Theories of Laughter and Comedy – Part 1

Lots of people have tried to write the theory behind laughter or explain what it is that makes us laugh. No one has succeeded. I will try to list and explain a few of them here under. We have already talked about Bergson and his mechanical view on laughter and Comedy.


One theory that is fairly spread is about incongruence. It is about how we discover an incongruence that makes us confused, since it shakes our concepts and thinking patterns and how we get an insight that makes us realize how our old concept and the incongruence can connect . We discover, we apprehend and we decode and categorize our stimuli.
The decoding and categorizing is necessary for our understanding of the comedy itself, so we don’t feel discomforted or become scared instead of laughing at it. If we don’t understand the concept or what concept the incongruence violates, we cannot understand what is funny.
Here we can see how the comedy that provokes the laughter also is ambiguous. The relativeness relates to Bakhtin’s ideas about laughter and ambivalence and how laughter can disarm the objections even from the very powerful.

Another theory that goes as far back as to Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) is the theory of degradation. The theory says that we laugh at things like incompetence, shortcomings, lack of morals, beauty, and common sense and so on. Fallibleness is the stimuli where it is taking down its victim while it triumphantly marks the superiority of the joker.


This theory is closely related to ideas about the destruction or dethronement of the old man that Anthony Caputi writes about. It is close to disability humor and schadenfreude as well.
We can even laugh at our own shortcomings. Then we either make ourselves the victim before our laughing audience or we rise above our own faults.

There are more theories in PART  2

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