Dergson's book, I think it's on laughter, or laughter, that's the, in my view, the foundational text on sense of humor and jokes and what is today known as stand-up comedy and so on and so forth.
Dergson analyzed the comic in a variety of settings and so on and so forth.
But I would like to emphasize, I would like to emphasize three elements in the comic or in jokes.
Number one, the lack of empathy, the detachment, the observer status, it's as if we share nothing in common with the subject or the object of the joke.
You know, the person in the joke or the people in the joke, they experience accidents, mishaps, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, bad things are happening to people in jokes, really bad things.
And we stand back and we laugh at them. We absolutely laugh at them. We find their pain and their embarrassment and their shame and their exposure and their helplessness and their vulnerability and their hopelessness. We found, we find these, you know, funny, humorous comic.
The comic is constructed, the foundations of the comic, they're constructed on bad things that happen to people.
So in this sense, the comic is this empathic. It has no empathy and, you know, there are two mental health conditions where there's no empathy or cold empathy and that's narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.
Although today we know that in borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic conditions, there is a reduction in empathy and indeed jokes deal with trauma.
Something that's happening in a joke is traumatic to the person in the joke, the subject or the object of the joke.
So that's the first thing.
And the second thing is related to it somehow.
Jokes are sadistic. The sadism there. We derive gratification and satisfaction and a sense of elation and a sense of superiority and supremacy owing to the bad things that happen to other people.
When in the joke we describe all kinds of misfortune and mishaps and, you know, accidents and that happen to other people, we feel great. Their pain gratifies us. Their pain makes us laugh. Their pain gives us a sense of relief that it's not happening to us and also makes us feel superior to them because they're stupid. They got themselves into this. They had it coming. The sense of just, desert, retribution. The joke restores the cosmic order, the structure and justice in the universe. The joke kind of places us in a morally elevated position and also complements us for our intelligence because we didn't end up being the butt of a joke. Everyone else did and that feels great.
So the jokes are sacrificial. It's like we're sacrificing other people to the gods of fate and destiny. Other people are going to suffer the consequences. Other people are going to go through horrible disasters and, you know, misfortune and mishaps and other people are going to commit mistakes. Other people are going to be exposed as idiots and deserving of derision and ridicule. We are safe. The joke restores the sense of safety because we are safe. We are in the position of a judge. We are the position of an observer. We are supreme. We are untouchable, invulnerable, immune to the consequences of actions unlike people in jokes, the topics of the jokes or the subjects of the jokes.
In a typical joke, there is someone who is arrogant or stupid or hateful or helpless or vulnerable or over-abbitious, someone who is either unhealthy or obnoxious. And then something bad happens to that person because of who he is. And it allows us to say, "We are not like that. We are not like that. We are immaculate. We are perfect. We are virginal. We are pure, pure of heart." This is, you know, you can see this among victims and so-called empaths and so on and so forth.
That's exactly the self-aggrandizing position of these people.
The jokes are a form of sadism, this empathic sadism, definitely.
But equally jokes are therapeutic.
They are therapeutic because they allow us to gain or regain self-consciousness.
It is through the joke that we see ourselves potentially in similar situations.
We become self-aware and we avoid such actions, decisions, choices, and consequences.
It jokes generate self-consciousness or self-awareness.
And jokes allow us to direct socially unacceptable, socially non-sublimated impulses and drives and urges and instincts and wishes and dreams and everything that is socially rejected, socially condemned, everything that's unhealthy, everything that's aggressive, everything that's psychopathic, everything that's narcissistic, everything that's grandiose.
All the sickness inside us, all the pathologies inside us can be safely channeled, sublimated, converted into a joke.
It's as if the joke is the repository, the reservoir, or a cesspool of everything that's wicked and black and dark inside us.
The shadow, the dark side is transformed or transmogrified, if you wish, into a joke.
There's a metamorphosis taking place and the joke is the socially acceptable way to misbehave.
It's a safe haven.
You can venture into the comic territory and then you can be someone else.
You can be not yourself.
While in real life you have to be, you're expected to be, empathy and understanding and helpful and useful and kind and nice and compassionate and affectionate and emotional and what have you, in the land of the comic, in a joke.
You can be vicious.
You can be sadistic.
You can lack empathy.
You can be superior or feel superior.
You can lash out at other people.
You can pile up on them, the people in the joke, the subjects or objects of the joke.
A joke doesn't have to be verbal.
A joke can be situational.
At the expense of someone real who is right by your side, the comic permeates and invades reality itself.
Very often we find ourselves in comic situations and then we're at liberty, we have a license to humiliate, shame, denigrate, expose other people.
As I said, render them the butt of a joke.
It is legitimized.
No one can come and tell you why are you being an a-hole or a jerk or sadistic or narcissistic or psychopathic or a disempathy.
No one can accuse you of anything.
No one can blame you of anything because you're just joking.
It's just a joke.
Sense of humor, therefore, is a form of sadism.
Sense of humor is definitely a variant of sadism and brutal honesty and dark humor, black humor, they are sadistic, but they are forms of legitimate sadism, legitimized sadism.
It is as if society says, "We cannot avoid sadism.
We cannot avoid narcissism.
We cannot avoid psychopathy.
So we're going to create a sanctuary.
We're going to create an asylum, a safe haven where you can express these behaviors and these traits and these proclivities." It's a little like the smoking lounge in airports.
You see people crowded in smoke, among the smoke in these aquariums and everyone passes by and looks at them as if they were some kind of exotic animal.
That is a great encapsulation and description of the joke.
The joke as an enclave, as an aquarium, as a cage within which exotic drives and urges which are usually frowned upon become not only legitimate, but socially condoned in a form of social glue that creates social bonding.
People love together.
When they love together, this creates intimacy.
That's how I see sense of humor, jokes and comedy.