First of all laughter is the actual bodily expression of joy, comedy and humor. It is what it all strive for.
Laughter is the bodily expression of nervousness, confusion, embarrassment or tickling as well, but that is not our concern.
Laughter is always a human, collective occupation. We always laugh at other humans. When we laugh at animals or a formation in nature what we see is the human aspect in it, how it looks like human characters or humans in a situation.
We also always laugh together with other people when we laugh, sometimes indirect – as when reading a book alone, watching TV or seeing something funny on the street or in nature – but nevertheless it is always in relation to other people real or fictive. One laughter can provoke others to laugh, as in the theatre where it is so much easier to get a big crowd to laugh then just a half house.
We sort of hide in the crowd of laughing people. There in the crowd we forget ourselves in the laughter of the mass. We forget our mortality – oblivio mori.
But we I talk about laughter I also talk about the laughing culture, emerging from the Renaissance and Middle Ages, which Bakhtin were talking about. Here laughter is much more a view on the world seen from the common people and therefore it the essence of Vulgar Comedy. It is the carnivalesque feast as paradigm.
It is a laughing culture of resistance. It is satire; it is ridicule; it is slapstick; it is the cartoons on Facebook; it is punks, hippies, indie kids; it is jesters and jugglers; it is ritual celebrations. It is the resistance that fights the power with a laugh that never trusts the seriousness of the powerful. It is a culture that always knows that the serious authorities from above always wants something from you and a culture who’s weapon is laughter.
The laughing brings the common people together. It creates an understanding of the world seen from “the other side”, the unofficial side, from Commedia dell’Arte through Chaplin to the Occupy movement.