Comedy and the Human Condition

Last night I was watching a PBS piece of the history of comedy on television in our country. While the documentary itself wasn’t all that interesting or funny there was a cultural parallel there which caught my attention.

In times of peace, comedy is introspective and makes fun of the human condition. In times of war, comedy is external to the self and makes fun of politicians and the enemy.

This explains why the video I posted yesterday isn’t as funny today for its content as it was 15 years ago. The piece pointed to Will Rogers as being hilarious in the 1920s-1930s [Seen above mocking FDR to his face!] but immediately falling out of “funny” when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Likewise, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would seem out-of-place if we were not at war in the Middle East.

But I wonder how much that the condition or war and peace effects how we think of ourselves? I wonder if times of peace make us introspective while times of war make us look at external things to ourselves?

As the culture gets more individualistic I wonder if we can take it a step further. (This is where it gets purely hypothetical) I wonder if what’s funny to you or I is dependent upon war or peace in our own lives?

If I’m depressed, is my sense of humor darker?

If I’m generally happy, is my sense of humor jovial?

I’m probably reading way too much into this. But it does have me thinking about what is funny to whom and when.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

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