Humor Pete LeRoy, Ph.D. New Mexico Highlands University Las Vegas, NM 87701 October 2008 HE 504 – Humor • “The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” – Voltaire • “The arrival of a good clown exercises a more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than the arrival of twenty asses laden with drugs.” – Thomas Sydenham, Seventeenth-Century Physician Humor • Humor is a human magnet: it attracts all ears and minds • Laughter is a universal language, breaking through cultural barriers when words cannot • The word humor comes from Latin word that means “fluid” or “moisture” • In ancient times, the belief was that the body had four basic body fluids (humors), each being associated with a specific mood or general disposition Humor • A happy, cheerful spirit was associated with the ‘humor’ blood • When all body fluids were balanced, one was said to be in ‘good humor’ • In 1260 a French physician (Henri de Moundeville) realized the important relationship between positive emotions and sound health • He routinely allowed family/friends to cheer and joke with their sick relatives Humor • Laughter has not always been looked upon with favor • Europeans in the middle ages and Puritans in North America perceived laughter to be the work of the devil • Those caught laughing out loud were often denounced as witches or believed to be possessed by Satan Humor • The expression of humor was considered a sin in many Christian denominations • Other comments from those days include: “Laughter on any occasion is immoral and indecent. Laughter obscures truth, hardens the heart, and stupefies understanding. A man of parts of fashion is therefore only seen to smile, but never heard to laugh.” – Lord Chesterfield, 1748 Humor • Examples from today: when Dan Quayle’s father said that his son studied only “booze and broads” in college, then presidential candidate George Bush was heard to say, “not many students had a double major.” • After an attempt on President Reagan’s life, he said to physicians attending him, “I hope you are all Republicans.” Humor, two definitions • “…the mental experience discovering and appreciating ludicrous or absurd ideas, events, or situations that bring pleasure or enjoyment to the individual.” • “…the quality of being funny or appreciating funny thoughts or acts of behavior; the ability to perceive/enjoy what is funny or comical, a state of mind,feeling, or mood.” – McGhee, 1979 Humor • Humor has two fundamental aspects: • (1) it can be absorbed or experienced by internalizing this perception cognitively • (2) it can be expressed externally through an action in an effort to share it with others Factors that must be present for humor to exist • 1. Sources that act as potential stimuli (e.g., a pie thrown in someone’s face • 2. A cognitive & intellectual activity involved with the perception & evaluation of these sources (perceiving a faceful of whipped cream to be amusing) • 3. Behavioral responses that are the expressions of humor (smiling/laughing) Types of Humor • 1. Parody = closely imitates something, or someone, for comical effect • 2. Satire = most often thought of as a written expression of personal and social flaws • 3. Slapstick comedy = using physical farce to generate laughs Types of Humor • 4. Absurd/Nonsense humor = two or more concepts that unite to result in a stupid, ludicrous, or ridiculous perception (Larson’s cartoons, et cetera) Types of Humor • 5. Double Entendre = wordplay where the expression has two meanings (usually of a sexual nature) • Example: Chris Rock notes that in determining legislation about the legalization of marijuana, both houses of Congress went into a joint session Types of Humor • 6. Black humor = ‘gallows’ humor is based on the fear of death; sometimes described s a ‘flirtatious brush with death’ • Much of the humor in the TV series M*A*S*H expressed various shades of black humor • Gary Larson’s cartoons are also an example Types of Humor • 7. Irony = two concepts or events which when paired together, come to mean or expose the opposite of the expected outcome • Life is full of ironies; receiving a surprise check for $100 in the mail only to find a bill for $100 the same day Types of Humor • Oxymorons (two opposite concepts) provide another type of irony…examples: • Pretty Ugly; Head Butt; Working Vacation • Tax Return; Virtual Reality; Dodge Ram • Work Party; Jumbo Shrimp; Healthy Tan • Microsoft Works Types of Humor • 8. Dry humor & Puns = described as clever, esoteric wit • Often involves double entendres, words with more than one meaning or connotation • Mark Twain, Groucho Marx, Will Rogers are fine examples of creators of esoteric wit Types of Humor • 9. Sarcasm = word means ‘to tear flesh’ • While sarcasm may share elements with clever wit, it reveals latent anger (cutting) • It is an attempt to get verbal revenge • A sarcastic remark is usually followed by, “I’m just kidding.” Senses of Humor • 1. Conventional = two or more people find common ground by sharing a similar humorous perception and laughing at the same time • 2. Life of the party = the ability to provide laughable moments for the amusement of everyone Senses of Humor • 3. Creative = quick-witted, very imaginative; a good professional career for these people is joke writing • 4. Good Sport = those willing & able to laugh at their own foibles & mistakes & enjoy being human Humor • The use of humor is a defense mechanism, yet unlike other conscious or unconscious defense strategies to protect the ego, humor seems to dissolve the walls of the ego rather than intensify them • Humor is one defense mechanism that can increase pleasure & reduce pain at the same moment Examples of Humor to Heal • Norman Cousins (Head First, and Anatomy of an Illness) • West Virginia Physician Patch Adams (portrayed in film by Robin Williams) • Dr. William Fry has devoted his life to the investigation of this mind/body relationship • “Laugher is clearly related to the reduction of stress and the physical symptoms related to stress.” Quiz, Name That Humor Type: • Look at the following and determine into which category the “humor” falls… Conclusion • Humor is like stress… • It is in the eye of the beholder • Each person makes an appraisal of the event and assigns meaning to it… • How’d you do?
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