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No laughing matter

A study shows that humour is actually an act of aggression. Let’s see who has the last laugh now.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2009 19:47 IST

One way for us humble hacks to overcome the slings and arrows of outrageous, in our case non-existent, fortune is to have a little fun at other people’s expense. Hence, the institution of this editorial space. Now it seems that even our attempts to raise a few laughs are fraught with ominous implications. A German study shows that humour is not meant to lighten the atmosphere but is an act of aggression. Which means that if you ever had a chuckle over some of our offerings, it is not that we intended to tickle your funny bone. It was to show you who’s the boss around here.

Men, says the study, crack sexual jokes to put women in their place and women rarely crack jokes in front of men. So, in effect, humour writers like the incomparable Art Buchwald, comedians like our perennial favourite Groucho Marx were disagreeable curmudgeons who were actually trying to stick the knife into us while making us laugh. We’ll just have to grin and bear it, we guess. Trust the uber efficient Germans to take all the fun out of life. They certainly have ways of making us balk. But to look on the lighter side of things, if humour is a way of venting one’s frustration, it’s certainly a darn sight more enjoyable than a slanging match or fisticuffs. It could, in fact, change social interaction as we know it.

So when you want to lean out of your car window and question the genealogical antecedents of the road hog in front of you, perhaps you could just crack a joke about his receding hairline. It may prove injurious to your health, but you’ll have had fun in the meantime. But, remember the next time some one cracks a joke at your expense, don’t lose your shirt. Just come up with a funnier one about him or her. And we say this with a straight face.