The language of laughter

“Neither of us would ever die of love, we will grieve, part and separate.  For we were not meant to be tragedians.  We were meant to be comedians.” –  Graham Green, “The Comedians”

I have always wanted to write something that will make Graham Green laugh.  Much of today’s laughter is tickled by comic situation, punning or repartee.   Humor has its own merry laws but is an end in itself.  The human comedy is a picture of people, of life and truth, that it delivers so gaily with smiles, guffaws, chatter and belly laughs.  It is washed down with occasional sighs, moans and tears.  Now isn’t that its own justification?

Face to face with foibles and incongruities of people, comedy shows the nimbleness of wit that arouses laughter.  The jokes, the quip, the human characteristics exposing its vagaries and drolleries disguised as irony, as satire or caricature, in a gallery of human folly.

Comedy has many faces, but if there ever was one tongue everybody in the world could understand, it was the language of laughter.  It brings joy and tears, groans and chuckles, tangled up like a ball of thread after a playful kitten gets through with it.  One moment it ripples joyously, only to be suddenly muted by a wistfulness when humor turns mean and cruel.

Humor in the role of the comforter? It is a very old practice. When you’re hungry, sing loud, if you have a good voice.   If that voice is awful, sing even louder and get even with God!  In times of loss, you laugh in order to give yourself the courage not to grieve.  You shed a tear or two because the human comedy is no laughing matter.  When it’s distilled with pathos, laughter achieves a balance of sanity. It gives one perspective and a view out of chaos.

While wit is sudden and startling, it is also usually scornful, as it leaps audaciously.  Wicked humor is said to be slower, rarely malicious which does not fly to assault the mind but laughs its way into the heart. Satire is probing and critical, cutting through pretension with quick corrosive acid, its purpose is coldly destructive.

But humor seldom analyzes.  It is simply warm and sympathetic, playful, sometimes high-hearted, sometimes hilarious.  Unlike the poisoned barb of satire (like Oscar Wilde), and the killing point of wit (as was Winston Churchill), humor is healing.  It is not only wholesome but recreative and rejuvenating.  It makes us smile, giggle, shriek or laugh incessantly. You know with the range of pigeons cooing to a lunatic having a seizure.

Yet, could it be otherwise?  While people can laugh easily at the absurd, the pretentious or even the mean, why are they hardly likely to be sent into gales of laughter by the sincere, the upright, the noble?

Virtue is no laughing matter.

Jokes work if they are funny and fresh and they could make a comedian of anybody.  The laugh getter is always appreciated.  But I’ve been advised to stick to my amusing little comments.


E-mail Mylah at [email protected]

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