Henri Bergson’s Ideas Applied to the Golden Globes Monologue of 2015


After closely examining the Henri Bergson essay, a few key concepts stood out to me that I wanted to explore in a deeper context as compared to the Golden Globes Opening Monologue of 2015. The cycle of laugher is explored in a most fascinating way. In many contexts, like standup or improv, jokes are written from only the “comics” perspective, and performed to what Bergson would define as an “absent-minded audience.” The material presented is often not targeted at the audience specifically, as comedians often rotate out audiences nightly; appealing to a mass crowd.

However, in this clip, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have prepared material for an incredibly specific few people about an incredibly specific few people. Playing into Bergson’s idea that comedy must “refer to the customs and ideas of a particular social group.” One of the first jokes made is about Oprah Winfrey, a world icon and entertainment entrepreneur. Fey says “Oprah Winfrey is here tonight… and she has put a cranberry candle under all of your seats.” This joke  could only be considered funny, or have “social signification,” under the assumption that everyone in the room is familiar with Oprah’s day-time talk show. Another example of this catered joking is the description of cake and birthdays; within the context that no one eats carbs in Hollywood or admits to their actual age. The audience is mostly made up of Hollywood’s truest elite, while honoring their achievements in the entertainment industry for the year. So in some ways, this event needs to appeal to only this very small crowd and no one else. But it has the added layer of being televised for mass consumption. The jokes need to play off of the celebrities in the room, while also being applicable enough to cater the general public.

Another fascinating realization, in context of the reading, was the idea that laughter is a “circle.” The room this event is held in is actually shaped like a circle, and when examined close enough, the cadence of the jokes caters to the circular motion talked about.


Bergson, Henri. “Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic.” Google, The Macmillan Company, 1911, archive.org/details/laughteranessay00berggoog/page/n8

One comment

  1. I found this part of the article very compelling and I really appreciate that you found such an excellent example of the comic appealing to a very particular social group. Another example that comes to mind for me is the question and answer session they did at the SNL 40th anniversary.

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