Tag Archives: comedy

Hungry Business – a review

Hungry Business is a short story by Maria DeBlassie that manages to be a surprisingly large number of things very effectively all at the same time. It’s a creepy zombie story – with a neat premise about how being a zombie works and what you have to do to avoid it. At the same time, it’s a clever piece of social commentary where the being-a-zombie works as a metaphor for certain kinds of modern experiences. It is somehow both a sinister horror story and very funny, often both at the same time. It’s also a romance, and a story about the nature of romance and the importance of romance stories.  

Author Maria DeBlassie has all of these things going on, but none of them get in the way of it being a charming and entertaining read. Impressive! Do check it out.

Erika and the Princes in Distress

I’m a biased reviewer, this  graphic novel  is published by Sloth Comics – who also publish Hopeless Maine. The reason I’m able to review it in advance of the release date is that I did a proof reading sweep on it. The original comic is French.

Erika and the Princes in Distress is gender bending comedy fantasy that messes about with fairy stories.  I found it really funny, and delightful. All the women in this story are muscular and have swords, and all the guys are little, pretty and delicate and need looking after. That reversal allows Yatuu to do some really entertaining things around gender politics.  And really, women should be able to be big, powerful and sword wielding if they want, and men should be free to be pretty and delicate if that suits them, and gender stereotyping is shit.

This comic was surprisingly powerful for me. I’m tall and broad shouldered.  My husband, Tom is an inch shorter than me. My beloved Dr Abbey is three inches shorter than me. I’ve always tended to be self conscious about my height and build. I can honestly say that this comic helped me think differently about my identity and body shape.  It has helped me navigate and feel better about how I am, and less weird about things.

This is a funny, warm hearted book – it’s not mean in its gender swapping.  It also has the best grumpy comedy sidekick horse in the entire history of the world.

You can read Erika and the Princes in Distress for free online https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/erika-and-the-princes-in-distress/list?title_no=341945

And the paperback version will be out in September

Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/Erika-And-The-Princes-In-Distress/9781908830180

Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Erika-Princes-Distress-Yatuu/dp/1908830182

Blackwells – https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Erika-and-the-Princes-in-Distress-by-Yatuu-author/9781908830180

Sharing the misery is good

Last night I went to a Miserable Poet’s cafe. In the past I’ve been to Death Cafes. Both serve similar functions in allowing people to talk about what is otherwise unspeakable. I’m in a social media group that allows the same process. In a space that is held for people to talk about what makes them miserable, there can be a surprising amount of laughter.

Mostly in our lives we’re encouraged to hide our hurts, fears, failings and setbacks. We are to look brave and successful. This can make tough times into lonely times as well, and it can isolate us. When you think everyone else is brilliant, and winning, when all you see is the online bragging, it can be easy to feel you’re the only person who isn’t having a fantastic time.

Miserable Poet’s Cafe is the brainchild of Bill Jones, a chap who has an uncanny knack for making people laugh by being relentlessly miserable. He’s run several now, and their popularity is increasing as ever more people want to come out, not just to share their woes, but to listen attentively to other people’s. Why? Why would a person choose a night of misery over something fun?

There is a common humanity exposed by sharing stories from our worst times. Last night we had teenage diaries. I didn’t contribute from mine, but hearing other people’s, I realised I was not the lone freak I’d previously assumed myself to be. I listened to tales of pain and breakup, bereavement, madness, sickness, abuse and loss. We share these things. Sooner or later, all of us are touched by one of the many things that can go wrong for a person. Seeing our suffering reflected in other people’s poems, we can each feel that bit less alone. We can recognise the commonality of experience, and that makes it easier to be gentle with ourselves, and see that behind other people’s cheerful exteriors, all manner of grief may be lurking.

A poem calls on the writer to put their pain into a coherent form that can be shared. That in itself is a process that can be cathartic, and bring fresh insight. The sharing can be an act of release, having it witnessed can help place it in the past and draw a line under it. Finding out that other people understand can lighten the load, make it easier to help each other, make it seem less shameful to admit failure and shortcomings. We can laugh in recognition, we can laugh in relief. We can hurt together, and at the same time be comforted by the sharing of hurt. We can applaud each other for finding powerful, well crafted ways of making hurt intelligible to others. After an evening of that, you don’t go away depressed, you go away lighter, and feeling less alone.

