Humor and Docs 1

You may remember Umberto Eco’s ”The Name of The Rose”, and you may remember that the key plot was based on the notion that a monk, Jorge of Burgos, was trying to keep the contents of Aristotle's second Poetic on comedy a secret. Of course, in real life that second book is considered lost (while the first one has survived and is about tragedy), but nevertheless does the story suggest that humor and laughter was regarded an enemy of the men in power and just plain un-wanted.

In his book, “Comic Relief – A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor”, John Morreall gives an extensive insight on the different aspects of humor. And he does mention Aristotle as one of the few thinkers in Western civilization who actually considers humor a virtue (Thomas Aquinas was another whilst Sartre was not).


But maybe I am wrong (and maybe Aristotle and Eco was wrong - sans comparison) and maybe humor is bad!  As Morreall writes: “Seriousness is the default mode for us and other animals. The non-serious play mode is a luxury”[1].


One of the more interesting chapters is the one where he lists the traditional objections towards humor as seen through history. Among them these (and I more or less quote from the book):

Humor is insincere. Good people mean what they say and do; jokers don’t.

Humor is irresponsible. When we are laughing and having fun, we are not attending to our duties.

Humor is hedonistic. It’s just for the fun of it.

Humor diminishes self-control. Most religious and secular moral codes demand some sort of self-control.

And my favorite: Humor is foolish!

In that last one, you actually charge people who “insist” on laughing or being funny to be "intellectually, emotionally and morally defective".

How does this relate to the world today and to the world of documentary filmmaking? Well, let me finish the book - and the two serious docs I’m producing at the moment - and I’ll get back to it.


[1] Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, s. 52


Humor and Docs 2
Humor and Docs 3

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