose kids argue over doing some risky surgery or whether to put in a feeding tube.

Dave Barry is funny, but not as consistently or as hilariously as the guy he kind of took over from (I dare not say "replaced"), the late, great, Lewis Grizzard.

Toy

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

Ask Meade if he was in the Cincinnati area when Bob Brumfield was writing for the Enquirer. Funny, funny guy.

Toy

Irene said...

I found humor. The only problem is, no one else seems to get the joke. I must not be very funny.

EDH said...

It's kind of like the illusion of the standup comic where he goes on this long riff and it's spectacular and it's hilarious and you're dying, but then you realize later, oh, he didn't just think all that stuff up—he got every one of those laughs by trying different versions of the same joke on many different audiences...

Conversely, is it any coincidence that when a comedian isn't funny, he is said to be "dying on stage"?

A lot of death and dying in stand-up comedy, for sure.

edutcher said...

Irene said...

I found humor. The only problem is, no one else seems to get the joke. I must not be very funny.

One way or another, everybody does, I think. It's just that one (wo)man's knee slapper is somebody else's, "How can you be so insensitive?". Sometimes, it's the process of getting there.

Irene said...

edutcher, you hit the nail on the head.

Alex said...

I already know I'm going to heaven, so screw ya'll. Gotta pinch a loaf.

John Stodder said...

I remember reading an analysis of dramatic form that described the Passion of Christ (the event, not the movie) as being the ultimate example of Comedy in the classic sense. Comedies usually conclude with an act of integration of adversaries, often a wedding, but in that instance, the reuniting of the Father with the Son, and even more deeply, the integration of death with life.

In Tragedy, there's just death or some other final descent.

The Greeks and the Elizabethans would not recognize Black Comedy as comedy. But it is also about death -- the best example being "Dr. Strangelove."

AST said...

Boy, I don't like those choices.

The thing about religion is that if you accept the premise that it's all myth made up for our own comfort, then it doesn't do that.

Furthermore, it implies that there is no real beauty, like those colors in the photos you post, no love, no happiness and no pain--nothing to give life meaning. You've got to believe it and really try to live right.

I think that the evil done in the name of religion is due to people who think it's just a myth we make up to deal with the big empty.

Molly said...

This post reminds me of an e-book I read recently called The Instant by Merih Turkdogan. It chronicles the last second of an ordinary man's life and the journey he takes in that one moment. He meets with interesting characters such as Shakespeare, the Devil, the Delivery Genie, the Dwarf of a Million Smells, Ghost in a Bottle, the Starlight Gypsy, the Cosmic Beggar, etc. Basically, the theme is, living life to the fullest while we're here. It also takes a humorous but enlightening approach to death. I highly recommend it!

Thanks for the original post, and I've enjoyed reading the comments too!