I’ve discovered, in the last few years, that I absolutely love making people laugh, and if I can do that on a stage and hear the laughter, that’s even better. Comedy can work very well in darkness, it can feed on disaster. I remember from college a quote that went “Comedy equals tragedy plus timing.” It may have been Woody Allen. Being able to frame tragedy so that it becomes funny, is an incredibly effective thing. It can give back a sense of power and control, it can restore a person, it reveals the vulnerabilities we all share, and provides a coping mechanism. If you expose your sorrow, you can share it in empathy, and sometimes in laughter, and both are really helpful.

All for the giggles

It’s hard to ignore politics right now, given the kind of shit politicians are inflicting on us. The only thing that reliably enables me to cope with being at all politically aware, is satire and comedy. The news Quiz on radio 4, The Now Show, anything Mitch Benn sings, the Daily Mashup… It is all so much more bearable when you get to laugh at it regularly.

There’s a power in laughter. To laugh at the vile and disgusting things people in authority do, is to reclaim something. To laugh is to have some freedom still, some fighting spirit. Laughter means you aren’t beaten yet. It is so easy to be beaten down by the woes and wrongs of the world into a state of apathy and despair. Laughter is an antidote to this. It keeps us alive, alert, feeling and it reduces the squashing.

Sometimes it is bloody hard to laugh. Those are also the times when the skills of the comedian, are at their most critical. It’s when we are howling that we most need to be able to follow that with something else. And when there is no way of making a joke out of the latest god-awful policy, it is worth finding something else to laugh at. Giggling is good for the soul. It is a gentle erosion of self-control, a release of tension, a reminder of how and why to love each other.

I have two ports of call now when I need cheering up. I go on youtube and watch Ylvis videos. Their Stonehenge song is an especially good antidote to anything maddening going on in the Pagan community. A little light ridicule of the overblown that resonates in so many ways.

I also indulge in Professor Elemental videos. http://www.youtube.com/user/iammoog is a good place to go. A man with a rare knack for making things funny. Even on really bleak days, he can usually make me laugh, and I treasure that. A friend with a sense of humour is a very good sort of friend to have.

I spent the first thirty odd years of my life believing that I had no capacity for comedy. I became, due to circumstances, a person who did not laugh much. One of the surprises about spending that first week with Tom (more than four years ago now) was just how much we laughed. Around him, I became someone who could joke and play. We play a lot. Giggling has become part of my life, and that’s a big improvement.

I’ve made a conscious effort to try and get more laughs into my work. On the fiction side, it’s becoming easier. I think even when the content is serious, throwing in the odd giggle helps. There’s only so much seriousness a person can take in one go, the relief of laughter makes it possible, oddly, to handle more of the dark stuff.

As I trend towards the end of this post, I’m conscious that it should have a punch line. A lack of forward planning on my part there…  which rather goes to demonstrate there’s actually nothing less funny than talking about laughter. Go and giggle at something else. Tomorrow there will be a song, all being well, and you can snicker at it.

Comedy for Druids

Comedy often has a political dimension even if it’s not ostensibly about politicians. You can subvert and undermine with laughter, draw attention to issues, and raise awareness. This is the kind of work we might want to associate with the Druid satire tradition. Such comedy is a means by which those who have little worldly power can call to account those who have a great deal of power over them.

There is another kind of comedy. It is used by the powerful to crush the less powerful, through mockery, ridicule, stereotyping and misleading. It is used as a cover for hate speech and prejudice. I am seeing this online a lot, and it troubles me greatly. Abusive, humiliating and cruel, hate speech is easily framed by joke shapes. Object, and you will be told that the problem is you, for having no sense of humour. Feminists who object to rape jokes are told they have no sense of humour. “Just a laugh” is used to excuse reinforcing the idea that women are inherently inferior, that it is ok to judge women purely on looks, and all manner of other unsavoury things. I’m prepared to bet that other groups subject to hate speech also have to endure ‘jokes’ that aren’t funny.

