Essay on Humour

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Humour is a complex issue that has been looked at through several disciplines including philosophy, and within anthropology. Debates ensue as to what humour is and if it can be defined. Were an extraterrestrial to visit earth and ask what the purpose of laughter was, we would provide an answer that suggests laughter often comes from something humourous. Humour often informs us of an individual’s own classifications of what causes laugh reflexes within themselves. What some people would consider being humourous, such as a misrepresentation of speech or misplacement of context others may not. Humour is not necessarily a consequence of verbal communication, it may stem from physical acts, objects or people that appear to act outside of the norm. Peculiarly enough some entities within society are expected to provide people with entertainment and humourouscontent, sustaining the opposite. Clowns in a circus context aim to produce laughter and entertainment from an audience, yet it is not unusual for clowns to be feared. So how is it that humour can be said to unify people within a society? Using comedians and politics, as examples, to illustrate the types of humour directed at audiences, the idea of social bonds being strengthened and fundamental to widespread culture will be considered in this essay.

Some scholars looking at humour have found that it is necessary to look at theories on laughter at the same time. If we are to simply state that humour is something that makes anyone laugh then we need to look at the physical attributes of laughter, and perhaps compare them to other physical reactions to external stimuli. If it is possible these stimulants may also be put into categories so we can develop some understanding of humour. Monro (1953) acknowledges in his opening chapter that laughter is a universal happening amongst human animals, and that some may attest that laughter appears within other groups as animals, such as hyenas. Like other emotions, such as fear and anger, laughter triggers a physical reaction, often a shaking of the body, clapping of the hands and flushing of the face along with noise from the throat. Whilst these physical signs can be recognised, and due to our own experiences we understand what they are feeling, it is almost impossible to describe why. Monro (1953) delves into a discussion on fear as an emotion and reaction attempting to find common characteristics. Concluding that a true explanation of laughter must include a physical and mental account of the occurrence.

Laughter, for the sake of debate, is the result of a humourousoccurrence. Thus, what the essence of humour, and laughter, is first needs to be examined. Most obviously are jokes or forms of speech directed in a tone and manner that conclude with a punch line bringing a story to humourous climax. Jokes can come in the form of wit, gags or even practical jokes. Other forms of humour can come from spoonerisms and wordplay that focuses on the clever use of language, or often as a mistake. Famous forms of humour such as satire and irony can be recognised. Satire being a form of a ‘poetic medley’ that is used, primarily in a non-humourous way, though it has become closely linked with humour. Satire often contains irony and sarcasm, irony is used in the sense that a person constructs a sentence opposite to its original meaning, and the listener is expected to understand this. Sarcasm is also a form of irony often told by comedians in stories, or from one person who is ridiculing another. Like other forms of satire, irony and sarcasm promote words that are intended for a different meaning within the context.

To identify the support of humour within social circles, it becomes necessary to address public humour. Here humourousevents performed in public create an ideal or social norm. Granted everyone has different ideas of humour, to which there exist comedians with alternative styles and acts to promote laughter from their...
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