The production of laughter (Mado)

In regard to what Henri Bergson has said about laughter in his book “Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic”, I would like to compare his ideas to a Youtube series called Bad Joke Telling and especially focusing on episode 3 of the season.

Bergson raises two very good points in his analysis of laughter. First of all, he talks about the absence of feeling accompanying laughter “Laughter has no greater foe than emotion”[1]. Secondly, he defines laughter as a reverberation and he seems to believe that in order to appreciate the comic, the comic needs to be shared. Laughter is not something that can exist in isolation.

In my opinion, these two points seem to define the comic situation in episode 3 of Bad Joke Telling. The episode features three battles between 2 opponents each time. They speak in turns as the challenge is to make each other laugh. Bergson discusses the absence of emotion which I would characterize as the main method used in Bad Joke Telling. For instance, before the battle begins, both of the participants are seen to breathe out heavily and straighten their faces in order to concentrate on the game. It would seem like they are preparing themselves to be devoid of any kind of emotion that would make them vulnerable to the situation.

Bergson also describes laughter as a “reverberation”[2]. In Bad Joke Telling, most of the jokes are moderate in terms of their comicality. Yet, there are some jokes that will make one break down. For example, in the first battle, one of them asks “What’s brown and sticky?” Silence helps a lot in building the momentum of each joke. The same person replies, “A stick.” The moment one of them bursts out laughing, the other one joins in even if the joke is not that funny. Laughter is an echo[3], as defined by Bergson, that can be transmitted instantly.

Evidently, in this fast pacing world of digitalisation, the production of laughter seems to be timeless.


[1] Henri Bergson, “Chapter 1”, in Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic, (London: MacMillan, 1911), 4

[2] Ibid., 5

[3] Ibid., 5


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