I really enjoyed the Provine piece on contagious laughter, and I liked that it went beyond the idea of laughter being contagious and that being a fine, OK, fun thing and touched on how it can seriously disrupt a normal day in society. Connecting it with other kinds of uncontrollable events – the mewing nuns, which I’ve read about before, and especially with Pentecostal churches – made it more real and emphasized the more “serious” aspect of laughter. Relating it to the church especially made me think about what we think of laughter as being. We’ve talked before in class about the function of laughter – could we think of laughter as a religious event? Is there a place we shouldn’t laugh, and is a religious location/event/etc. one of those places that is above laughter? Provine also covered a lot of different bases, from nuns to African schools to newscasters, which made me think of one of my favorite uncontrollable laughers, Anderson Cooper. You can find a video of that here, where Anderson touches on his uncontrollable laughter at toilet humor and other TV laugh breakers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SabNnJGw6xo – and here with some Wolf Blitzer deadpan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4OR83J2IXQ.
I also enjoyed the conversation in the Hoover about the Benign Violation Theory, and it made me really think about things that I personally consider funny. The theory states that humor only occurs when 3 requirements are met: 1) there’s a threat of some sort, whether that’s a physical threat or a threat to one’s worldview or morals; 2) the threatening situation is actually benign so no one’s at risk; and 3) the person involved sees the previous two requirements at the same time. Hoover gives the examples of people tripping and falling (think about the video of girls slipping on ice from last week), blue humor, and puns. The theory also explains that some things aren’t funny because we can’t tell that we aren’t being threatened or that the joke doesn’t find a good balance or goes too far in one direction. Do you think that this theory is true? Are there universal requirements to finding something humorous? Does something have to be universally humorous to be considered successful? What about the things we find funny that don’t fall into these categories? Does this kind of humor toe the line between funny & acceptable and “too far”?