Close

Humour
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Project

including a workshop by Clown Doctor and Fools for Health Founder Professor Bernie Warren

Saturday 9th March 2019 – Sunday 10th March 2019
Prague, Czech Republic


ABSTRACT AND PAPERS


On Humour and Personal Identity: Existential and Political Implications
Shimon Azulay
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Key Words:
Philosophy, personal identity, political sphere, laughter, existential, conflict, worldview, totalitarianism

In one of his remarks, the famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s asserts that: “Humour is not a mood but a way of looking at the world. So if it is correct to say that humour was stamped out in Nazi Germany that does not mean that people were not in good spirits, or anything of that sort, but something much deeper and more important. (Wittgenstein/culture and value)

In this article, I wish to reveal what is this something that is “much deeper and more important.

First, I will try to characterize and define what is humour and what is the process involved in interpreting a certain situation as a humorous situation (it can also be the interpretation of a joke). Part of the philosophical method I will use is analyzing the concepts that stand in contrary to the concept of humour. We will see that this analysis will have some important consequences on the understanding of humour itself.

In the next step, I will examine the following question: why are there cases in which we are not laughing while encountering a humorous situation or a joke? I will try to show that beyond the cognitive failures that can prevent the laughter, there is a much important and deeper dimension derived from personal identity.

The characterization of this dimension will be possible by noting two types of identity that exist in each person and build the fabric of his life. Note that the two identities sometimes contradict each other, but we cannot abolish one of them and they must co-exist. I will show that humour is the mechanism that enables them this co-existence. I will show that there is a deep and strong connection between an attempt to erase one of these identities and the absence or removal of humour from the public and personal spheres. This will show the hidden connection between the humorous and the political.

In the last step. I will show the existential importance of humour based on the dialogue between the two types of identity.


The Second City is No. 1: Urban Humour in America
Angela Sleeter 
Independent Scholar

Key Words:
Humour, Urban, Chicago, Second City, Improv, Comedy, City-Specific Humour

In his poem Chicago, Carl Sandburg describes at length the dangerous and sordid conditions of the city of Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. Back-breaking work, extreme poverty, rampant squalor feature heavily in this snapshot of the midwestern city in 1914. And yet, by the end of his poem, Sandburg has used some form of the word “laugh” almost a dozen times! Laughter in the face of back-breaking work. Laughing through the grime, through the hunger, through the cold.

Chicagoans have been known for their sense of humour ever since journalist A. J. Liebling derisively called it “The Second City,” and a local comedy troupe launched an entire improv scene from that jibe.

Despite extreme weather, corrupt politicians, and an entire season called “Construction,” Chicagoans are always ready with a joke, a bit of improv, or a self-deprecating remark. In 2014, the Humour Research Lab (HuRL) in Colorado named Chicago the funniest city in the US, followed by Boston, Atlanta, D.C. Portland, and NYC.

What is it about cities that creates a specific type of humour? Is it in the ethos of the town? The personalities of the people? The quantity of comedy clubs and improv stages? The number comedians who call it home?

This paper/presentation will explore the concept of humour in American cities, how city humour differs from humour in more rural areas of the United States, and what criteria must be met for a city to be considered funny. Using Chicago as a specific case study, we will explore how “The Second City” has developed over the last half-century to be the Number 1 influence on American comedy culture.


Humour as an Indigenous Practice in Healing
Vasudha Prakash
Delhi University

Anugrah James
Delhi University

Key Words:
Humour, Resilience, Emotional Regulation, healing, recovery, traditional humour, pain tolerance, cognitive shifts, contemporary healing system

Healing is a recovery from traumatic events. It involves resilience and strength in the face of despair. Less attention has been directed towards use of humour as both, a traditional and contemporary intervention in healing, in countries more than one. This paper aims to understand the influence of humour in healing, especially resilience and emotional regulation. We studied various types of native humour which were used as protection from uncertainty and disaster in various parts of the world. The paper highlights the evergreen effectiveness of humour in increasing pain tolerance.

