Thursday, October 25, 2012

Working the Room - The Science of Humour Studies

Working the Room - Lapham’s Quarterly

What makes a politician endearing? Do politicians who laugh at themselves and make the audience/viewer laugh create a stronger rapport with them? An academic field of humour studies, made up of scholars from across the arts & sciences, has arisen . The three theories dominating the fray and trying to answer what makes a statement/ situation funny are 1) superiority theory favoured by Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, 2) relief theory favoured by Sigmond Freud and 3) incongruity theory favored by Aristotle, Cicero, Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer ( Find about these theories in the text).
Mel Brooks' definition of tragedy and comedy is revealing. "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."
Politicians, with strong sense of humour, create an easy rapport with the people. We Indians feel sorry that we don't have in our midst politicians like Abraham Lincoln , John F. Kennedy and even George W Bush, Jr. At the time of unveiling  his portrait in the White House, Bush told Obama," When you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, What would George do?" :) Kennedy said that his father had advised him not to buy more votes than was absolutely necessary to win.:)
It is not enough for politicians to amuse, they must also persuade for their benefit and others. Gorgias, a 5th century BC Greek philosopher and rhetorician, urged orators to" destroy one's adversaries' seriousness with laughter, and their laughter with seriousness." Aristotle, distinguishing mockery from buffoonery,  said " mockery is more gentlemanly than buffoonery; for the mocker makes a joke for his own amusement, the buffoon for the amusement of others." Our Lalu Yadav indulges in buffoonery. Our leaders must be able to withstand ridicule and use it as a weapon and not try to censor internet and other media.

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