Drew Lynch is a stand-up comedian and became famous across the country in 2015 when he received the Golden Buzzer for his performance on America’s Got Talent. Drew did not have aspirations of becoming a stand-up comedian. He moved from his hometown in Indiana to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to pursue an acting career. The thought of becoming a stand-up comedian was far from his career path in life. Drew was in a softball accident at the age of 24 that resulted in a life changing event – an unending, hopeless stutter. His dreams of ever becoming an actor were diminished as his stuttering made it difficult to communicate with people. With the help of his friends’ encouragement, he rebounded to use his disability performing stand-up comedy and making people laugh across the country.
According to early theorists, society may have found this type of humor unethical due to Drew’s style of comedy, which entails ‘making fun of’ everyday situations that a disabled stuttering person may encounter. Everyone is different when it comes to comedy as what some people find funny, others may find it offensive. Thomas Aquinas tells us we are in need of humor and relaxation in moderation and balance. (Morreall Page 34)
Aquinas was one of the few early philosophers to see value in the mental side of humor. Today people across the country pay for a stand-up comedy performance as a way to relax their minds and unwind. On the other hand, Plato (428-348 B.C.) stated that laughter originates in malice. According to him, we laugh at what is ridiculous in other people, feeling delight instead of pain when we see even our friends in misfortune. (Martin, Page 32).
In the history of understanding humor and what circumstances make people laugh, theorists and researchers focused more on the ethical behavior of humor rather than the emotions that underlie it. In today’s society, humor and laughter are seen in varying degrees, but all humor is seen as healthy reactions and encouraged by psychologists for our mental health.
The Relief Theory arose in the eighteenth century, alongside the Incongruity Theory in competition with the Superiority Theory (Morreall, Page 15). In Drew’s stand-up comedy acts, the use of the Relief Theory is seen by the building up of excitement. As you are listening and watching Drew in his act, holding your breath as he desperately tries to take in his own breath to get out his next vocal, all of a sudden, he comes up with a ‘quick wit’ that makes his audience burst into laughter. Herbert Spencer and Sigmund Freud revised the biology behind the Relief Theory with new elements of their own.
The excess nervous energy that is relieved by laughter, according to Spencer, is the energy of emotions that have been found to be inappropriate. (Morreall, Page 15-16). Morreall describes this theory otherwise that laughter is released as a normal human reaction, rather than from the engineering and mechanics of what makes people laugh. Drew inherently makes his audience laugh through his humor, which would mostly be classified through the incongruently theory.
Drew Lynch’s comedy acts also makes you think of Robert Latta’s Relaxation Theory. This could be combined with the above Relief Theory. Latta’s theory notes that we are in constant state of readiness. We, as the audience, are listening to Drew Lynch talking in an unrelaxed state and then all of a sudden there is an obvious cognitive shift in our emotions and burst with laughter. The exaggeration in Drew’s comedy produces that cognitive shift.
In Plato’s Superiority Theory, laughter was seen as an emotion that overrides self-control and some were disturbed by some forms of humor. This type of Superiority Theory is inverted in a sense as Drew Lynch is the subject of his humor and is disabled; laughing and poking jokes about his disability while connecting with his audience with everyday situations.
The Superiority Theory is defined as laughter at the misfortune of others. For example, Drew uses his stuttering disability to ridicule himself as if he were hired as the GPS voice in a car. Drew capitalizes on his disability in an exaggerated way of giving somebody directions – with many disruptions in his unusual slow rate of speech, repeating every consonant – and in the end of giving the directions, he (the GPS voice) tells the driver to make a u-turn. The audience bursts into laughter.
The superiority theory is seen as Drew making the audience laugh as he’s disabled and obviously would not be a preferred candidate for the ‘GPS Voice’ in giving somebody quick directions. Not only does this example display the superiority theory, but the incongruent theory of this humor is felt. Human natural instincts would make you believe his qualifications for being a GPS voice in a car obviously would not a good fit with his stuttering disability.
Today, Drew practices his comedy traveling to cities with his stand-up comedy shows. As mentioned, the incongruity theory is realized in many of Drew’s YouTube videos of live performances in various cities. Being a stand-up comedian and having audience interaction is always risky and welcomes unrehearsed consequences from the audience.
In one of his shows, Drew had a drunken heckler that wouldn’t let him finish the show. Drew turned this humor as an unexpected twist of humor as part of his comedy in his show. Aristotle may have shown an early sign of the incongruity theory of humor, finding that the best way to get an audience to laugh is to set up an expectation and convey something unpredictable. With Drew’s live appearances there is an undoubtedly spontaneous and an unpredictable performance which is a display of the incongruity theory.
Experiencing and explaining humor to someone should be a simple task – but in reality, the theories behind the characterization of each theory are quite different and focus on different aspects from the type of humor that presents itself.
In conclusion, it’s hard to fathom the trauma Drew experienced beyond the physical, emotional facets and how one would connect with others. And yet too easily we dismiss how these events alter and shape a person. People across the country people are engaging in Drew’s ability to bring attention to the topic of stuttering. Drew found his pursuits to make a positive platform in comedy while overcoming diversity and sharing lots of laughter as a stand-up comedian.