The first rule of comedy is that it should get a laugh. Lines like “You’re so fat and ugly” are not innately comedic. Using words like ‘lame’ and ‘gay’ as criticisms is not ironic, or clever, or funny, it’s just lazy language use that needlessly reinforces prejudice. I’ve seen far too much of this. If you are using comedy to attack someone who has less power than you, then you’re doing it wrong. If you spot someone making gags of that shape, it’s worth calling them out. The point of satire is to keep the powerful in line and civilised, not to bash the disadvantaged.

Calling out unfunny bigots who claim comedy as an excuse for airing their hate, is not a safe or easy business. Expect to get a dose of it too. If you say “that’s not comedy, that’s racism” to someone online, then a response like “you’re an ugly bitch who can’t take a joke” is likely. Probably even if you’re a guy. I think guys who challenge are more likely to be told they aren’t ‘proper men’, that they must be ‘gay’, have a vagina, or otherwise not be macho enough to laugh. Hate pedlars come in both genders, and will justify and defend their hate without a second thought. Usually by giving anyone who questions it a thorough dose of their poison. If you’re calling someone out, you have to weather this. Take it personally, and they will call you weak and ridicule you, while their prejudices go unchallenged because they can avoid taking you seriously. I can’t say reasoning with the unfunny brigade works, but if you try it, do it calmly, without anger and without resorting to hate speech yourself. There are forms of sympathy that can get under people’s skin. “I really feel sorry for you. Life must be pretty grim if this counts as funny. I’m guessing you aren’t a very happy person.” A ‘poor you’ approach can confuse, challenge, break down defences and leave no room for a really angry comeback.

Refusing to get the joke is an interesting strategy for dealing with the unfunny. Even good comedy suffers when you have to explain it. Play clueless, and try and get them to explain to you why the ‘joke’ is funny. There’s nothing like having to break it down and expose the core prejudice to make it clear to someone exactly what they are saying. Conveying the idea that it doesn’t work as a joke helps reduce the incentive to keep pedalling it.

People use comedy to draw attention to themselves, and to show off how clever they are, in part. Failure to get a laugh, drawing the wrong kind of attention, or getting feedback that tells you that no one thinks you are clever, makes trying to pass hate speech off as humour less appealing. If the aim of being unfunny is to make sure that you are the aggressor, not the victim, getting laughed at is not the outcome you wanted.

It’s one thing laughing at the foolish things people do. It’s another laughing at the things people have no control over. Laughter that deflates arrogance is a good thing. Laughter that crushes the vulnerable, is not. Far too many people either do not know, or do not care that there is a difference. We need a culture shift, to which end it may be productive to start laughing at the people who are not funny, rather than laughing with their hate speech or being silent in a way they will understand as tacit support.

Official book release day!

Although Intelligent Designing for Amateurs has been available in the UK for a couple of weeks now, this is official release day, and amazon.com will now let you get paper copies. http://www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Designing-Amateurs-Nimue-Brown/dp/1780999526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369989320&sr=8-1&keywords=intelligent+designing+for+amateurs (and just to confuse everyone, is now saying the release date was the 16th May. Go figure!)

Just to tempt you a bit, here’s one of the bits that owes a lot to revival Druids. It was whilst reading Ronald Hutton’s ‘Blood and Mistletoe’ that it occurred to me that actual history of revival Druidry seems a lot like a Monty Python sketch, with the costumes, titles, claims of ancientness. Which led me to this…

The parlour was overfull of familiar and overdressed women when Justina and her mother were shown in. She looked around despondently, taking in the grotesque excess of decoration on women far too old to carry such girlish extravagance. They clucked and preened like so many hens, the bulk of their skirts filling up the spaces between closely packed items of furniture. Why it was felt desirable to squeeze so many warmly dressed people into such a confined space, Justina had never understood. It was one of the features of her life that had greatly hampered her social development – she simply did not enjoy being pressed against a large number of other people in the confines of heavily furnished rooms.

