"If you tell the truth about how you’re feeling, it becomes funny.” — Larry David
Humour is a funny thing. What inspires it? Why do we feel the need to recite jokes and make each other laugh? Before the ability to speak, and thus tell a joke, I imagine our cave dwelling ancestors would’ve used laughter as a signalling function; a way to defuse potentially life threatening conflicts, as if to say: I have no beef with you! I also assume these troglodytes would’ve sneered and howled when they were tickled by one of their cromies (cro-magnon homies), although that response would’ve been mostly involuntary and entirely unattractive.
But of course our species has evolved since the Old Stone Age and we’ve obtained the necessary cognitive skills to fully embrace humour: speech, intelligence, awareness of the social environment, the ability to think abstractly and, most importantly, an understanding of meme generators. That’s not to say we no longer lose control when someone, or something, stimulates our somatosensory
and anterior cingulate cortices i.e. tickles us, it’s just that nowadays we find ourselves increasingly
‘in our feelings’.
That’s why comedy is often born from the sense of being an outsider, like you’re looking at society from a distance and observing just how bat-shit crazy it is. I think of Seinfeld as an early pioneer
of this type of observational comedy. It’s been said that Larry David, the show’s co-creator and
star of Curb Your Enthusiasm (oft described as Seinfeld on crack), told the writers to use stuff from their real lives, but have the characters do the thing you wish you’d done in the moment. The end result — a show that displayed contempt for everyone and everything. And audiences couldn’t get enough it. Why? Because the truth is funny. We revelled in seeing an on screen depiction of our
errant inner lives. Like the cavemen before us, these comedians made an art form of behaving badly.
And in further proof that the more things change, the more they remain the same; it still feels like humour and laughter are born from that same innate urge to protect oneself. It’s a mechanism
for coping; a way to manage feelings of despair by reappraising life’s absurdities in a humorous
way. For example when I lost my job during the Covid-19 lockdown, people said I’d need to adjust
to being poor. I said please, I worked in retail — I was already poor. Besides, I stopped using that
term long ago. I identify as pre-rich. What I’m trying to say is, humour forces a change of perspective. By reconsidering something upsetting in a comical manner, you’re guaranteed to notice an increase in your wellbeing.
Don’t believe me, believe science. It tells us that humour encourages laughter, and laughter reduces levels of certain stress hormones, while bringing balance to the immune system. So excuse me
while I maintain a sense of playfulness in the face of a global pandemic — like when we were discussing horoscopes in the group chat the other day and someone asked what my birthstone
was. I replied: rock bottom — it’s better for all of us. I don’t always keep it together, mind you. There were a couple of weeks there that I put off showering because I was going to exercise first, but then
I never exercised, so then I never showered. I was in a real pickle.
Okay, that last joke isn’t mine. A friend sent it to me while we were trapped in our caves during
Alert Level 4. Regardless of whether or not you appreciate the dry self-deprecating charm of Twitter humour, you’ve got to respect the homie for trying to reduce my stress hormones during quarantine (social distancing rules meant that stimulating my somatosensory and anterior cingulate cortices was not an option).
P.S. Laughter is contagious, make sure you spread it.
TV Series 1989–1998
Created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
TV Series 2000–present
Created by Larry David
By Elric James