Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Humor in Tragedy? Should We Use Humor In Sad or Serious Writing?

by CWK

             A humorous slant to a severe circumstance may not be as inappropriate as it sounds. First, such a slant dignifies the reader. It takes great wit to “get” an elevated conceit. Second, serious applications can be drawn from humorous material, and if the application might offend, humor makes it more palatable.[1] Furthermore, in certain circumstances, humor may be necessary to defend the reader from utter darkness and despair. Putting a slight comical slant can make tragic events, otherwise unbearable, a little “lighter” – a little more bearable. A comical slant can also give the listener a break from traumatic material, or a rest from serious and weighty material.
            The fact is, we can only take so much sorrow without breaking. The insertion of comedy gives us room to rest, and room to breathe happier air.
            Not to mention, many of the great preachers in Church history were known for their ability to pepper serious discourses with humor as a way of keeping their audience engaged. Humor is artistic, actually. It contains the power to delight and engage the weary, and those with short attention spans. Charles Spurgeon was well known for this, and one whole chapter of his autobiography is dedicated to “pure fun.” 

[1] Dean L. Yarwood, “When Congress Makes a Joke: Congressional Humor as Serious and Purposeful Communication,” International Journal of Humor Research. Volume 14, Issue 4 (Nov. 2004) pp. 359–394; Joan P. Emerson, “Negotiating the Serious Import of Humor,” Sociometry, Vol. 32, No. 2 (June 1969) pp. 169-181.

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