A gentleman with exceptional moustaches leapt at once to his feet. He appeared to be wearing a white night gown with rather elaborate embroidery at the collar and cuffs. Seeing him only increased the terrible urge she had been feeling to scream, and run away. Before she could plan an escape, Mrs. Easlefeet hurried forwards to make introductions.

“Ah, my dear, my dear, I must present this young lady to you,” she began.

Justina loathed her for that. The person of greater social status was asked first, and she could not, possibly, be of lesser consideration than a man who went about in public in a nightgown?
“This is Justina Fairfax, dear Elizobella’s daughter. Justina, this is none other than the ArchDruid Henry Caractacus Morestrop Jones!”

As Mrs. Easelfeet continued with an incomprehensible list of further titles, ArchDruid Henry indulged in some complex hand maneuvering and offered her his services.

“Founder of the Brotherhood of Restrained Enlightenment, and current leader of the Truly Venerable Order of English Druids,” he added.

Justina took a few careful steps backwards whilst saying, “How charming.” She had only encountered Druids once before, at a meeting of the Society of Archaeology an Antiquities. A lecture about whether the Romans might have constructed on Stonehenge had been disrupted by a man, dressed entirely in clothes made from the skins of very small mammals. He had entered without invitation, stood upon a table, waved a sword about and made a wholly unfathomable speech about classical geometry at ancient sites.

Just as she as paused to flee this current scene of dismay, Mrs Fairfax commenced exalting Justina’s many virtues as an antiquarian scholar. With her reputation the new topic of conversation, escape seemed less appealing.

“I myself have a great interest in the ancient times,” the strangely dressed man announced. He had the kind of voice that would even whisper loudly. “The Truly Venerable Order of English Druids has written records going back to before even the Roman invasion. Our oldest manuscripts are known to be the work of Taliesin himself.”

He paused, and Justina knew she was supposed to be impressed by his claims. Certainly such documents had the power to re-write English history, and that made her very suspicious. It was amazing how many bored gentlemen and obscure vicars turned out to have ancient manuscripts stashed in their attics.

Intelligent Designing

Dear everybody, I have a slightly mad fiction thing out at the end of the month. To which end I will be doing a slightly crazy thing tomorrow to help people notice it. If you would like to get involved with the crazy thing, the information is all at the bottom of this post. But, before you rush off there, please do pause for a moment, because what comes next is the opening of said book, Intelligent Designing for Amateurs.

Chapter One
Anthropological observations of the curious habits of personages native to Barker Street

Hopefully there would be dead people next door. That would liven things up tremendously. Ever since the new tenant was first mentioned, Temperance had been trying to imagine what an archaeologist would look like, and had become stuck somewhere between the beard and the muddy boots. Granny said an archaeologist dug things up, which had formed most of her impression. Temperance had never encountered an actual archaeologist before, and until recently, hadn’t even met the word in person. It was one of those large, pleasing, hard to spell words that she liked to roll around in her mouth. There were others. Obsequious. Crepuscular. Epigrammatic. Meanings did not always excite her young mind, but a word that came with a person had more appeal. Granny told her something about digging up iniquities, or possibly aunties. Antimacassars? Digging up definitely suggested mud, and led Temperance to think from there about the likelihood of dead people. Dead people went into the ground, so it stood to reason they could come out of it again. What else was there to unearth aside from coal and ore?

“Nothing at all like a body snatcher,” Granny had insisted, when the subject came up at breakfast, but Temperance wasn’t sure. What else would anyone want to dig up, really? Treasure might be nice, she supposed, but that seemed more like pirate business.
Still, having a new neighbor would cheer the whole street up. The bigger, separate house next to their little terrace had been empty all winter. Seeing the dark windows at night always inclined her to feel sad.

“How’s that sweeping going, then?” Granny demanded from inside the house.
The sweeping had not, in fact, started, the girl having entirely forgotten about the broom in her hand. Pushing curls of escaping brown hair out of her face, Temperance surveyed the twig strewn path to her grandmother’s door. Sweeping seemed so pointless. The wind would bring it all right back in no time. She sighed heavily, feeling very sorry for herself.

