Monthly Archives: April 2009

Meta Humor

Humor, in many ways, bears a strong resemblance to the first law of thermodynamics.  Namely, it can neither be created nor destroyed.  Yes, the  comedian creates his jokes but the essence of what makes them funny lies in a process; and that process is either (as chemists put it) spontaneous or it is not….it’s either funny or it’s not.  I’ve heard the phenomenon of humor analyzed in many ways but perhaps my favorite observation is regarding the pun.  Puns, one author says, cannot be invented but only discovered.  To exist they must be already embedded in the structure of our language.  Anything funny, you will find,  is only amusing because of it’s absurd, ironic or otherwise ridiculous relationship to reality.  As such, reality should be regarded the source of humor.  Truth, in fact, is stranger than fiction.

A new phenomenon in the humor market is truly splitting my sides.  To write about it will not seem funny at all but I promise you, if you catch a glimpse of it you’ll be laughing.  That is, after all, the measure is it not?

Every so often,  a phrase comes along and somewhat metaphorically takes on a well defined meaning beyond the suggestion of the actual words involved.  The cliche has become a prominent function of communication and I guarantee you’ll hear one uttered in the next day or so if not in the next hour.  What’s hysterical to me at present, is the occasion when one utters a cliche but actually means it in the literal sense.  The irony just kills me on more than one level hence the term ‘meta-humor’.

Regretfully, I can only offer one example at present  and it is quite an infantile one but I’m certain that many more exist and that they will surface if you wish to notice.  Again, to read about this is not funny but to experience it is…I think.   I was explaining something to my friends tonight and, wishing to convey his girlfriend’s approval of my opinion, this guy said ‘That’s what she said’.  Yes.  It warranted audible laughter (aka LOL).  Childish as it is, that phrase has succeeded in causing laughter on many occasions.  It speaks silently of a reference to something else and that surprising, sudden re-routing of thought makes us laugh.  That, I think is the true stuff of humor.  The irony is, that the whole thing has come full circle.  The connotation of that phrase has become so accepted (in this discrete culture of mine) that to hear those four words spoken in earnest just cracks me up.

Humor is a delightful accident is my point.  It comes about when our mind is forced to crash and laughter is it’s spontaneous result.  It is pre-existent in the languages, cultures and situations that arise and does not exist apart from them.  Today we have at our disposal a whole new encyclopedia of phrases that have taken on a life of their own.  As each is just a combination of words, they’re bound to be uttered literally at some time and, when I’m fortunate enough to witness this, I burst into laughter, uncontrollably.  Let me know if you have had this experience too.

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