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The Purpose of Comedy

Updated June 28, 2021
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The Purpose of Comedy essay

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Websters Dictionary (n.d.) defines comedy as a form of professional entertainment which consists of different jokes and sketches intended to make the audience laugh. Comedy serves many different purposes aside from humor, same as a speech or lecture, and not only evokes laughter but also promotes awareness of social topics through informing and educating its audience.

“Comedy can introduce people, social issues and new norms in non-threatening, “non-othering” ways that encourage identification and connection, rather than alienation. According to the parasocial contact hypothesis, based on the powerful “parasocial,” or pseudo, relationships we experience with mediated characters, exposure to positive entertainment portrayals of minority groups can decrease individuals’ levels of prejudice toward those groups. In other words, encountering social issues and norms through light-hearted entertainment and comedy portrayals can be a pathway to breaking down barriers to acceptance.”

“Comic and satiric theater have the same function – to ‘reform society’ – but there are several important qualitative differences between them. Comedy’s criticism of life emphasizes the human side of events and behavior, the good aspects as well as the bad ones. Satire, on the other hand, scourges certain events, sometimes with brutality, and emphasizes their negative aspects almost entirely. As to the preferred topics, comedy focuses on general human characteristics, such as miserliness, hypocrisy, and snobbery.

These are to be found in every society, and a humorous presentation of them speaks to everybody. Comedies, therefore, may readily be translated and acted in different countries without losing their relevance. Satire, in general, focuses on situations specific to a given society and period. To understand political satire, the spectator must know something about the political relations and economic background of the society in question. Hence, as a rule (if not always), satire can only rarely be transferred from one society to another.

The final difference to be noted here between the two concerns the world views that subsume comedy and satire. Comedy is basically optimistic, and it always has a happy ending. Since it criticizes general phenomena that are fundamentally human and ‘eternal,’ the writer of comedy does not expect that the subjects to which he gives a comic treatment will disappear as a consequence of this treatment.

He contents himself with showing what is ridiculous about them, in the hope that this will lead to understanding and perhaps a slight movement towards change. NBC’s “Yes Means Yes” episode of the Carmichael Show, according to TV Guide (2017), “delved into the complicated nature of consent and sexual assault in 2017. Maxine, played by Ashley Stevens West defends the idea that a verbal yes is mandatory from a woman before intercourse, whereas the remaining Carmichael family is at odds stating that this action is too confusing and unrealistic to expect from every sexual encounter.”

The importance of a verbal yes when consenting to intercourse would eventually become accepted at the end of the show after Carmichael’s brother is embarrassed when he chases down his one night stand to apologize for raping her, only resulting in humiliation as his love interest was only interested in him for the night and not a relationship, concluding that no assault had occurred. “At a time when critiquing issues can invite heavy backlash or create controversy, an increasing number of comedians are, in fact, choosing to layer their acts with social commentaries, in order to raise difficult questions or highlight uncomfortable truths.

Touchy topics like religion and politics, or issues that are usually brushed under the carpet in most Indian households (read: alternate sexuality, student suicide, marital rape), in fact, invite laughter and agreement on stage. Humour does the job of sugar coating the bitter medicine. It takes away the sting.” This past week I found myself glued to the television catching up on some of my favorite shows. One in particular, “Blackish” has always focused on important topics while providing a comical backdrop to its seriousness. For example, this week’s episode focused on the ever growing issue of “living while Black”.

Over the last couple of years, Caucasians and their calling the police on everyday, law abiding Black men, women and children has increased and has become one of the most talked about in media. This episode of Blackish focused on Andre who is the father and his youngest son’s love for dialing 911. “One night, Dre hears a loud party and he’s about to call the cops when he realizes the people partying are black. He can’t call the cops on them. Janine comes by after he gets home and asks him when they should expect the cops to arrive and he explains why he can’t call them. Things can escalate quickly when you call the cops on black people.

When she says she’ll call he warns her that she doesn’t want to be the next “Barbecue Becky” to go viral and she agrees that the meme life wouldn’t be great for her. Finally, Pops tells Dre he should go over and talk to the people partying and Dre does. It’s an awkward exchange with Dre trying to sound young and hip but the guys agree to turn the music down. As Dre starts to leave, however, the cops arrive in dramatic fashion. They jump out of their cars with their hands on their weapons and tell everyone not to move, including Dre.

When Jack tells Dre that he called the cops, he realizes that he never told his son about the consequences of the cops being called on black people. He explains that cops interact differently with black people, citing the example of the men who were arrested in the Starbucks and the Ivy League student who had the cops called on him for sleeping in a common area. Having seen his father sitting on the curb with the other black men when the cops arrived, Jack understood. The other people they had called the cops on hadn’t gone through that (Bibbins, M. 2017).”

“Humor provides a safety valve for the expression of taboo thought, especially those relating to sex and aggression. These are natural needs and tendencies that have to be socially regulated, but total suppression is unrealistic. In the same way that watching or participating in a boxing match provides a socially acceptable outlet for aggressive impulses, so humor is an arena for controlled release of impulses that are potentially threatening to civilized society.” This form of humor can be regularly seen in Showtime’s “Shameless”.

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The Purpose of Comedy. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-purpose-of-comedy/

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