Comedy vs. Tragedy

January 28, 2007

Sometimes, I tend to drift.. a lot.. isnt that the point of posting here? If I were to discuss the stuff I write here with any sane person, wouldnt they think “Pavan==insanity personified”. All of us have a Mask (ref: movie) like person hidden inside, who bursts out at various points/moments of life and in different ways. You see my other side here. So here it goes.

What is common between these: the famous Youtube video where a baby is trying hard not to fall asleep while sitting; Comedy central’s Daily show with Jon Stewart, Phdcomics.com toons, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, Tom & Jerry?

They are all comedies, right?

Think again, what else is common b/w them?

Tragedy.

Why so? How come? Whaaat?

If you notice carefully, comedy is not only that makes you laugh (though that being an effect), but it is also something that arises out of a tragedy. You must have heard this “Best comedies come to one’s mind when one is sad or in tragedy” (limits apply, explained below)

Comedy arises out of tragedy: 99% of all the sattires/comedies/funny things you come across falls into this definition. the rest 1% is PJs and misc. stuff. If you notice the list I was talking about, it is sometimes the victims that evoke laughter, and sometimes it is their helplesness/inability.

Watch any movie, the comedian is the one who is fat/bald/short.. Senthil-Goundamani or Iron Leg Shastri or Laurel-Hardy or Charlie Chaplin make you laugh on their inability to do something or the guffaws that they commit. It is comedy to us, but tragedy from their perspective.

Comedy is born out of somebody’s failure, or shortcoming. Comedy is born out of a mistake, an error, inability to understand a concept.. or somebody’s existing state of failure that evokes sympathy. Dont believe?

If Bush performed his job well, would Daily Show get a chance to poke fun? If Grad life was a bed of roses (with no thorns), would phdcomics.com exist? If all the offices were perfect, would Dilbert exist? If tom and Jerry “lived happily ever after”, would the series even exist? No, Tom is the scapegoat always, Brahmanandam has to get the kicks/jokes on his “beauty” or stature.. that evokes laughter.. but at the expense of degrading him.

The deviation from normal behaviour churns out comic material for others. Lack of sexual drive in a person is funny (many movies, like Aaru Pathivratalu, Apocalypto, etc.), and so is excess of it (Paris Hilton?); balding guys are funny and so are hairy-gorilla-like men, fat guys are funny and so are needle-like-guys who are fondly called as Arnold. Tun-Tun (Hindi comedian) is funny.. why? because we get to laugh on her obesity. It makes us feel better.

Blondes are nice to make fun of (for their dumbness), geeks are nice to laugh at (for their lack of social skills)..

If a person (say me) entered the Male restroom, it is just plain boring (though natural) but if I were to enter a ladies restroom by mistake, it becomes funny.

This makes us think. If comedy arises out of tragedy, then every tragedy should be comic, which isnt the case. Consider the Tsunami, or 9/11 or the Indian soldiers getting killed. It isnt comic in any remote sense.. atleast to the majority of us.. maybe the other side (Pakis/terrorists) pokes fun at that.. who knows.. so invariably comedy and tragedy are born out of one incident. they are just two sides of the same coin. One man’s tragedy is another man’s recipe for comedy. One man’s slip is entertainment for another. One man’s inability or lack of something brings elements of humor for another. There might be a limit or a fine line that differenciates when to and when not to laugh, but it is again relative and depends upon perspective.

If that is the case, then shouldnt comedy be redefined as “any deviation from normalcy”?

I am not ranting, but trying to find out what is it in the genes that make us like this? What must be the purpose? Make the inferiority-complex stricken people feel good? Help eliminate those who deviate from the society norms? there must be something that I am missing in the bigger picture.

PS: I dont know if this should be labelled under humor, tragedy or “bheja-fry”.

PPS: Some other thoughts invaded my 4 MB brain, more to follow later.

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15 Responses to “Comedy vs. Tragedy”

  1. Cinamon Says:

    Nice post… and true to a very large extent. But, its easier to laugh at someone’s simple problems like receeding hair or obesity. rarely would you find someone who makes fun of someones mental incapabilities or a spastic child. now these are serious tragedies… and no comdey there.

  2. shark Says:

    Not bad at all for a 4 MB capacity 🙂

    Somebody did say sometime back w.r.t to the “Big Brother” show, as to “How can somebody enjoy seeing other people being tortured?”.
    It is as though we are back in the roman era when a prisoner was brought in the ring with hungry lions and people watched him butchered alive!
    It was a form of entertainment for them. This is more a “modern” form of entertainment for us!

