I’m one of those people who needs humour in her life. “Need” implies actively searching for comedy, animations, sketches or other humourous material in literature and on the internet. But I’m selective, there is little that I find genuinely funny. I like trenchant, black , sarcastic and penetrating wit with aspects that show real insight into the workings of the human mind, daily life and the absurdity of it all. It has not always been like this, I may have entrained myself from my gothic days when life was black.
I count mostly French and US and some English humour to my repertoire. Let me be more specific, I prefer Wallonian humour over strictly French humour, and have recently discovered French-Canadian humour with an animation series called Les Têtes à Claques. The Quebecois accent in itself is just so funny that it takes little to crack me up. I don’t understand absolutely every episode due to variations on the thickness of the accent, especially when the concept is entirely centred on Canadian culture, I loose the plot.
A couple of days ago, late at night, after a long day of writing, I turned to the Les Têtes for my dose of daily humour. Indeed, it is that much part of my life, the consumption of humour is yet another point for investigation for another time. Here I want to share my latest revelation. I like “aha” moments, even if they are painful like this one. In fact so painful that I must write it out because I have been noticeably grieving about the loss. That is to say my mind has been actively trying to convince me that my “aha” moment was not what it seemed – so lets continue.
After watching the latest episode of Les Têtes – oh I don’t remember maybe for half an hour or so, it was really time to stop and go to sleep. Then there was this moment, as I was reflecting on the last episode, where it dawned on me. Everything I had watched that night and thought of as extremely funny was essentially highlighting abusive situations. I could barely admit it to myself. I mean I often pick out, especially from stand-up comedians, specific belief systems e.g. when male comedians have a perspective on how women should look and act or make derogative remarks I will catch it. In these situations, my feminist conditioning rises up and I turn the damn thing off, how dare you perpetuate us as weak, sexually exploited sex!
But here it was entirely different. I sat on my bed, completely baffled, how could I have not noticed that all this time that I have been watching Les Têtes -or other humour in the same vein- that I was laughing at typical scenarios of abuse? Even if the abusée and abuser were only enacting a scene that emphasised how everyone is compliant with the system; even if exaggeration renders oh-so-funny daily encounters apparent to us living as slaves, trapped and confined by our own making – I acted in full participation by supporting this re-enactment, serious or not.
Then I asked myself isn’t most humour abusive? Isn’t all humour hooked into polarisation of good and bad, power and no power, have and have nots? Isn’t all humour playing off emotions? Maybe not all, maybe someone like Carlin is “correct” humour. But what about someone like Daumier who actually helped the “common” folk by illustrating atrocities of the bourgeoisie in a humourous and subversive fashion? It was a useful tool at the time, it was powerful social criticism full of abusive scenarios…. hmm. I don’t have an answer. Can something be useful when in essences it is abusive? Is tagging it useful not just an excuse to perpetuate the same path? It is after all our conditioned mind. Yes, it is and there is no way around it.
If I’m totally honest I felt a sense of loss, my mind has been busy trying to convince me that it’s not such a “big deal” that humour is “just” expounding the human condition rendering it from the latent to the obvious for out benefit and so on. But I know it is not. If every breath, every movement makes a difference to whether I stand or fall, than how can there be something “not relevant”? My humour “need”, dare I say it, is an addiction- a mind trap.
The overarching question that arises stems from the fact that if I have not noticed the abuse in humour – how delusional am I? Maybe I should just stop worrying about being delusional in some areas, and recognise that all of me is delusional- and that this process of becoming self is at first aiming to make holes into the delusional fabric of my mind. Then, in essence, what I have seen here is just that – a rip in the fabric.