Before she could start on the job, the sound of hooves and wheels drew her attention to the street again. All of the delivery people had already done their rounds for the day. Horse-drawn vehicles were otherwise unusual here. The inhabitants of Barker Street were all very decent people, but not equal to carriages, excepting for weddings and funerals. Temperance loved funerals, but the approaching wagon lacked the plumes and splendid display of misery. Instead she saw a neat little trap, followed by a heavily loaded cart where a great many things were piled up behind the driver and passengers.

With a little squeak, she dropped the broom and ran to the garden gate. Then, because she did not want the archaeologist to think her childish, she slowed down. Walking in what she hoped was a dignified way, she soon reached the next property just as the tired horse came to a halt.
The person inside the trap was carefully helped down, and then approached the front door. There was no beard whatsoever, and no obvious signs of mud. Perhaps there had been a mistake? The trap itself took off at a jaunty speed. Temperance wondered if this was the archaeologist’s wife, come on ahead to make their new home nice. The man himself would probably be in a hole full of bones at this very moment, Temperance reasoned.

One of the men got off the cart. He had wild hair and a big coat. On the whole he seemed a better candidate for the adventurous life, and Temperance watched him expectantly.
“All to be unloaded here?” he asked the woman.
“If you please.” She nodded to the girl who was sitting on the cart. “I assume you can find the kitchen, Mary?”

The girl nodded and hurried inside. The two men set about unloading items of furniture from the cart and taking them into the house. Temperance felt rather puzzled by all of this. There weren’t any bones being unloaded just usual, household things. Unless the bones were in one of the tea chests. She supposed that would make sense, even if it was a disappointment.

“Hello girl,” said the tall woman, with an accent that clearly came from another place.

Temperance had spent hours planning how to make her introductions to the new neighbor. She had already established herself as being absolutely essential to Charlie Rowcroft, Barker Street’s resident inventor. Now, she meant to impress the archaeologist, or for that matter his wife, with her clever, useful nature. Thus, she would gain free access to their home as well. Staring up at the new arrival’s face, she couldn’t remember any of the planned speech and found herself instead saying, “Have you got any dead people?”

Now available for pre-order here –
http://www.amazon.com/Intelligent-Designing-Amateurs-Nimue-Brown/dp/1780999526/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368608170&sr=1-1&keywords=Intelligent+Designing+for+amateurs and no doubt other places as well.

So, here’s the planned silliness. Reblog the post, or post the pre-order link and let me know. I can spot a reblog pretty easily, otherwise tag or message me on facebook, @brynneth_nimue on twitter, or drop an email to brynnethnimue at gmail dot com. I will then write a limerick or silly verse about you, and post it wherever the link went. That could be slow and messy with Twitter, but we’ll do what we can…

Magical reality bubbles

Reality is how we make it, and that’s never more obvious than when a group of people undertake to make a new one for a little while. I’ve done pagan events, folk festivals, re-enactment, and now steampunk. With enough people, a good setting and a little time, it is startlingly easy to break out of normal, consensus reality, and be something else. It rather flags up how delicate the conventions of the consensus really are.

Coming back down after an event is something I’ve always found hard. The bumpy return to normality, putting away the costumes, remembering not to act like I’m still inside the reality bubble.  Every time I go through it, I’m aware of how much I don’t want to make the journey back. I want to spend my whole life being a steampunk-folk-pagan-druid-author-etc. I don’t want to live in the ‘real’ world, it’s far too drab and depressing. The flip side is that I need to eat, and I don’t actually have the nerve to wander the supermarkets in any kind of regalia, and I certainly couldn’t cycle in it.

It’s an ongoing issue for Druidry that, without the context of Celtic society, there’s only so much we can revive. This weekend got me thinking about the first lot of revivalists, the sheer creative craziness of Iolo Morganwg and his contemporaries. As far as I know no one is currently doing Steampunk Druids. I ran into the 3rd Foot and Mouth Battalion, the Tea Army, airship pirates, all kinds of lovely, crazy folk. And then at his gig on the Sunday night, Professor Elemental announced a desire to become Lord Summerisle.