Objective: To describe the role of contemporary humour in determining resilience and emotional regulation amongst youth and to elaborate on the ancient use of humour as a healer.

Sample: Delhi college students ranging between the age group of 17-22 years. We used various scales for a multidimensional assessment of functions of humour which are relevant to healing. The quantitative tools of research were- The Humour Styles Questionnaire by Martin (2003), the Brief Resilience Scale by Gross and John(2003) and the Emotional Regulation Questionnaire by Smith and colleagues(2008).These were used to study the use of humour by college students in Delhi and its influence on recovery. The qualitative tools used were semi structured personal interviews with participants high on humour in order to understand the benefits of humour.

We hope to portray humour as instrumental in creating cognitive shifts and healing emotional wounds. We believe that the results will help affirm the need to incorporate humour in the contemporary healing system.


Pain, Humour and Vulgarity: Transgressive Performance in Contemporary Shona Funerary Rituals
Ruth Makumbirofa
University of Zimbabwe

Key Words:
Pain Humour, Vulgarity, Funerary Ritual, Transgressive Performance, Subaternity, Therapy, Trauma, Sahwira

This paper discusses pain and humour as an underlying theme in Shona funerary ritual and how it is appropriated by subaltern groups as an expression of power and truth. The paradox of performing and playing out dramatic scenes of a deceased person’s life at a funeral space is a consistent feature in Shona funerary ritual. From a traditional context of the Shona people in Zimbabwe, we note the institution of a Sahwira (defined as the funeral or ritual friend), who is a half actor, performing the everydayness of life; a joker, facilitator and mediator; as well as a storyteller who would dramatise the life stories of the deceased in a comic manner. In like manner, contemporary funerary rituals amongst the Shona also exhibit thought-provoking usahwira acts (dramatizing life stories of the deceased) amongst marginalised groups. The contemporary funerals in question involve curious cases of societal deviant figures such the ‘prostitute’ and the ‘tout’. It has become ritualistic for such funeral cases to become spaces for protest through transgressive acts characterised by comedy, offense and subversive performance. Funeral spaces, which are sombre events, are ironically populated with acts of shock humour and vulgarity. This can be considered as a means to express power and truth amongst subaltern groups. The paper further interrogates the influence of such transgressive acts, whether they become traumatic or therapeutic? Could there be intersections with Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, conceptualised as having the ability to shock its audiences into deep insight and transformation of consciousness?


Humour and Buddhist Chan Eccentrics in Folkloric Narratives: A Case Study on Venerable Daoji (1130-1207AD) the Living Buddha
Lanlan Kuang
University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA

This paper explores the historical account and the contemporary revival of the legend and humour of Venerable Daoji (1130-1207AD). Known as “Jigong the Living Buddha” or “Ji the Lunatic,” the unorthodox Daoji was an outcast for his transgression of monastic codes but also one of the most prominent monk in China’s South Song Dynasty (960-1279AD). Eventually listed as the fiftieth greatest Chan Buddhist, Daoji was widely praised and idolized by the people as a powerful god that embodies justice even to this day. It was through humour, especially, that Daoji went beyond the boundaries of religious and social traditions in thought, speech and action of his time, and thus appealing to a great number and a great variety of people. Daoji and his humour became the center of various folkloric narratives that highlight the themes of independence and resistance. In this study, through textual and ethnographic analysis, I examine how Doaji the Buddhist Chan eccentrics and his sense of humour go beyond religious means and folk legends and is being built performatively into the modern re-imagination and revival of Daoji’s legend and humour.


Marching and Laughing Together: Protest Humour at Women’s Marches
Hermínia Sol
Poltechnic Institute of Tomar – Portugal

Key Words:
Humour; Gender; Human Rights; Resistance; Intellectual Disobedience

Humour’s dichotomous stance in society has long been acknowledged by academia. Simultaneously divisive and unifying, repressive and subversive, normative and empowering, humour’s many faces substantiate its versatility and subsequent appeal. If on the hand its regulatory and shaming function serves conservative and patriarchal ideological principles well, on the other hand it can also be used to challenge those same principles by often exposing them to ridicule. The depiction of Bret Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination by political satire programmes is an example of that.

