I watched a ted talk called “Comedy is translation” and essentially the thesis was that comedy shares with all other forms of communication that it translates.  Instead of translating unrecognizable sounds into coherent sentences, “Comedy travels along a distinct wavelength from other forms of language” which causes us to “circumvent our ingrained perspectives”.  In other words, comedy forces us to look on the world with different eyes.  It takes common experience and presents it to us in a form of trickery which concludes in us seeing something entirely new from a commonplace occurrence.  He gave the example of a cartoon which was instrumental in climate change.  In the cartoon a scientist is giving a talk and lists things that can be expected as a result of a proper reaction to climate change.  They are energy independence, preserve rainforests, sustainability, green jobs, livable cities, renewable, clean water and air, and healthy children.  Someone in the crowd yells out, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”  This cartoon gained prominence among advocates of green practices.  The cartoon also demonstrates what bliss is attempting to say, namely, that comedy controls the thinkers stream of thought in such a way that there is no choice but to arrive at an issue or event from an entirely new direction.

Bliss also explains that comedy uses “deliberate misdirection” to coerce an audience into a new view on issues that typically are identified by being contentious.  Issues like race and sexuality often are surrounded by walls and unwelcome to judgment or questioning, but Bliss explains that these are the areas in which comedy succeeds precisely because it can subvert those barriers.

I think that Bliss has an extremely compelling thesis, and I would have to say that I agree with it.  I was recently talking with friend about how I love standup comedy and apart from the obvious enjoyment of the laughter, I also find that many comedians can be extremely insightful.  Even more than that, Bliss explains that jokes carry a multiplying power that leaves them rippling through social circles and communities without the slightest effort.



3 responses »

  1. brookeparker16 says:

    I really like the idea that comedy causes people to accept issues that they might not normally bother with. This is the complete opposite of the scare tactic where governments and big people attempt to scare people into believing or reacting to certain issues. Although I will admit that I can see the benefit of the occasional scare tactic, I think a better and happier approach would be through comedy.

  2. Jordi says:

    Well, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are two of the most insightful voices on our current political and media. Their use of comedy and satire seems essential to redirect our attention away from the spin and “jetstreams of bullshit” (to quote another comedian, Larry David) to the deeper truths about the use of power and language to shape the perception of reality. Oh, I am listening to him. He just brought up TDS.

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