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Strange Laughter

Updated on June 20, 2012

Comedy Awards 2012

Comic Awards -torporific laughter

I always approach my television with a kind of retro-idealistic abandon: expecting to see only a few channels... from days of old (i.e. CBS, NBC, ABC). And then pixelated reality strikes and I realize that I have literally hundreds of channels to choose from. So I expand my idealistic cloud (albeit with some "time wasting" trepidation) and dive into the channel-surf for a long time.

Last night I gasped for some breath of entertainment when I came out of the surf and saw Chris Rock doing a presentation on the Comic Awards show. He usually makes me laugh and always catches my attention with his "How come there are no black people..." (you fill in the blank). And of course the usual tirade of curse words follows during his monologuist introduction. Curse words can be funny -when timed right. They don't even have to be put into any meaningful context to be funny. But too much of it can numb your laugh reaction. And so he numbed me... until the presentation was made to Louis C.K., a white guy. Lots of clapping ensued as the award was transferred from Chris to Louis, the audience settles down to silence... and the first words out of Louis' mouth is "Thank you black guy!" Roaring laughter ensues -I was no longer numb.

So I began to observe the audience's moments of laughter from that point on and compared it to my own laughter reactions. Would they differ? The answer was strangely revealing. They laughed at everything while I laughed only at what I thought was funny. They laughed at every curse word, every grimace, every pregnant pause... everything. By comparison, I laughed only rarely -most of it during Don Rickles' receipt of the Johnny Carson Award. I suppose it was because of the juxtaposition of his sincere acknowledgements to those who helped him become a success, and his usual insult-comic routine of those in the audience.

I'm generally "an easy to make laugh" kind of guy -but very few of today's comics can get me to a genuine laugh. I find many people, including the ones in the audience, have become habituated to what is (supposed to be) funny. I understand that a studio audience is generally there to be upbeat and many times instructed (and gesticulated) to guffaw in order to make the show a success. And I also get that a comedy award show whose audience comprises mainly of comics, must support each other with laughter. Also, I can comprehend that everyone has different comedic tastes and will laugh at different things... be that as it may. But I also understand that gratuitous laughter, although effective for the show's goals, is extremely transparent and recognizable as false. This may boost the comic's ego on the stage but creates a kind of misleading value to the comic's true intent -which can result in revealing the obverse image of Dionysus' mask.

What happened? Wasn't comedy supposed to remove our mask of conformity?


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    • Theophanes profile image

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      I like comedians that like to go over things that would make most people squeamish to talk about. Always a big fan of people like George Carlin and Tom Lehrer I also find it difficult to find modern comics who are funny in the same way. I like Christopher Titus, Lewis Black, and Eddie Izzard though. I'll always watch them when they are on! Canned laughter is indeed irritating.