Taking a cue from Marjolein’t Hart’s work regarding protest humour, this paper aims to contribute to the research being done on this topic. As such it will consider a set of humours signs and posters used at Women’s Marches held in January 2017 and 2018 in the United States, while attempting to dispute some enduring myths about women’s sense of humour and about their inability to produce aggressive forms of humour. Since none of the lines inscribed in the posters discloses authorship claims, this study will look into the role of social media in

turning them into what Susan Sontag calls “impersonal possessions”, thus fostering their circulation within the many marches that were held within the country.

This theoretical backdrop will also provide a context to evaluate the performative as well as empowerment potential of laughter-inducing statements in non-violent demonstrations, especially when promoted by grassroots movements. Still on this note, humour can be a strong allied in the development of a collective identity and, as result, in congregating wider support for causes considered non-priority. Bearing in mind the Marches’ emphasis on the Reproductive Rights as Civil and Human Rights agenda, women’s reappropriation of stigmatizing labels will also be considered here as evidence that humour can be a means of gaining control over one’s body and of opposing a culture of misogynist slurring.


“I’m So Angry I Made a Sign”: The Use of Humour in Protest Signs
Aileen L.S. Buslig
Concordia College – Moorhead

Anthony M. Ocaña
Minnesota State University – Moorhead

Key Words:
communication, protest, politics, humour, in-group, out-group, social movements, rhetoric, identity, differentiation, content analysis

Often thought of as a benign and even pleasant form of communication, humour can have many positive effects. For example, humour can increase closeness in our social and personal relationships. In mass media, humour may increase repetition of the message, increasing its persuasiveness. However, in his essay, “Humor as a double-edge sword: Four functions of humor in communication,” John Meyer (2000) argues that a single humourous message can simultaneously unite and divide its audience. Nowhere might this be more evident these days than in the posters that one sees at various social/political marches and protests taking place in the United States.

Meyer illustrates the dual function of humour in the rhetoric of U.S. presidents during the late 20th century. Similarly, the use of humour in political and social movements has been studied by several in recent years (e.g., Anagondanalli & Khamis, 2014; Hart, 2007). However, the use of humour on protest signs is relatively new; a somber tone typifies signs prior to the 21st century (Varol, 2014). Surprisingly, a study of humourous protest signs has not been undertaken.

The purpose of the current study is to examine how the use of humour on political protest signs is used to appeal to in-groups and enrage out-groups, creating stronger ties within, and conflict between, both types of groups. A content analysis of protest signs from recent protests in the United States was conducted, classifying the humourous messages using Meyer’s four functions as a framework for analysis.


Some Assembly Required: Do-It-Yourself Undead
Cynthia J. Miller
Emerson College

Key Words:
Frankenstein, horror, film, creativity, human agency, cinemyth, philosophy, Maker Movement

The classic horror story of Frankenstein’s monster teaches us that there is a reason why humans should never know “what it is like to be God.” The dangers of pride, shortsightedness, violating the boundaries between this world and the next, and using powerful knowledge for personal gain are overwhelming apparent.

And yet, we never seem to learn.

Time and again the tale repeats itself, and it seldom ends well: life is created from the midst of death, with devastating results. The Frankenstein allegory has been borrowed, mirrored, and adapted in numerous films, but a small cluster of these from the late twentieth century is of particular interest. Beginning in 1984, horror-comedy films such as Frankenweenie (1984), Weird Science (1985), Frankenhooker (1990), and Rock ‘n’ Roll Frankenstein (1999) all revisit the theme of creation, taking their basic plot lines from the original Frankenstein story. In each case, science—albeit bizarre, unfettered, shortsighted science—is used to create life, and the results form a cautionary tale about the limits of human agency.