    You have raised a very valid point. I think we have been accustomed to finding pleasure in others suffering.

    Be it even sport of the wrestling kinds….

    I know I haven’t answered even one of the questions which you have raised. But then if only I knew all the answers! 😉

  3. Pavan Says:

    [Cinamon] “..rarely would you find someone who makes fun of someones mental incapabilities or a spastic child. now these are serious tragedies… and no comdey there.. toons like Southpark, Family Guy, America Dad do that.. though not in real life (but who knows?)

    [Shark] “Big Brother” is to make people feel upbeat.. that one wont stoop down to those levels.. give a false sense of superiority.. and given the levels of stress and high doses of unhappiness in today’s life, it is easiest for people to show such sadistic tendencies.. but this is inherent in the genes.. isnt it? comedy out of tragedy has been since time immemorial.. it is the purpose that is intriguing..

  4. Cinamon Says:

    thanks for dropping by. and if there are people making comedy out of such grave issues…. i guess there are biggertragedies of which i am unaware.

  5. Jo Says:

    nice post pavan !
    But remember that great comedians created humour by making fun of themselves and their inabilites(physical or mental).
    Coming to the question of why so?I guess anything out of ordinary is always…either humourous or dangerous ! And funny is always better than scary ! 🙂

  6. gorrepati Says:

    There is a reasonably accurate description and explanation of laughter by Dr.VS Ramachandran here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lecture1.shtml

  7. Apun Ka Desh Says:

    Well…

    Have you seen: ‘Just for Laughs – Gags’ – its a canadian show – where they create funny situations in real life.

    NOW – have you seen its equivalent one’s in MTV, Zee and others: MTV Bakra, and other such.

    The former is real comedy.
    The latter is sick – and its about creating comedy by embarassing others.

  8. Pavan Says:

    Jo, thanks! yes, great comedians and those who get along well in the society learn to laugh at themselves (it is very tough for those with ego)

    Gorrepati, nice link.. very informative, but his explanation didnt seem to answer my question in whole. His speech at IBM was awesome though..

    Apun-ka-desh, from the CBC.ca website: It’s simple: a camera, some clever practical jokes and a few unsuspecting “victims” and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for laughter. Do I need to say more? The prank might be silly, simple, unharmful, but yet there is a “victim” who has a “tragedy”. This isnt pessimistic view, but I am just dissecting humor.

  9. Ramanan Says:

    You are correct… more than extremities… it is our inability to make sense of the world around us that produces humour and laughter… laughter is one way in which we deal with the anxiety we feel about any situation.

    – Dave Barry used that… that is his explanation for a sense of humour.

  10. Gini Says:

    A very nice post Pavan. I had never thought of it this way but now that you have pointed it out, it is so true. It basically means that everyone is a sadist who gains pleasure from other’s sufferings. Really pathetic isn’t it?


  11. […] I guess this is similar to the theory that keeps people’s attention: anything that deviates from the expectability factor catches the eye and appeals. […]


  12. […] Remember: one man’s comedy is another man’s tragedy.) This all brings to mind a blog post that I read earlier, but this is not the point of this blog post, so I […]

  13. nunu Says:

    true, what you have written…. every tragedy may not result in comedy but 99% of the comedies are associated with some sort of tragedy. Humor not necessarily, as it need not be always linked with an animated character. Ironies come into that category of humor where nobody is victimized in particular.

    All the reasons you mentioned are correct. Somebody who is degraded because of his physical or responsive inability does make us feel better and superior than that person (at least in that situation). Anybody who fails to do what he brags or boasts and fails miserably is sure to produce some smiles again, because of the previous reason, deviation from what is expected (if you were expecting something great from him, it is a sign of a pleasant surprise if he fails…. ‘a feeling that the other person is no greater than me types’) and sometimes the sympathy which makes the character even more likable.

    P.S. It is only natural for a highly evolved species to behave this way…. laughing at situations otherwise will have a dire effect…. you will be force-dragged to the assylum!


  14. […] Comedy vs. Tragedy – Veni Vidi Vici | ver 2.7e10 – 28/1/2007 · April 2, 2011 at 1:33 am. true, what you have written…. every tragedy may not result in comedy but 99% of the comedies are associated with some sort of …… […]


  15. […] Comedy vs. Tragedy – Veni Vidi Vici | ver 2.7e10 – 28/1/2007 · April 2, 2011 at 1:33 am. true, what you have written…. every tragedy may not result in comedy but 99% of the comedies are associated with some sort of …… […]


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