The right use of humor

This summer, we’ll be contemplating humor at the CiRCE conference. It’s easy to struggle with the use of humor because it’s so easy to abuse it, to substitute sarcasm for irony, abuse for satire, cruel pranks for slapstick. Consequently, we can sometimes wonder if maybe humor isn’t destructive. Or maybe it’s even the result of fallenness. We’re going to try to figure out if maybe humor is in fact related to our sense of justice. Maybe humor is a key apologetic for the natural law.

Certainly one use of humor is to bring down the high and mighty and to reveal con men. I never saw the show, but I read the following quote about a South Park episode and how it explosed the folly of one of America’s most embarrassing realities.

American popular culture makes a running joke of Smith’s 1827 claim to have discovered golden tablets containing the history of an Israelite migration to North America including a cameo appearance by Jesus Christ. Thanks to the animated satire “South Park”, Americans know that Smith “translated” golden tablets that no-one else could see by looking at “seer stones” inside his hat. That is the power of mass media; one half-hour cartoon can undo the work of a million missionaries.

So humor, handled properly, can serve justice. But it’s easy to see how false analogies can apply to other spheres, so one has to be careful.

If you are going to be funny, you are going to live dangerously. The main virtue of the comedian is, I’m certain, courage.


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