As the government announced in 2010 that they were going to assess the gross national happiness of England and Wales, I do admit, I laughed! How on earth were they going to measure that? Don’t get me wrong, national happiness is very important, and the idea of a Department for Happiness would definitely help cheer up the ministerial cabinet, but I am scared that this kind of assessment will turn happiness from a delightful phenomenological experience to a deeply meaningful form of statistical assessment to help justify the needs for local services and benefit entitlements.
I am guessing it would not matter if you were poor, homeless and in ill health, as long as you were happy, it would be all OK. To be honest though within minutes finding such as self-assessment letter being pushed through our letterboxes, the inner cheat within you will want to rate your happiness ‘as low’ or ‘near suicidal’ so that you can once again get your bins collected on a weekly basis, as your local council try everything to cheer you up.
So what is happiness? Now there’s a big question….one which is up there with the meaning of life? Happiness appears to be a word that seems unique to each and every one of us, but for arguments sake I will say that happiness is broadly to do with an inner most feeling of content and comfort in your own space, time and relativity.
Comedy on the other hand seems easier to define; it is a universal language that relates the experience, pedagogy and phenomenology of your everyday life to a thematic conflict resulting in a happy outcome. Such conflicts could be bizarre, elaborate, satirical, hilarious, slapstick, painful, stupid, funny, improbable or even an amusing reflection upon yourself, a process to tickle your grey matter.
Imagine if? Did you see? I’ll tell you a story about….are common starting phrases for comical stories. But comedy does not have to be restricted to stories, events or scripted texts, they can also appear in your everyday life, in your mind, and these are often the best kinds of comedy. Picture this, every day you get up at the same old time, get into the same old car, take the same old route to work, stopping at the same old traffic lights, to arrive at the same old office to be greeted by the same old office stationary, how depressing! However when your boss walks in the office, trips over your colleagues laptop cable, and his drink lands all over Pat the cleaner, whom happens to be retiring that very same day, this is comedy. An instantaneous break from the mundane, in this case a sudden thematic conflict from your everyday routine causes a moment of inner laughter, closely followed by a nasal sneer as you attempt to control the external laughter, followed by a burst of noises from your cavities (and yes and this does include farting for some). These moments represent a signal from the spirits above that life is worth living, and that your day isn’t that bad after all.
And whilst identifying a philosophy of comedy may seem unjustifiable, or immeasurable, very much like the aforementioned census data for gross national happiness, these studies should be taken more seriously in academia and beyond, as laughter does seem to enhance and improve people’s lives. Now I’m not suggesting that we bring humour to the school curriculum or that jobseekers should write jokes whilst their out of work, however I do feel that the areas of comedy, happiness and laughter should be investigated further.
Another important relationship that exists closely to topic(s) of happiness, humour and comedy are the close relations between them and social interaction. On many occasions when you meet a friend, or go to the pub for a pint, there becomes a point in the night, after the boring ‘hello, and how are you? what you doing?’, that you want to make each other smile and laugh, there appears to be a two way catalyst between laughter and friendship, like two peas in a pod, which is very hard to describe but seems very deeply rooted into human relationships. I mean don’t get me wrong, if you meet a friend at a funeral, the last thing on your mind is to crack a joke about dead bodies [although I have witnessed this], but even on these sad occasions a little smile can help cure the mourning process, and help to reinforce your friendship.
So you may have some knowledge about Freud’s and his psychoanalytical analysis of inner most desires – the relationship between what you think? what you think you should think? and what you actually do in response to that thinking? – In short the ‘Id’, ‘The Ego’ and the ‘Superego’. Well I propose that everyone also has a comedy Id, Ego and Super ego.
You want to laugh …you know you can’t at this precise moment …but your dying to laugh, the horrible gut feeling of laughter you get whilst sat in silence during a church reading, the moment you see someone walk down the street towards you with toilet roll stuck to their foot. In short a little Tommy Cooper sat at the bottom of your stomach tickling the insides of your stomach with mini feather duster.
Predicted outcome of giving into your Comedy Id = Loud unexplainable burst of laughter…WARNING this kind of laughter can be dangerous and hurt peoples feelings.
You’ve seen something or thought of something funny, now it’s time to make it funnier, in your mind your thinking, smirking, predicting, formulating. A mini Robin Williams running around your brain fishing for ideas, bouncing off your scull, picturing a scene, creating a dialogue, constructing your very own thematic conflict.
Predicted outcome of giving into your Comedy Ego = Your shoulders may start to shrug, nose may start to twitch, eyes may water, internal giggles, twitching lips, and possibly even external laughter.
Now it’s time to share your story, decide whether or not it was an internal joke worth keeping catalogued at the back of your brain, or whether it is a joke worth telling. Get it right you can expect a crowd of laughter, get if wrong you could expect tumbleweed to pass by your feet. The Scriptwriter, the performer, the face, the showman, a miniature of a Peter Kay hiding between your front teeth, waiting to tell the world about your humorous moment.
I am suggesting we all have an ability to be funny, to understand comedy, humour, happiness, it just depends how aware and well trained your Id, ego and super egos of comedy are. So keep you brain active, your diaphragm exercised, your jawline oiled and get to work on those comedy muscles within.
“I don’t care who you are or where you are from you need to put the apples to one side. A laugh a day keeps the doctor away.”