The Painful Truth

November 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Why do we like to laugh at people getting hurt?

I think it all boils down to the fact that humans thrive on similarity, and pain is something we, unfortunately but universally, share.

My second hypothesis is that as subjects of occasionally awful luck we like to watch karma dish itself out once in a while onto other people’s heads. It is under this assumption that America’s Funniest Home Videos has made a fortune and aired for years. For the sympathetic soul, watching it is half cringing, half laughing. Haha their ATV tipped over, haha they fell through the trampoline, haha they slipped on the bathroom floor, haha they crashed into a window, haha haha haha haha! That looked like it hurt. Hahahahaha!!!

Most of the humor in The Three Stooges is slapstick comedy of the hammers-dropped-on toes variety. So is the humor in Bugs Bunny. Disney’s Pinocchio falls down the stairs. In the Home Alone movies, the bad guys get bricks dropped on their faces, step on nails, and get their hair set on fire. None of these instances are meant to satisfy sadistic urges or model behaviors; they are intended to make people laugh. And I think the reason it makes us laugh is that it reminds us of ourselves. We make mistakes all the time and so, while it feels almost wrong to laugh at this type of entertainment, in reality we are really only laughing at ourselves. So watch the stooges guilt-free and laugh until you pee your pants, because there really isn’t any substitute for vicarious tomfoolery.

A comedian died last night, Rorschach (Watchmen) says. But his death, though tragic, was a comedic act in itself, for every brutal tragedy invents another shade on the comedic color wheel to add to the ironic palette of humor.


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