What Can Comedy Educate us about Sociology?


Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Whereas getting ready for take-off on a current flight, a person within the row in entrance of me made a “joke” to his teenaged children. After an announcement to take your seat and fasten your seatbelts, he stated reasonably loudly, “Yeah, like seatbelts are actually going to make a distinction in a airplane crash!”

He eagerly regarded for a constructive response to his remark. His children didn’t seem to chuckle, and people of us within the surrounding rows appeared to share a second of nervous discomfort. Isn’t it an unwritten rule that you simply don’t point out airplane crashes—even in jest—on an airplane?

Whereas making airplane crash jokes may—may—be okay in different contexts, on this specific context it appeared extremely inappropriate. A lot of persons are nervous fliers, and even those that usually are not may not need to hear the phrase “airplane crash” whereas onboard. In some situations, an inappropriate joke may even get somebody faraway from a flight. This tried joke was not simply inappropriate within the context, however factually inaccurate. In accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration, “In nonfatal accidents, in-flight turbulence is the main reason for accidents to airline passengers and flight attendants.” Fastening seatbelts can preserve folks from getting tossed round if a flight will get bumpy.

What’s humorous and what isn’t could be a matter of debate, however comedy can train us about a number of core ideas inside sociology.

  1. The meaning-making course of is social, and shifts based mostly on our varied social positions.

Until we’re simply amusing ourselves (like my fellow passenger appeared to do), more often than not jokes are advised with a view to make different folks chuckle. Thus, humor is predicated upon and creates shared that means between folks.

What makes one thing humorous (or not humorous) is a part of the social development of actuality, the way in which during which meaning-making takes place collectively and in a social context. We would discover some sorts of jokes humorous based mostly on our cultural context, equivalent to our race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic standing. Private and shared experiences kind the premise of humor.

As Janis Prince Inniss wrote in 2009, comedy generally supplies a go to specific concepts which may in any other case be thought-about impolite or offensive. And naturally, folks might be offended by jokes whereas others may not get why others are offended. This too is commonly associated to the cultural lens by which we make sense of the world round us, and naturally, who’s telling the joke. Somebody from our similar ethnicity who makes a joke based mostly on a standard ethnic stereotype may keep away from offending the in-group, because it could be learn as a refined problem to the stereotype that an “outsider” may not have the ability to inform with the identical response.

  1. We would use humor to broach matters persons are reluctant to debate

Public discussions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and different social classes could be fraught with baggage and tough to carry up. Courtroom jesters traditionally carried out for royals and had tacit permission to make enjoyable of these in energy. Likewise, the modern custom of the White Home Correspondent’s Dinner contains a roast of the present president, who is often current on the occasion and is predicted to chuckle at jokes advised at their expense concerning the president’s dealing with of great present occasions. The president, in flip, makes humorous jabs on the press.

Generally comedy is a method of managing feelings with others. “Gallows humor” is a method of coping with dying or tough conditions. When my grandmother was dying and folks came around her to say their goodbyes, the temper was understandably heavy. Observing this, she stated, “don’t be unhappy…however don’t be too glad both!” The second of laughter offered some aid at a tough time.

On this well-known scene from a 1975 episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Present, we see how the characters’ jokes concerning the deceased “Chuckles the Clown” opens up an area for them to joke about their very own and one another’s mortality:

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  1. Context issues

You might have heard the phrase “tragedy plus time equals comedy” or heard a comic telling a joke a few historic occasion, maybe the Lincoln assassination, and if it falls flat say “too quickly?”

This facet of comedy reminds us that jokes are thought-about humorous or not in a selected context. Past our particular person backgrounds, the that means of humor modifications based mostly on time and site. A joke advised at a funeral may tackle a completely completely different that means than one advised at a bar or a celebration.

The folks round us may additionally affect how we interpret the meanings of jokes. Ever hear somebody inform a unclean joke when your mother and father are round? It would really feel much less humorous in that second. Jokes between like-minded associates of the same background and age group might need a greater probability of going over properly than these with those that we’re much less acquainted with.

Now we have in all probability all felt the awkwardness of telling what we thought was a joke and regretting it later. After I was in highschool, my pal and I have been strolling when the boy she appreciated drove by and requested if we needed a journey. She was so nervous she stated nothing as soon as we have been within the automotive, and perhaps he was nervous too as a result of moments later he bought in a minor fender bender, rear-ending the automotive in entrance of us. I (stupidly) tried to lighten the temper with a joke about paying him for the journey if he didn’t hit some other automobiles for the remainder of the journey.

He didn’t chuckle. My pal was indignant with me later. However now, many years later, I don’t know…form of humorous?

Comedy is a deeply social course of. What’s humorous, when, and to whom, are all rooted within the social context and the way we collectively create meanings. Can a joke ever simply be a joke? Possibly, but when different folks chuckle, it has social that means.

What else does comedy train us about sociology?





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