What would it be like to have a wider social context for Druidry? There’s no scope for recreating Celtic society, but… Steampunk is very much a heroic culture, so that’s a start. It values creativity, this is no bad thing. It does have a kind of warrior class. Some of the core components are there.

What would it be like to revive the revivalists, to play shamelessly with all that is silly about the history of modern Druidry and at the same time, to be entirely serious about the Druidry?

I have absolutely no idea how this would work or whether there would be enough interest to do anything entertaining. However, there’s three of us here, including the boy, and Lord Summerisle, and by historical standards that certainly is enough to found an order. We need an ancient history, the more ridiculous the better, and the more random famous people we can attach to it, the more accurate a revival-revival it would be. We also need a pretentious and inaccurate name, and once we’ve been going about a week, someone needs to hive off, claim even more ancient and prestigious origins and found a new one.

I also propose that only people who know nothing at all about actual Druidry should be given big and shiny titles. This would be funny, for one thing, and might appeal to folk like me who deeply resent structure, hierarchy and whatnot where it exists to fuel self importance rather than to get a job done.

If anyone would like to join me in making a little bit of crazy reality bubble, do say. We can have competitions for the best beard, and everything!

Laughing at Religion

Humans use comedy and laughter in many ways. We do it to deflate tension and mask fear, to mark boundaries of who is in and who is out. We do it to deflate ego and tackle pomposity. Laughter is the only weapon, sometimes, that the disadvantaged have against the powerful. It can be tremendously subversive, but also culturally bonding. Laugher is dangerous, so how we relate it to that most serious of subjects – religion – is an interesting question.

It is natural to fear ridicule, and as religion tends to be very personal, the mocking of religions can translate into the mocking of the faithful. Where the humour is about pointing and laughing at the silly people, this can feel alienating, and like your most sacred things are a joke to others. Pagans get a lot of this, in the media. This is in part because we look different and are an easy target, a bit like morris dancers. I happen to think most men in bells look silly, but I love morris dancing nonetheless. That which is funny adds colour to life, which is a good thing. I think the pointing and laughing is good, in an odd way. All religions are prone to pomposity, which is inherently foolish, and to costumes and rituals that become all about show and lose their substance. The laughter of irreverent outsiders can do a lot to keep us focused on what really matters, and to keep us honest.

Really good comedy depends on insight. I am better placed than a non-druid to make druid jokes, because I know the silliness we, and our ancestors of tradition get up to. If I use it for comic effect, I may do something productive. Jewish culture is full of jokes about Judaism and Jewish people, offered in a self-depreciating way to the outside world. That fascinates me. I have learned from it, and the main effect has been to improve my understanding and respect. I am aware that jokes about Islam result in death threats, sometimes. This makes me wary of comedy about Islam, but if we ever get the equivalent of ‘The Imman of Dibley’ onto the TV, I will know that a wonderful, cultural revolution has occurred. Irony, parody, and sophisticated word play comedy depend on knowledge, and on the audience knowing as much as the jester. To be jokeable about, is to be understood, at least a bit. The day I hear a mainstream comedian making cracks about Druids, is the day I know the world is really taking us seriously.

Where laughter is shared,, groups and individuals bond. Laugher breaks the ice, breaks down social barriers, and a shared joke gives common points of cultural reference and a sense of belonging. Jokes within a community, about itself, can therefore be important markers of belonging. Religion serves a function in terms of cultural belonging and a sense of place. Laughter and comedy have a role to play in that, and if we resent the giggling at sacred things, the shooting down of sacred cows, the laughter at expense of doctrine and leadership, we miss out. It is healthy to make jokes about religions. Fearing laughter is not healthy, I think.

Challenges to faith are not a bad thing. When the laughter comes from the outside, that can feel like an assault to pride, dignity, and all that we value. But like anything that tests us, it also gives us a chance to walk our talk. For me as a druid, the tradition of satire is an important one. If someone makes a joke at my expense, or the expense of my faith, my religious position is to try and come up with a better one, or a stronger way of laughing back. Each religion has its own ways but I have no doubt each can contribute to how we handle laugher coming in from the outside.

