This is a short preview of the full episode.
On Bergson’s Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (1900).
What is humor? Bergson says that, fundamentally, we laugh as a form of social corrective when others are slow to adapt to society’s demands. Other types of humor are derivative from this: just as the clown falls on his face because of a (pretended) physical flaw, as if he’s a machine that doesn’t work and so becomes noticeable as a machine, in satire, we poke fun at society’s breaking down, and in wordplay it’s as if the language is breaking down, and in a sit-com featuring unlikely coincidences, it’s like fate itself is breaking down into senseless patterns of repetition.
Mark, Seth, Wes, and Dylan are joined by comedienne Jennifer Dziura, using Bergson as a jumping-off point to throw around lots of theories and questions: is it the unexpected that makes something funny (which would make timing key), or our identification with the funny situation, which would go against Bergson’s notion that you need some distance from the person you’re laughing at, or else you grasp him as an individual and get sucked into the breakdown as tragic? Can deformities be hilarious, as Bergson thinks? What about dark humor, or self-deprecating humor, or the laughter of delight or being tickled? Read more on the topic and get the book.
End songs: Another two lo-fi, quickly recorded driblets from the Mark Lint album, Black Jelly Beans & Smokes: 1991’s “The Nipple Song” and a song written by the Gerber Brothers (Ken Gerber being the guy who drew our PEL icon) performed with Mark from 1990, “Come On, Lady.” Between these is a snippet of Jen’s standup. No puppets, though. Sorry.