Humour An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Project
Humour seems to be an essential feature of human life. It is not just about jokes but a way of looking at the world. Individually, it is beneficial to health, relieving negative energy and invigorating the mind and the body. Socially, it is an indicator of frankness and sociability. Economically, it generates communication, improves teamwork and increases efficiency. Politically, it is an important form of protest and disobedience. Historically, it has proven to be a powerful weapon in times of crisis. And it can be wielded negatively, as a weapon or entrée into dark social arenas such as racism or hatred.
Possibly the most popular form of humour is comedy. In the 21st century the entertainment industry has expanded significantly in what some see as the pre-planned ‘professionalisation’ of humour. Television shows explore situation comedy, stand up comedians attract huge numbers to live shows. Humour is carefully channeled, calculated, designed to evoke or provoke laughter and in the process reveals important differences between the two. The ability to provoke laughter, provide amusement or find humour in situations is common across cultures and societies, even though humour works in different ways and on different levels: age, education, gender, ethnicity, space and place all play a part in the things people find funny.
But humour appears in many forms and styles, including absurdity, banter, buffoonery, burlesque, comedy, derision, facetiousness, farce, foolery, irony, jocularity, mimicry, mockery, parody, puns, ridicule, sarcasm, satire, scorn, slapstick, spoonerism, taunts, tease, waggishness, witticism. Sometimes it is positive, sympathetic, or constructive; other times it can hurt, harm and damage. It can be playful or serious. It can be an act of resistance or outright rebellion; it can be inappropriate and uncontrolled. It can be repressive or subversive, self-deprecating or ironic.
No matter the form or shape it assumes, humour has a number of functions. It can send a message, reveal something new about an otherwise unquestioned event or situation, or about ourselves and our worldview. Through surprise and contradiction, humour can shift the ordinary into the extraordinary, break taboos, transgress boundaries, or call into question our otherwise steadfast beliefs. And while many of its functions are positive, humour can also allow individuals or cultures to elide disturbing facts about social inequality, ignore or downplay injustices and perpetuate stereotypes. Not infrequently, a form of humour more akin to aggressiveness, that incorporates malice, can be used to cause intentional harm, shame and exercise control. Essentially, it can be a technology of power, providing an avenue for expression of prejudice, bias, and bigotry.
The inaugural meeting of this inclusive interdisciplinary project will seek to map the way humour works at all levels and begin to ask why we laugh, how we laugh and what purpose humour serves, with a view to forming a publication to engender further collaboration and discussion. We aim to bring together participants from a wide range of disciplines, professions, and vocations to create a unique, interdisciplinary event that will explore the serious topic of humour in all its wondrous forms. Our goal is to examine the intersections between humour and the human, and to look beneath the surface and beyond the laughter to examine the reasons why we laugh and why we respond with humour to persons, events and situations.
Some of our suggested issues to be approached include (but are not limited to):
- Humour to human: theory of humours, theories of humour
- The archaeology of humour and laughter: from ancient times to the new Millennium
- Humour and pain, humour and death: laughter as therapy
- Humour in times of change and conflict: acts of resistance
- Humour and the city: do cities have a particular sense of humour? what are the differences between urban, suburban and rural humour?
- The language of humour: from traditional jokes to high-brow intellectualism
- The humour gap: gendered versions of funniness
- Laughter in the classroom: humour in educational settings
- Humour in performance: theatre, cinema, stand-up comedy, television, music
- Humour in folklore: trickster figures and fictional characters
- Entertainers in time: clowns and harlequins, pranksters and jesters, comics and comedians
- Borders of humour: dark humour, horror humour, crude humour, toilet humour, off-colour humour
- Humour – levels of acceptance in science, business, politics, religion, architecture, gastronomy, etc.
- Completing our five senses: how to develop a sense of humour
- The English sense of humour: understatement, euphemism, self-effacement
- Globalisation of humour: traceability and translatability
- The present status and future prospects of humour