Taken together, however, these contemporary adaptations of Mary Shelley’s classic tale do much more than lend new twists to a well-known plot. They wrest science from the hands of the specialist and place it in the hands of the “everyman,” claiming a power for the masses that is ordinarily reserved for a mere few. Manipulating the boundary between life and death is no longer the domain of scientific gatekeepers, but of grieving children, stricken lovers, ambitious students, and grasping promoters. The introduction of humor—from affectionate sight gags to cringe-worthy jokes—mediates both grief and the grotesque, and forms the foundation for delivering Shelly’s cautionary tale to new generations.

Laden with comic mishaps, each of these forays into do-it-yourself undeath democratizes re-animation, suggesting that the process is more dependent upon creativity than technical expertise, and offering an anarchic look at the outcomes of scientific power and privilege in the hands of everyday individuals. Utilizing scholarship on humor, social philosophy, the Frankenstein cinemyth, and theories of creativity, this paper will examine these freewheeling cinematic revisions of the Frankenstein story, considering both the urge to “create” and the comedy that ensues when fallible amateurs take life into their own hands.


“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease from pain”: Re-Envisioned Little Tramp Impersonations for the 21st Century
Lisa Stein Haven
Ohio University Zanesville

Key Words:
Celebrity impersonation, impersonator, Charlie Chaplin, Afghanistan, Uganda, Erving Gofman, Little Tramp, silent film comedy

Erving Goffman, in his seminal work Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (1974), suggests that the impersonation contract must exist between the celebrity impersonator and his or her audience such that the audience knows that the impersonator is not the real celebrity but buys into the performance anyway, through a suspension of disbelief that makes the interaction between the two a game. Two Charlie Chaplin look-a-likes, one based in Kabul, Afghanistan and one in Kampala, Uganda have done their utmost to take this old theory, meet its parameters and set it on its head at the same time.

The contract that Karim Asir (Afghani Charlie Chaplin) and Freddie Mulindwa (Sheriff NEXT Trouble) respectively seem to have “signed” with their audiences only requires of those audiences to buy into the impersonators’ performances as superficially or tangentially near or related to Chaplin’s iconic Little Tramp character as needed for recognition. What each impersonator is counting on is not his audience’s one-to-one correlation of the performance to Chaplin’s in the same persona, but for the audience to recognize the Little Tramp however obliquely and then to connect this appearance with commonly-held ideas about what the Little Tramp persona stands for—outside and beyond himself—ideas like anti-authoritarian pluckiness, the ability to overcome inadequacies like poverty, fear and social ineptitude, and an unbiased love and caring of those outside of himself. Using YouTube videos of performances, video and written interviews and personal correspondence between myself, Mr. Asir and Mr. Mulindwa, I hope to demonstrate what seems to be a new trend in Chaplin impersonation, one that utilizes the “silent” Little Tramp persona and his particular style of comedy as a vehicle to alleviate the constant tension of social and political upheaval in stressed locations, to model appropriate behavior in those same locations and/or to demonstrate convincingly that seemingly unbeatable odds can be overcome by the least “heroic” characters.


Theatre of the Absurd
Jerzy Igor Biechonski
-no abstract available-


Humour in Philosophical Style
Vlad Vexler
University of East Anglia

Key Words:
Humour, Philosophy, Self-awareness, Aspiration, Reality, Bernard Williams, Alasdair Macintyre

What is the place of humour in philosophical writing? I shall concentrate my answer on moral philosophy. Of the great philosophers, Hume, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and at times Plato, could be funny and serious at once. Contemporary moral philosophers rarely try their hand at humour. When they do, the results are often either quaint or facetious. As an antidote, I suggest the moral philosopher strives for an attitude of humorous self awareness. I bring my argument out as follows. (1) I air the ways in which philosophical writing may be unfunny or inadvertently funny. (2) I pick out two aspects of philosophical writing which ask for humourous selfawareness. (A) Philosophical writing will always be more personal than it seems, more bound up with the sensibilities of the author than it lets on

