[This site uses a tool called “humor” on a regular basis. We are ever-more cognizant that this subject is not taught in schools, and is frequently misunderestimated. As a public service, we have received permission to re-purpose the work of noted authority Prof. Cornelius P. Stodgington. In a series of short, bite-sized “classes,” the Professor attempts to explain the concept of humor, in all its forms and methodologies. Humor explained to the humorless—by the humorless—will, we think, be a valuable learning experience for all.]
From the Lucas-Miller Lectures at the
Allan-Hayden Humor Academy of Higher Educational Events (AH HA HEE)
An Overview for the Layman
By Prof. Cornelius P. Stodgington
Introduction to Humor
Welcome, students, to Humor College. Here, in a series of lectures, we hope to convey to you the essence of what people call humor, and why they do so.
They tell us the act of laughter is an involuntary reaction initiated by the brain. The scientific field of gelotolgy is devoted to its study. Those few with a “sense” of humor assure us it is one of life’s greatest pleasures, one that–at its finest–touches the core of one’s being.
The majority of us, though, are rarely touched by jokes, japes, or jocularity. Why is this? We run the world and set cultural standards. We are the majority, by any measure. Yet those of the humorous persuasion would have us feel somehow inferior for failing to appreciate what laughterism offers.
Therefore I submit it is essential that we make a study of these “humoristas,” just as we would any foreign race or religion. Armed with a basic understanding of their practices, we can more successfully co-exist with its adherents. Certainly we will never share their passion for the subject, but we can better resist their corrupting influence if we have some idea of what they’re on about.
Have no doubt–the humorists shake their heads in pity at us. In their eyes, we–the “straights,” if you will–are missing an essential element of life itself. They’re quick to “understand” us, patronizingly talking about “genetic predispositions.” They despair that we work hard to improve many other skills we have little innate talent for: music, public speaking, parallel parking, and the like. So, they wonder, why do you spend so little effort developing an appreciation for humor?
To which many of our fellow “straights” reply: “Why bother?” Other common responses: “Bah, humbug,” and “meh.” We’ve all had a painful encounter with a humor evangelist in the past. When his attempts to convince you of the rapture of laughter fell flat, he lamented your fate if you didn’t “get it.” He came away from the encounter convinced you were a poor soul condemned to a blinkered, two-dimensional life. You came away muttering to yourself–unable to comprehend how this dunderhead could waste time on such frivolity–and making scathing judgments about his weak character.
But another reason to pursue this course is simple human compassion. Statistics being what they are, there must be one or more persons in your social circle who have openly admitted to having the comedy bug. Perhaps—despite your best judgment—you have a soft spot in your affections for one, even if it is mere pity. Our aim here is to give you a window into their world, that you might better appreciate their affliction. After all, our society does acknowledge their right to exist (albeit at the margins). Thus, it behooves us to make some small effort. After that, we can say “well, we tried” and get on with our lives.
One could even argue this effort might be in your direct fiduciary interest. After all, the investment in–and appreciation of–humor is at a historic low. Using the logic of the cheerleaders for our market-based economy, it follows that there will be rising “value” for those who possess advanced knowledge of an increasingly scarce commodity.
So let us begin our survey of the mysterious ways of the humorous. Rest assured we will not delve overly long in this world, lest we get lost in its more corrupting nuances. Rather we will shoot more for the “Cliff’s Notes” to the subject, enabling you to digest what you need to know in as pithy a form as possible.