Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What, Me Worry?

What, Me Worry ?

My wife says I have a weird, warped sense of humor. “Sick,” is the word she often uses. Although I enjoy mainstream forms of humor, I must admit I have a particular fondness for humor that cleverly exposes in an off beat way the ridiculousness of much of our world. For example, I am an avid fan of the very deranged mind of Gary Larson, creator of the comic strip Far Side , and as a substitute now that Far Side is no longer published as a regular strip, the work of Dan Piraro in Bizarro . These guys are crazy. And very, very perceptive.

Satire and parody are good, too, because they can show the fundamental silliness of our culture in a humorous way, particularly those aspects of culture we hold near and dear. American television news programs are certainly deserving targets of satire and parody, both in the topics they treat and the manner in which they treat them. John Stewart’s Daily Show and Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report do very well at humorously exposing the shallowness and recursiveness of American media. When I watch these shows I become all the more convinced that the news coverage offered on major media sources in America is shallow, incomplete, and distorted. I thought that without watching Stewart and Colbert, but they allow me to laugh about it instead of just being depressed.

One of my favorite places to get a fix of “sick” humor is The Onion . A feature of the Onion that I just recently discovered is a collection of videos that parody tv news coverage of various topics. The difference between these videos and similar features on the Daily Show and Colbert Report is that the Onion reporters play it absolutely straight and the format is exactly the same as mainstream news coverage. But boy is it funny – in a weird, warped way. Two of the videos I particularly like are the High School Tony Awards (e.g., the Award for Best Stage Lighting of a High School Gymnasium) and the report entitled “Bush Tours America to Survey Damage Caused by His Disasterous Presidency” . Hilarious... but sad, too.

Some years ago my students produced some insightful analyses of how humour can illustrate certain Social Psychological principles. These analyses are still available on the web . Of course, when you analyze humor it really isn’t funny anymore.

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