– a feature that is only dramatised when the writing addresses the world on a high level of sophistication. (B) Philosophical writing gives the air of a finality which it does not possess. Rather, it is closer to the paradigm of a conversation – no matter how brilliant, it could always have gone another way. (3) I suggest humourous selfawareness is needed to address the gap between aspiration and reality. For instance, when telling the reader that what she thinks is not what she thinks she thinks. (4) I illustrate my line of thought with two examples: one from the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, another from the work of Bernard Williams. (5) I argue the philosopher does not flatly insist on the sense of reality over aspiration. Rather, resistance to a sense of reality is to be recognised and embraced

– as itself a funny and serious affirmation of life. That is, in part, what it means for humorous self-awareness to pass from writer to reader.


Are Musical Experts More Likely to Appreciate Musical Humour?
Benjamin Lassauzet
GREAM, Strasbourg

Key Words:
Music, Humour, Wrong Notes, Experts, Experiment

Humour needs, in order to be appreciated, a kind of shared set of knowledge and mental representations between the producer and the receiver. This is particularly accurate in the field of musical humour, since music doesn’t necessarily lie on language but instead possesses a specific grammar and syntax that often need to be known in order for humour to be understood. If so, then it would be obvious that musical experts are the most able to understand and appreciate humour in music.

We conducted an experiment based on the recognition of wrong notes in 12 musical extracts (with or without humorous intentions), and asked 159 participants to choose whether they heard or not these wrong notes, and, if so, whether they were intentional (that is to say, humorous) or not. Among them, were 42 “experts”, whose answers were isolated from the rest of the sample to analyse the possible deviations. These experts were chosen among the participants who received an advanced training in musicology (at the University) and/or musical practice (at the Conservatoire).

The conclusions are puzzling, since the experts were actually less likely to identify the wrong notes in almost every musical extract. The possible reasons for this result therefore have to be questioned…


Absurd, Fantastic and Humour in Urmuz’s Bizarre Pages
Catrinel Popa
University of Bucharest

Key Words:
Absurd; Urmuz; nonsense; defamiliarization; humour; fantastic

The experimental prose written by Urmuz, the pseudonym of Dem. Demetrescu-Buzău (1883-1923), definitly represented a model for Romanian avant-garde movement, anticipating not only the surrealists’ iconoclastic fervour in blowing up all sorts of stereotypes, but also some of the main features of the so called “absurd” theater created by Eugéne Ionesco. With the latter Urmuz has in common the propensity towards dissimulating − behind an elaborate network of absurd associations and fantastic scenarios − the tragic consciousness of humans’ limited existence and of language’s limited powers.

In the present paper we set to reflect upon the affinities between humour and the fantastic in Urmuz’s “Bizarre Pages”, by analysing the particular modalities in which the writer succeeds in constructing (im)possible worlds, that entail various strategies of defamiliarization, including violations of current logic and of ontological expectations. After all, both, fantastic and humour, covey a similar sesnse of reality’s instability, sharing the same critical attitude towards the so called “real”, that they constantly try to reverse. A look at the literature written by Dem. Demetrescu-Buzău proves that the reverse side of the humorous mode and of the ironic enunciation is the anxiety provoked by the unbearable responsability of living.


“The Art of Losing isn’t Hard to Master”: Dark Humor in David Lodge and Emrah Polat
Nazmi Agil
Koç University / Sarıyer- Istanbul

Key Words:
Deaf Sentence, Alocu Tilki, deafness, spine damage, dark humor

The two novels Deaf Sentence by David Lodge and Alocu Tilkinin Serencamı (Adventures of the Telephoning Fox) by Emrah Polat tell about characters who suffer from poor health. The hero of Death Sentence is an aging linguistics professor who notices that his hearing loss is growing serious. Though he reacts to it with bitter feelings at first, we see that he soon manages to develop a healthier attitude towards his shortcoming. From then onwards we begin to read about the awkward situations he inevitably finds himself in. Polat’s hero, a telephone blackmailer, has to do deal with a far more serious problem. A spine damage falls to his lot and all the misfortunate operations that follow one after another. In these two books, what comes to the fore is the way the narrators talk about their ordeals in a humorous mood rather than in self-pity so that in the end we find ourselves laughing laugh at these two victims, who successfully portray in their own accounts, the absurdity of human suffering, similar to their forerunners by Voltaire or Becket. I will approach these texts from the perspective of “dark humor” and I believe, the fact that both writers lived through similar experiences as their heroes will add another layer to my presentation, that will thus introduce real-life examples to teach us how to deal with our own adversities.