Laughter, when it hits hard, is the most amazing loss of control. It’s also more socially acceptable than a wild excess of weeping, or lust, or anger. When laughter takes hold, tears stream, bodies rock, motor control goes. Extreme laugher makes us weak and vulnerable, in a physical sense. We can therefore only do it when we feel safe. It takes us out of ourselves, something is broken down when we are overcome in this way. I believe that laughter, like all other powerful emotional events, has the potential to be a religious experience in its own right. Why should all religion be po-faced and melancholy? Surely god can be as present in a giggle as in solemnity?

The sacred is bigger than us, pretty much by definition. The only things we hurt with laughter are fragile, human egos. If there are gods, they are not human. Mostly, we do not laugh at the gods, we laugh at the strange things it occurs to people to do in the name of deity. Sometimes we laugh because that’s better than weeping. When we laugh, we are human. When we laugh, we are not killing each other. Warm hearted laughter is not the beginning of aggression. Hate is a cold, and joyless thing and those who hate will find it just as intolerable to face the gigglers. If we can laugh at ourselves, and the things we do, the odds are, we aren’t going to kill anyone, and given the history of religions worldwide, that would be a good development.

Laughter Power

Laughter is magic, medicine, self-defence and power. Perhaps this is why satire was considered the provenance of ancient Druids. But no matter what form the humour takes, being able to laugh is a potent thing.

There is a theory (I think it harks all the way back to Freud) that we laugh to cover fear and social embarrassment. Perhaps so. Laughter can diffuse embarrassment, or heighten it, depending on how it’s used. To be lost in laughter is to be beyond fear. Laughter can take us into a strange, out of control place, children go so easily from there to tears. Adults in extremis can too. Sometimes there isn’t much difference between the two, for both are cathartic.

If we can see the ridiculous in something, then is has far less power over us. J.K Rowling was onto something with her spells to get rid of certain unpleasant entities. If you can look your fear in the face and find some way of laughing at it, you will not be overwhelmed by it. When it comes to dealing with other people, laughter takes away the power to intimidate.

I remember a violent girl at school who started hitting one of the geekier boys. He laughed at her, kept laughing through the blows. She became increasingly confused, angry and finally distressed. In the end she gave up. She’d hurt him physically, but had lost because nothing she did could defeat his laughter. That’s not an easy thing to pull off.

When we believe others are more powerful than us, and we take them seriously, then we give them far more scope to do us harm. If we can laugh at their insane ideas, laugh at their assumptions, we will not be ruled by them.

Just the act of laughing makes a person feel better. It is a release, it warms us on the insides. Laughter helps with bodily healing. Oh for a better memory that could quote you studies and statistics, but it does. Unhappy people take a lot longer to get well after illness. Comedy should be available on prescription. Sharing laughter affirms bonds of community, reassures us that we belong. We are on the inside of the joke, and therefore on the inside of the group. That can mean some people pick on others, creating an outsider to joke about so that group cohesion can be held. I’ve had people try and build relationships with me around ridiculing someone else, and it’s nothing I like or would encourage. Relationships and communities that depend on laughing at someone else have no integrity or durability. It is better to be able to laugh at yourself, and at the sheer ludicrousness of life. The best kind of laughter does not reduce anyone else.

Laugh with your friends. Laugh at your enemies because nothing will reduce them in the same way. Laughter is power. The person who still knows how to laugh has not been defeated and if you can keep your sense of humour, you can keep everything else in perspective.

According to Woody Allen, comedy is tragedy plus timing.

According to my tutors at college, way back when, comedy is the hardest thing to explain. There’s a wonderful mystery to laughter, a glorious loss of control and a sense of freedom that comes with it. There are so many reasons to be able to joke and giggle in rituals, to be able to break down into laughter, bubble over with mirth and bask in the chaotic mayhem of the ludicrous. Sometimes, to be able to take things seriously it is vital not to take them seriously at all.