An Evaluation on 19th Century Turkish Humour Newspapers
Aydan Ener Su
Republic of Turkey, Turkey

Key Words:
Turkish Humor, press

The beginning of periodicals on the Turkish humor that developed as an oral culture in the history of Turkish culture and literature is accepted to publish the weekly humor supplement (1870-1871) in 1870 by the name of Terakki, published by Ali Reşit Bey. The same year, the Diogenes of Teodor Kasap (1870-1872) is one of the cornerstones of humor journalism.

The years 1900-1928 are an important period in which there is a very active day. This period can be divided into four main periods: the last years of the Independence period, the Constitutional period, the National Struggle period and the first years of the Republic. Each period has experienced many different events and changes. The shaping of events and situations that period determines the turning point in Turkey’s history and conditions for the increase or decrease of humor newspapers and magazines has also been effective. When we group the years 1900-1928 according to important historical events, four main periods emerge as 1900-1908, 1908-1914, 1914-1923, 1923-1928. From 1900 to II. In the period from 1908 until the proclamation of the constitutional monarchy, 4 humor newspapers and magazines were published due to the effect of repressive attitude and censorship. The publication of 73 humorous periodicals is published until 1914. However, between 1914 and 1923, the number of humor newspapers and magazines fell to 23 due to the hard days caused by World War I and the War of Independence. Republic of Turkey’s founding in 1923 and the Letter Revolution made the transition to the Latin alphabet for the publication of the latest letter old newspapers and magazines published until 1928, it is seen that 17 newspapers and magazines of humor. Between 1923 and 1928, the efforts of the wounds of the war, the establishment of the new Turkish state, the impact of the process of getting used to innovations affected the number of humor newspapers and magazines. The aim of this study is to evaluate the humor press between 1900-1928.


(Sub)Versions of Power and Authority: Shifts in the Cinematic Symbolism of Senate House London in Mosley (1998) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Elena Nistor
The University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest, Romania

Key Words:
Art Deco, authority, humour, incongruity, power, Senate House

Senate House London has developed a particular symbolism in British culture and not only. From the very beginning its architecture has prompted undecided feelings, ranging from wonder and sympathy to disillusionment and hostility. Its dual perception was also nurtured by its turbulent history throughout the first half of the 20th century: as central library and administrative hub of the University of London for two years after inauguration in 1937, as headquarters for the Ministry of Information between 1939 and 1946, and back to the organisational structures of the University after the Second World War. Its oscillation between learning and propaganda, between scholarship and censorship (symbolically, between the unobstructed acquisition of knowledge and the suppressed communication of facts) has established its simultaneous reputation as a mega-structure of superpower and as a labyrinth of erudition. The strong cultural influence exerted by the majestic architectural structure located in the heart of Bloomsbury transcends the boundaries of architecture into cultural representation. British and American film industry has continuously revised the approach to the epic Art Deco building, fully exploiting its ambivalent symbolism. If many visual adaptations have perpetuated the idea of Senate House as a grim site of ultimate control, over the past decades the inflexible image of the magnanimous building has been lightened up by a tinge of humour that subverts the very epitome of repression and intimidation inspired by Senate House. The paper aims to trace the evolution of the cinematic symbolism related to the emblematic edifice in Mosley (1998) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014). The two films share an imaginative vision that highlights the particular spirit of the architectural masterpiece and provides an illustration of setting included in the story, with the location itself becoming a performer whose outstanding charisma complements the plot and the other characters.

X